Hawaii Hiking: from Pololu Valley to Honokāne Iki

hawaii hiking

The far north on the Big Island of Hawaii has yet another stunning natural feature. There you can find the Pololu Valley which is the first (or last!) of seven consecutive valleys. One more beautiful than the other.

This is not the most exploited touristy spot on the Big Island and for sure one of the most stunning places I visited during my 2 months backpacking in Hawaii.

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Although most people walks to the beach and a few more towards the second lookout. This post is about hiking to the third valley: Honokāne Iki. There a truly beautiful and secluded black sand beach will be waiting!

Pololu valley lookout

This out and back hike will take you anything between 3.5 and 5 hours to complete and although it’s not technical it will demand a good level of fitness as you will have 5 short but sharp climbs up and down (10 in total)

How to get there

The Pololu Valley is literally at the end of the road 15 minutes after you pass the windy town of Hawi. If you’re travelling with a couple of friends have a look at a rental car as there are some surprisingly cheap deals in Hawaii most of the time.

If travelling solo or as a couple, don’t hesitate to put your thumbs up! hitchhiking on the Big Island is extremely easy. I got all my rides with less than 5 minutes wait!

Where to stay on the Big Island

Accommodation in Hawaii is not known to be particularly cheap. I stayed for a long time on the island just because I was doing a couple of Workaways. If staying for a shorter period, check out camping options or try your luck with Hostels and AirBnB.

What to take for the Pololu Valley to Honokāne Iki Hike

Even if you have a wonderful day, depending on the time of the year, the weather on the north side of the island can quickly change and bring some heavy showers so if you have a pair of hiking boots around make sure to grab them to avoid any slippery sections.

Pololu valley second lookout

Plenty of water is always a must on the humid Hawaiian hikes and fruit/snacks are always important whenever a hike is over 2h long.

A couple of areas go through some knee-high bushes which could scratch your legs a bit, long pants can help on these areas but not the end of the world if you go with shorts as I did.


Remember to leave no trace behind you whenever you’re in nature. Always take a spare bag with you for any garbage and please also collect any you find during your hike, it’s our duty to care for our planet!

Starting the Hike from Pololu Valley

The seven valleys (Pololu, Honokāne Nui, Honokāne Iki, Honoke’a, Honopue, Waimanu and Waipi’o) were once linked by longer trails but an earthquake in 2006 destroyed some areas.

The trail to Honokāne Iki was also affected and on this hike you will have some sections with support ropes on places where landslides occurred.

Hiking the pololu valley

Starting the hike just from the parking area you will be already rewarded by the beautiful lookout of the Pololu Valley. This is the section where you will find more people. Fear not, the more you walk the quieter it will get.

The lookout is only at 150m above sea level so it will take just a few minutes to go down to the beach. On this first slope you can already find some slippery areas but overall is really well maintained.

Once down at the beach you will find a narrow but easy to spot trail that goes just a few meters behind the sand line and goes towards the far end of the beach to later take you on the first of the 2 climbs you will have until the black sand beach of Honokāne Iki.

The climb is not super steep but is not a walk in the park either.

hiking in hawaii

Almost all of the hike goes through dense tropical forest, the sun is not an issue but humidity may be.

Watch out also for wildlife as there are feral pigs that could be dangerous. I didn’t see any but heard some noises that could have been pigs. Apart from that there was nothing else.

It takes about 50 minutes to get to the second lookout point (including plenty of photo stops) Here you will find a small bench and for me the view was even cooler than from the start of the hike. At this point is where I found most people that will adventure uphill stop moving forward.

But do not even think of stopping! there are two more valleys to explore!!

Honokāne Nui valley

Continuing the narrow trail downhill you will quickly see how the trail has been altered after a few landslides and at one point you will find the first set of ropes on your left side that will help to go down. Some of these ropes are not really necessary on a dry day so don’t think this path is going to be dangerous.

When you finally get down on the second valley, you arrive to a dry riverbed made out of boulders.

This is the only “critical” point of the hike, as the path where you came from and the continuation are not super visible from the distance. So make sure to make a mental note there to find your way back!

When crossing the dry riverbed, the continuation of the trail is not straight up front from where you came but just a few meters in the direction of the ocean. Here is where you will cross the really cool bamboo forest!

Pololu trail bamboo forest

I left my exploration of the second beach for my way back so I got into the bamboo forest before starting the second climb of the day.

90 minutes after you started hiking you will find the third lookout, which is also incredibly beautiful and already feels a lot more isolated and wild than the previous two.

During the climb and subsequent downhill hike you will go across some “natural tunnels” which have almost an eerie feeling at times. I really liked this scenery!

Pololu trail wood tunnel

The final climb down is like the previous ones, it will take some 15-20 minutes to go back at sea level.

On this final valley, you will arrive to a lush tropical forest with a river that was almost dry when I was there. There’s a house on this valley that looks a bit abandoned so make sure to respect the private property just in case.

Walking down by the rocky river bed you will finally arrive to this stunning black sand beach!

Honokāne Iki black sand beach

I loved this place a lot and stayed there for quite a while.

The sea was pretty rough so I didn’t swim but had a quick bath! be careful if you decide to swim as the under currents and waves can be really strong and there will be no one around!

The way back will take an extra 1h 50 min or so. Including a quick walk to the beach by the second valley. This beach is more a boulder shore and not really inviting much for a swim.

Can you stay overnight in the area?

In short YES!

Contrary to most places all over Hawaii, I didn’t see any signs anywhere forbidding to spend the night. I even spoke with a guy on the first beach (the most transited one) that spent the night there on a hammock.

My workaway hosts also told me that it was fine to spend the night camping there. I didn’t do it as those days where always really stormy in the late afternoon.

Honokāne Iki valley

If you decide to spend the night camping in Pololu Valley always use your common sense. Pitch the tent late in the day and do not leave any traces of your stay.

Are you in Hawaii already? make sure to check the rest of my posts about hiking and backpacking in Hawaii on a budget!

Need more info? drop a line! been there already? share your experience!

Happy adventures! 🙂

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