Landscapes,  Travel

Photographing the Pololu Valley Lookout on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Pololu Valley Lookout is Literally at the end of the road in the north west part of the Big Island.  It’s about an hour and 25 minute drive from Kaiula-Kona. 

Cloudy Sunrise at the Pololu Overlook, Hawaii

Cloudy Sunrise at the Pololu Overlook

I left our hotel in Kaiula-Kona at 4:45am to reach the lookout around sunrise.  About 10 miles away from the Pololu Valley Lookout, I noticed a huge dark cloud heading in the same direction  that I was.  I checked the weather before I left and there was zero chance of rain.  It rained on and off all morning while I was at the black sand beach at the bottom of the Awini Trail.

Hawaii Photography Tip

Bring a rain jacket and rain cover for your gear with you all the time.  It rains all the time in the mountains of Hawaii.

I took a few photos from the lookout and then headed down the .6 mile Awini Trail down to a beautiful black sand beach.  The trail is pretty steep so take your time climbing back up the trail.

Pololu Black Sand Beach, Big Island

Pololu Black Sand Beach

Tip:  Bring hiking boots.  The steep trail is full of rocks and also can be slippery when it rains.

At the bottom of the trail is an inlet of water that leads from a beautiful green valley out to a black sand beach.  There are huge cliffs and islands on either side of the beach that can be used in compositions.

I brought a variety of ND filters, a circular polarizer, and a sturdy tripod.  The ND filters helped to shoot at slow shutter speeds to give the water a silky look.  The polarizer helped reduce the glare on the water.

Foggy Morning in the Pololu Valley

Foggy Morning in the Pololu Valley

I also used exposure bracketing that I later combined into HDR images to help with the high dynamic range between the black beach, white waves, and sunrise (when it came out).

Tip:  When the sun gets higher in the sky, turnaround and follow the trail next to the inlet back in to the Pololu Valley.  There are some nice compositors of the inlet with the green Pololu Valley in the background.  When the sun gets higher in the sky it lights up the valley.

Keokea Beach Park

Keokea Beach Park

On the way back to Kailula-Kona, I stopped at the Keokea Beach Park which is only about 2 miles from the lookout. There are restroom facilities at Keokea Beach Park and a nice rocky beach and cove which is worth a few photographs.


Although it was a steep climb up to the car from the black sand beach, I brought a variety of equipment to ensure that I got the compositions I wanted.  I was using a smaller micro four thirds kit which helped to keep the weight down in the backpack.  Below is the camera equipment that I brought along on the hike.

GPS Coordinates

The GPS coordinates for the parking area for the Pololu Valley Lookout parking area and trailhead are GPS: 20.203731, -155.733795.

Written by Martin Belan

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