XIII: Honokane Nui Trail

Hello everyone, and welcome to the beginning of the end of the Hawaiian adventure! As many of you know, this marks one of my last day trips on the Big Island. Hiking the 6+ mile Honokane Nui Trail was one of my goals to accomplish before leaving for good, and I’m happy to be writing this blog post. You may remember, this is the same hike that starts in Pololu Valley, visited earlier this summer. The hike continues to the other ridge of Pololu, and then descends into the second westernmost valley, Honokane Nui Valley. My first trip here was so breathtaking that I vowed to return and hike as far as I could along the trail. This time two of us descended into Honokane Nui. See the map and details of the adventure below.

Big Island Day Trip Map 8


7:00 – 9:00: Drive to Pololu Valley

9:00 – 3:00: Hike the Honokane Nui Trail

3:00 – 4:00: Drive back to Waimea

4:00 – 5:00: Visit Village Burger for one last delicious meal

5:00 – 6:00: Drive back to Hilo

Honokane Nui Trail

The Honokane Nui Trail is the hike leading into the valley adjoining Pololu. I believe the Honokane Nui Trail technically starts after crossing Pololu, but hiking into Pololu is the only way to reach it. The small parking lot is located all the way at the end of Highway 270. As it fills up fairly quickly, we tried to arrive early. The drive will be about two hours for hikers coming from Hilo or Kona, so we aimed for 9:00 and had plenty of space to park.

The girls before embarking on the 6+ mile hike into Honokane Nui.
Overlooking the beach at Pololu. Note that it is NOT a recommended swimming beach due to rough currents offshore.

The hike down into Pololu Valley is fairly quick and not nearly as steep as walking down the road into Waipio Valley. Hikers can easily make it down within 20 minutes, but will probably take longer after stopping at all of the great vantage points.

One of the beautiful views along the hike into Pololu Valley.
One of the beautiful views along the hike into Pololu Valley.

After reaching the bottom floor of the valley, continue across the river (possibly just a bed of sand) to a grove of trees sitting atop a hill. Behind this hill you can find some rope swings that have questionable durability. Between the hill and the ocean, the trail continues up the other side of the valley. Beware of trekking through the area around the trail; there are some sacred burial sites in the valley, and the land further back is privately owned.

The view from within Pololu.
The dense growth almost hides the trail in the distance, but if you can find it from the beach it is easy to follow. The black sand is some of the finest I found on the Big Island.

The hike to the overlook of Honokane Nui Valley is a series of slippery, muddy switchbacks along the eastern ridge of Pololu. I’ve only climbed this trail twice, but I find it difficult to imagine that it every completely dries up. It is densely guarded by rainforest, thus the sunlight never really has a chance to dry the mud.

The trail between Pololu and Honokane Nui gets extremely windy along the ridge.

Between Pololu and Honokane Nui, there is a “mini-gulch” that tricked us the first time we hiked. At first we thought that this “mini-gulch” WAS the next valley and were sorely disappointed. Continue on and you will find a spectacular outlook that is worth the climb.

Looking down into Honokane Nui – the separation between deep and shallow water was extreme when we visited.

The beach in Honokane Nui is again not a great swimming beach. It is rocky and the currents are rough. There is no sand like Pololu, and the extent is maybe a quarter the length. The real excitement is the adventure of getting there. The path is much less traveled since it was mostly destroyed during an earthquake in 2006. Now, the “path” is all but vertical in several locations, and you must carefully climb down with the aid of the ropes set in place. The two of us who continued along the path never slipped, but we hung onto those ropes for dear life just in case.

After scaling the trail down into the valley, we walked through more rainforest that seemed like prime territory for wild boars. We were slightly concerned while walking through the tall forest of bamboo, but soon enough we reached the dry riverbed that lead to the ocean. Following it to the left, we were able to reach the beach without problem.

Once reaching Honokane Nui, we stopped for a quick break and a snack.
Strong waves splash up against the cliff face.

After taking a quick break and having a snack, we began the hike back up to the ridge between the two valleys. Although pictures don’t really do the trail justice, the one below somewhat portrays how steep certain sections were.

After one rope ends another begins on the opposite side of the trail. One misstep without the rope and a hiker could tumble quite aways down.

We successfully reached the ridge of Honokane Nui again and said a quick goodbye to the valley before continuing on our journey out of Pololu.

Looking back into Honokane Nui Valley before returning to Pololu.

Descending back into Pololu went quickly; obviously the hike back up to the car went a bit slower, but we had beautiful views to accompany us.

Looking down along the chain of valleys from Pololu overlooks.
Looking down along the chain of valleys from Pololu overlooks.
Pololu Valley

Once we made it out of the valley, we were completely exhausted and ready for a real meal.

Waimea – Village Burger

You may also remember Village Burger from the previous trip to Pololu Valley – we stopped here again and I cannot emphasize what a great place it is for after a long, exhausting hike. The burgers are cooked well and they’re delicious, and the parmesan fries are absolutely wonderful. This makes such a great after-hike stop that it was on my list of things to do before leaving the Big Island.

We arrived back in Hilo around 6pm, and I was completely ready for a restful night. The next day I had planned one final drive around the island to commemorate my last week, visiting some places a first time and others a second time. Check back soon for more updates!

Next Up: Big Island Beaches

3 thoughts on “XIII: Honokane Nui Trail

  • Great shot of the Pololu Valley at beginning of this blog plus the valleys along the coastline. The black sand trail in dense brush must be tricky on the feet and ankles, especially with a pack. Though I haven’t eaten red meat in over two decades I can imagine the Village Burger’s food must have been delicious after your hike!

  • Nice write up, Went there last year and stopped at the bench. Where were the ropes to get into the honokane nui valley

    • Hi Matthew!

      The trail continues from the bench toward the back of the valley before it begins its descent and is lost in trees. If I recall correctly, the trail inclines just a bit before descending, so it’s hard to see where it goes from the bench point-of-view. Hopefully you’ll make it back sometime in the future, Pololu Valley was easily one of my favorite parts of the island!

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