We hiked the Kohala Ditch Trail from Pololū to Honokāne Nui in the Kohala Mountains of the Big Island.
The windward stream valleys of the Kohala Mountains are remote and difficult to access. With no road along the stretch of coast from Pololū to Waipiʻo — a distance of about 24 miles — the valleys can only be accessed by foot. Seven stream valleys are located along this remote stretch of coast — from north to south: Pololū, Honokāne Nui, Honokāne Iki, Honokeʻā, Honopuʻe, Waimanu, and Waipiʻo.
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After making the long drive to Hawi — where we stopped to get a hearty breakfast — we ventured to the lookout at the end of the road. The lookout provided a commanding view of Pololū Beach, Paokalani Island, and the sea cliffs overlooking the Kohala Coast.
For this leg of the trip, my hiking buddies were Pete Morton and Chase Norton. Our plan was to drop down into Pololū Valley, hike through hala, hau, and ironwood trees on the coastal trail, and climb over to the second valley — Honokāne Nui. The coastal trails and Kohala Ditch Trail are in good shape for the first few valleys but become heavily overgrown — almost entirely reclaimed by nature and virtually impassable.
The beaches fronting the stream valleys from Waipiʻo to Pololū are similar in that they have black sand beaches with streams/ponds. Many of the beaches and streams are covered with lava rocks worn smooth by the waves.
When we reached the far end of Pololū we ascended a trail used by donkeys and horses to gain the top of the ridge.
When we looked north from where we had come, we could see the point of land that sticks out into the ocean.
When we looked south we could see the rock beach at Honokāne Nui below and the offshore islet of Paokalani a couple of valleys over.
We dropped down into Honokāne Nui Valley descending a series of ropes through christmas berry and bamboo, crossed the stream-bed, and made our way to the front of the valley where smooth stones cover the beach.
We bumped into a group of backpackers heading to the next valley over — Honokāne Iki. They told us they hike here often and confirmed that the trail beyond Honokāne Iki is badly overgrown. In 1977 John Hall and Fred Dodge backpacked the entire 24 mile distance from Pololū to Waipio in 6 days. The most difficult stretch was a 2.5 mile section from Honokeʻā to Waimanu that was so overgrown and difficult to navigate that it took 3 days to cross! We learned from these backpackers that trail conditions have not changed significantly since 1977.
We enjoyed the rocky beach until the day began to end and set up camp where some thick ropes were hung that could be used as a swing. We built a nice campfire which helped to keep the mosquitoes away and spent the rest of the evening telling amusing stories about each other — the more embarrassing the better.
The next morning we packed up our gear and headed back towards the stream in Pololū Valley where we could relax under the shade of iron wood trees and enjoy the views.
Time passed quickly and soon it was time for us to leave. As we made our way back out I reflected on the great time we had hiking and exploring this initial section of the Kohala Coast from Pololū to Honokāne Nui. What a beautiful place!
Kohala Mountains, Wikipedia
Pololu to Waipio, Part 1 — by John Hall, Extreme Hiking Hawaii
Pololu to Waipio — Part 2 — By John Hall, Extreme Hiking Hawaii