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

Unlike its neighbor valleys, Pololu’s primary stream doesn’t stretch deep into the back of the valley, explains Graves, which forced its settlers to depend on floodwater for farming and cultivate other staple crops, such as sweet potato.

The valley’s sand dunes—some of which rise to heights of 100 feet above sea level and stretch more than 1,300 feet across the valley floor—are also unusual for the area, and are where most of Pololu’s inhabitants settled. The ironwood trees that line the dunes were a more recent addition to the valley, planted in the 1950s to hinder erosion. 

The bulk of Pololu Valley’s inhabitants departed after the completion of the Kohala Ditch in 1906. The freshwater carriage system comprised of flumes, tunnels and open channels was constructed to move water from valley streams for usage by Kohala-area ranches, farms and homes miles away. The diversion of the water, however, made it difficult to continue growing kalo and other crops in Pololu.

Today, the only people who set foot in the valley tend to be day visitors, overnight campers and experienced surfers, many of them likely unaware of Pololu’s cultural and historical significance.
There aren’t even that many people who trek into the valley. The Awini Trail hike is short, but lugging coolers and beach chairs down the winding path is no simple task. There are no public restrooms or concession stands on the beach, and only a sliver of a parking lot at the lookout. All you get at Pololu Valley is the beauty of nature, rapturous and unspoiled.

But, then again, that’s its allure, too.

Pololu Valley Lookout and Awini Trail
In North Kohala, follow Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270) past Hawi and Kapaau towns to the end of the road, where the trailhead begins. Swimming is not recommended at Pololu Beach due to rough ocean conditions.

Photos: Thinkstock.com/Stockphoto (pg. 1); Catherine E. Toth (pg. 2)

(This feature was originally published in the March/April 2013 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)

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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
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