Going Beyond Polulu Valley-Hard Hike On Hawaii Island


Are you looking for a hike on Hawaii Island that you can do in half a day, will challenge you, will give you a few spectacular views AND you will see very few other people along the trail? And add to that climbing up some ropes, yeah..it’s not for everyone.

My husband and I have been considering doing this hike to the Honokane Nui Valley and the Honokane River for ten years. Very few of our personal friends had ever done it and most people who are crazy enough to go there, usually are the kind of people who can make a backpacking adventure out of it and stay the night so they can view the sun rise out of the ocean in the morning.

Well, thanks to COVID-19 and looking for places we could go that would be social distancing ourselves, we decided, for my husband’s 54th birthday, that we would tackle this hike and create a video. What no one told us, however, was that there had been a landslide and that to deal with this, you have to rappel down a rope! It’s not straight down, but you definitely need it to help you get into the gulch.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Awini Trail To The Honokane Nui Valley

First, get an early start to your day, because you need to drive almost an hour and half from Kona to get to Pololu Valley. If you have any qualms about going down this first trail, then you probably just want to unpack your beach picnic and sit in the valley and enjoy the view, because the hike up the OTHER side is about 600 feet and it is more technical. You pick up the Awini Trail as you head across the valley floor. This trail goes through a few more gulches before it peters out (see link). This trail DOES NOT go all the way to Waipio Valley.

What you CAN do if you want to get a good hike in, but the ropes aspect seems daunting, you can aim for the bench at the top of the gulch and get a beautiful view of the ocean and still find yourself in a rarified place that most of humanity has not nor will ever venture to. Getting to that spot took us about an hour from the Pololu Valley parking area. I loved coming out of the bushes to this sweeping view of the ocean and the green carpeted valley walls-it was amazing.

The Ropes Course, the Bamboo Forest and Beyond

Then the descent was upon us. We found the landslide area soon enough and did not know you could avoid it by using the ropes, because the little trail to get to where the ropes are is not well marked. If you DO go, if you come to the part of the trail where you can see a landslide occurred, go back about 100 feet and you will see a little cut off from the trail and about 15 feet forward from there you will see the ropes tied to the tree. We ended up picking our way dangerously down the landslide, trying to not to slip on the scree. Thank goodness for the guiding arm of my husband and 15 year old son!

We came to the bottom and that’s when we looked up and saw the ropes coming down. THEN we found where you had no other choice but to go down another chute that required rappelling on another set of ropes. It made for adventurous photos I will most likely print and hang on my walls to enjoy in my later years. You can see the fun in the video when we release it.

When we let go of the ropes, we found ourselves at the bottom of the gulch and followed the trail and entered a bamboo forest! We all had to admit this was the biggest surprise (beyond those ropes!) of the hike. We had discovered the bamboo forest in Hana on Maui last year and although this was not as extensive, it was even better because it was all natural. No plastic TREX decking on THIS trail. We came out of the forest to the river and did not know how fortunate we were that there had not been a rain shower in awhile on the Hamakua Coast. Two of our friends who saw the photos after we finished the hike said they had been unable to go forward from this point due to the raging river. We were able to easily scramble across the dry, rock covered riverbed all the way to where the river ended to meet the incoming ocean waves.

We Made It To Ocean!

We sat on a bench facing the ocean view made from a fallen tree by happy campers that also had created a nearby fire pit. It was a striking blue day and the feeling of “WE MADE IT!” was shared by us all. We got down there in about 2 hours and since it was already almost 3 pm, we couldn’t stay too long to congratulate ourselves. We savored our sandwiches and I WILL say that sitting on that log with my family was a pretty amazing moment.

We soon headed back,  pulled ourselves up both sets of rope, avoided the pig droppings again on the trail and loped into Pololu Valley as dusk started to cast its glow on the forest. Again, we sat on a log bench looking at the waves and soaked in being misted by an onshore breeze. We took a few contented sighs before slowly getting up for the final stretch back to the car.

The Long Walk Home

By this time, I had picked up two bamboo walking sticks from the beach in the gulch, and I was leaning pretty heavily on them by the time I had to go up my last 500 feet. This was the time I wish I had gone ten years ago! Thoughts of what else I wanted to get done in life were going through my mind as I fell behind the husband and the son. As I stared at my feet, going one after the other, I was proud of myself for taking this challenge on and finishing it without calling the coast guard to come get me.

As we got to the car after 4 1/2 hours of hiking, we were happy for the cold water we had smartly left behind knowing that we would most likely have run out of the water in our Hydroflasks. Yep.

We stopped by a mini-mart on the way through Kawaihae so I could get a packet of Alleve and some chardonnay for my aching legs so we could share our nightly “Coronavirus Live Sunset” show at the Kiholo Scenic Lookout. It was a gorgeous sunset and the end to an epic personal challenge.

If you have taken this trail and have tips or stories, go ahead and leave them in the comment section for everyone to read!

We have been adventuring around the island for over 10 years and love living here. If you would like to learn more about living here, be sure to check out my Moving To Hawaii Resources for Hawaii Island

Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

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