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Beyond the Lookout: Exploring the Big Island's Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley's black sand beach and Paoakalani islets beyond.

On your next visit to Pololu Valley Lookout, at the end of the Big Island’s northernmost highway, do the following.

Take a seat on the lookout’s rock wall. Close your eyes. Inhale the salt-kissed air of the meeting of rugged North Kohala and Hamakua coastline. Exhale slowly. Then open your eyes and take in the visual splendor before you.

You are seeing Pololu Valley the same way everyone who paused here before you has for centuries. Turbulent surf crashing on the black sands of the valley’s rocky beach and shoreline. Emerald, foliage-filled cliffs, cradling Pololu’s valley floor and its winding, freshwater stream. The wave-pounded, offshore Paoakalani islets and, beyond them, the Hamakua Coast’s most remote sea cliffs.

There are no oceanfront resorts. No surf schools. No ziplines cutting across the valley. No manmade anything. Pololu Valley remains as unspoiled to modern-day visitors as it was to its first Hawaiian residents, who settled in the valley in the 15th century, raising kalo (taro) and other staple crops.

My last visit to the lookout was about a year ago. My Big Island-raised husband and I had been searching the North Kohala town of Kapaau for Holy’s Bakery—famed by residents and visitors for its frozen apple, pear and peach pies. It was his suggestion to take a break from our pie quest to show me the stunning view from the Pololu lookout.

I was so captivated, I immediately set a goal of heading down into the valley on my next visit. And so, on a January morning earlier this year, trail shoes, blister cream, extra bandages, water bottles and emergency One-Ton Chips from Hilo’s Maebo Noodle Factory in tow, we set out from the Pololu Valley lookout ready for anything nature chose to send our way on the hike to the valley floor.

Turned out, all we needed was the water and chips.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
"10 Hawaii Places You Haven't Been To Yet" extra: Pololu Valley, Big Island
Top 5 Favorite Hawaii Scenic Lookouts: HAWAII Magazine reader poll results
My Favorite Places: Waipio Valley

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