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Camping in Pololu Valley on the Big Island: black sand beaches, body-boarding and bamboo forests

Posted by on May 31, 2012
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This past weekend, Eaman and I finally got a chance to check out another island, and for this trip we headed to the Big Island for an amazing four days of sun, sand and a camping trip with 12 friends to the Pololu Valley, located on the northern coast. The original plan, hatched back in March, was to hike the Waipio Valley, which would’ve involved the much more arduous uphill and downhill 9 miles in, 9 miles out. But after multiple injuries amongst our group, we shifted plans and decided to do the much more easily accessible Pololu, where we’d take a small hike down and camp in the valley for two nights. It’s a spectacular place and highly recommended if you’re ever on the namesake island.

View from the plane during sunset as we pass over the chain of Hawaiian Islands:

We drove about an hour and a half from Craig’s parents gorgeous Big Island home — where we were headquartered for the weekend — down Highway 270 to Pololu and trekked downhill for about 20 minutes until we reached the breathtaking black sand beach. If you’ve never seen a black sand beach, then you’re in for a treat. Watching the water lap on the sand is like seeing tar melt by the ocean. It’s cool, I swear!

We may have changed the plan to a much easier hike, but we packed enough food for a large army…and maybe a small one, too:

Rope swing in the middle of the forest:

Ghost crabs in the Pololu Valley have acclimated to their surroundings by turning from their namesake ghostly white to black. We found a tiny one and some thin rope, and proceeded to tie a leash onto him. Props to Craig for tying it so smoothly. Cruel? Perhaps. But not to worry, PETA, we let the little guy go after a few minutes.

The water was quite frigid, but once in the water, it was absolutely refreshing and kind of crazy, considering the black sand turns the water into a sort of dark abyss. This beach also happens to be a great spot for body-boarding. Eaman and I both tried it out, and as always, his natural athletic ability superseded my half-assed attempts. Still fun though. I managed to get some pictures and videos, first of Craig, second of Eaman.



And when the group wasn’t body-boarding, eating s’mores, playing Mafia or trying to figure out where our missing food went — turns out, the dingo-like dog ate it — a few of us went on a 2ish-hour hike up and down into the next valley. It was spectacular — the stuff dreams and Jurassic Park sets are made of. We passed through bamboo forests, climbed ropes to get through, ate guava straight off the trees and ended at a dried-out riverbed that spilled out onto crashing waves. It really doesn’t get much better than that. It’s hard to relay the beauty of this expanse through photos, but here goes…

Rope-climbing uphill:

Like I’ve said before, I don’t love camping. I like hiking, but I don’t love camping. But with this awesome group of people, I forgot about the dirt under my fingernails and how much I loathe going to the bathroom outdoors. Or how our tent doubled as a snare drum during the first super windy night. Or how out tent cover didn’t fully protect us, and we got rained on within our tent on night two. Or how I left my shoes outside our tent on aforementioned night two and couldn’t save them from the rain by bringing them inside for fear of letting a centipede into our tent and ended up having to hike uphill in waterlogged shoes.

No, all I remember is laughing all weekend. You’d think that 14 campers would make for a hodgepodge of moods and attitudes, but our chemistry was stellar. It was maybe my favorite weekend trip of all time. I had so much fun with these people and couldn’t think of a better way to end our Hawaiian adventure than with them and this trip.

Seriously ono (Hawaiian for “delicious”) chocolate chip pancakes by Griff:

Hot s’mores! Come’n get ‘em!

We left in two shifts on Sunday morning, and you better believe I was in that first, out-by-7:30 a.m.-shift. We had to hike uphill in torrential rain, but it was worth it to eat a giant breakfast at Hawaiian Style Cafe — that’s actually what it’s called — in Waimea and get first dibs on a shower.

But these were just two days of our Big Island adventure. We spent the rest of trip beachside, well-fed and, most importantly, clean. Anecdotal and photographic proof in the next post!

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9 Responses to Camping in Pololu Valley on the Big Island: black sand beaches, body-boarding and bamboo forests

  1. Griff Jurgens

    Absolutely wonderful. Nice work and well said Archana. this is a great recap of a weekend full of adventures, good food and great friends. Mahalo.


    PS: the berries that we were a little sketchy about eating were strawberry guavas! Could have totally grinded on those puppies!

    • Archana

      And there we were thinking Eaman was trying to inadvertantly off himself with some mystery berries!

  2. Runjini

    A fantastic weekend, indeed! We’ll have to do it again when you guys come back through. :-)

  3. Caroline

    Awesome times. I got lazy blogging and so just referred to your post which says it all! Love from Maui x

  4. Lori

    Sooo awesome!! We are headed to Hawaii next Saturday….wanted to camp overnight w/my father in law at Pololu Valley…I love your photos…did you need a permit or anything? We plan on backpacking in our gear just like you did…Thanks!! Lori

    • Archana

      Thanks, Lori! Pololu is beautiful. I’m sure you’ll love it! I know other areas in Hawaii do need permits, but Pololu didn’t. Have a great time! The black sand is awesome :)

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