One of our favorite places to visit and learn about on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast is Pololu Valley. Rich with history, culture, and beauty; Pololu Valley is located in Kohala at the northern tip of Hawai’I just past the historic and charming towns of Haw’I and Kapaau. Kohala is the birthplace of King Kamehameha, who was the chief that first unified the Hawaiian islands in 1810. Polulu Valley is a place of refuge for Native Hawaiian’s, a pu’uhonua, and the place where King Kamehameha grew up and sought refuge as a child.
Pololu Valley is the northernmost of the Kohala Valleys and upon arriving at the valley lookout you are greeted with incredible scenery and ocean views that extend for miles. Massive landslides and erosion spanning the history of Hawaii island carved the foundation for the seven Kohala Valleys along the Kohala Coast. Pololu Valley was once a popular home for Native Hawaiian’s because of the Valley’s abundant water supply. Prior to European colonization, Pololū Valley was renowned for its kalo (taro) farming. A particular variety of kalo (kalo Pololū) was grown here, and was notable for its crimson stems. Kalo farming was then complemented by the addition of rice farming in the 1800s. Despite the farming success seen within Pololu In the 20th century, the once bustling valley fell into disuse. However, while people do not live there any longer, Pololu Valley remains incredibly sacred in the hearts of many residents whose genealogy traces back to Kohala for generations.
A short hike down to the valley floor is just a little under one mile and takes about 30 minutes, but can be moderately challenging because of its steepness. Below are some best practices when visiting Pololu Valley:
Before you start on the hike:
- Ensure your hiking shoes are clean by using the boot brush stations at the beginning of the hike to make sure you do not track in any invasive species.
- Bring plenty of water and use the bathroom prior to starting the hike. There are no public restrooms at Pololu Valley.
- When parking, do not block any private driveways.
While on the hike and in the valley:
- Stay on the trail and when you enter the valley, stay on the beach. Most of the forested area that extends beyond the beach is privately owned and contains sacred burial and cultural sites. Additionally, many of the sites except for the public trail and beach access are protected by conservation zoning. Check out this website from Kohala Residents on the protection of Pololu Valley.
- Do not litter or leave anything behind in the valley. Pick up trash if you see any.
- Don’t move or stack rocks as they may part of a culturally significant site.
- We do not recommend swimming in the ocean. There are no lifeguards, and the currents can be very strong in Pololu Valley. Because of the valley’s remote location, it can be dangerous if anything happens to you. Feel free to have the warm ocean water roll up to your legs while you take in the absolute beauty around you.