Pololu Valley, Big Island

From the lookout, you can admire the spectacular coastline toward the east, but you must hike down to see Pololu Valley. The steep trail is doable for most, thanks to switchbacks and its 0.75-mile distance.

At the valley’s mouth lies a rugged black-sand beach. The surf is rough, and swimming is a terrible idea, even if you see local surfers testing the waves.

Deeper valley explorations are blocked by a pond, beyond which cattle roam (so don’t drink the water). Avoid trekking down after rainfall, because the mud-slicked rocks will be precarious. Makeshift walking sticks are often left at the trailhead.

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