The hike down into the Pololu Valley is quite steep but the trail is well defined and has plenty of stone "steps" to help with footing. It's an easy hike down to the valley floor, taking about 10 to 15 minutes unless you stop frequently to take pictures of the awesome views. The valley has a stream that comes down out of the mountains and winds through to the ocean. The beach is black sand, so they say. When my husband and I hiked down into the valley several years after our son had disappeared, the beach was made up of rather large black lava rocks. But several places I read talked about the fine black sand beach of Pololu. I wonder if it depends on the time of year whether you see fine sand or large rocks.
At the time of the initial searches in 1999, my husband and I were not in shape and couldn't make the hike down into the valley. Actually it would have been the hike back up that would have been the real challenge. But we did make that hike on a later trip, leaving before dawn in time to catch the sunrise. It was breathtaking; like being in a private cathedral.
When we decided to hold a memorial service for John, the logical place was the hillside overlooking the Pololu. The pastor of the local Baptist church and his family were gracious enough to help us with the details.
Rick Reece photo, All Rights Reserved
Here are some other interesting facts about Pololu Valley. The word Pololū means long spear in the Hawaiian language. Pololū (Hawaiian spelling: Pololū, stressed on the final 'ū') is the northernmost of a series of valleys that form the east coast of Kohala Mountain.
Prior to European colonization, Pololū Valley was renowned for its kalo (taro) farming. A particular variety of kalo (kalo Pololū) was grown here, notable for its crimson stems. Kalo farming was complemented by rice in the 1800s. In the 20th century, though, the valley fell into disuse.
An average of two or three hiking or hunting groups a month need to be flown out of Kohala by emergency helicopter. The mountain is inviting, but the trails are poorly maintained and the terrain is surprisingly hazardous. One resource manager states bluntly "Kohala eats people."