Pololu Valley Beach

Hawaii, U.S.A.

Starfish Rating of 3

Claim to Fame

Deeply black sand; very isolated

(click image to enlarge)
image courtesy of Alex Steffler
  • Where is it?on the island of Hawaii, close to the northwestern tip, at the far end of Highways 250 and 270, east from Kapa’au, bordering the Pacific Ocean
  • Coordinates: latitude» 20.2056°
    longitude» -155.733°
  • Water Type: saltwater
  • Climate: tropical
  • Development: undeveloped
  • Length of Beach: .5m/.8km
  • Type: black sand and rocks
Current Weather

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Few beaches in the world are truly black (many are grey), but Pololu Valley Beach is rich in its soft (at certain tide times muddy) black sand and stones, composed mostly of lava rock. The greatest feature of this beach is its location among the very old, lushly green Kohala Mountains; starkly beautiful, it is blissfully unspoiled because it is difficult to access.

A visit to Pololu Valley Beach involves a 20-minute, 400-foot hike down the side of an ancient mountain, and although there are stairs carved into the facade, this is not an easy stroll and should not be undertaken by anyone in weak physical condition. Most people call it a “strenuous” descent, even for the robust.

Once you are down on the beach, the views of the surrounding rugged mountains are breathtaking, the wild waters of the Pacific resplendent with large waves and dotted with dark, rocky mini-islands. The photography opportunities are virtually endless. The real magic is in the black sand of the beach and how powerfully it contrasts with the deep blue and turquoise of the sea, the white crests of the waves and the emerald green of the vegetation.

High cliffs encircle this small, half-moon bay, but despite the sense of being in an enclave, the waters are dangerous, with high surfs and extremely strong currents; this is not a suitable place for swimming or snorkeling. Many beaches in the Hawaiian Islands are safer for such water sports.

Pololu Valley Beach is a beach for walkers, hikers and photographers, not swimmers and sunbathers. If you want the quiet of nothing but the surf, the warmth of the sun and otherwise great solitude, this a remarkable place to spend an afternoon, well worth the effort to get there. Just remember, what goes down, must come back up, so give yourself at least half an hour to ascend the stairs at the end of your visit.

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