One of the most memorable parts of any Pokemon journey is the Gym Leaders. Not only do they give background and personality to the game’s region, but they also offer a challenge meant to test how far a player has come.
But this is not the case for the Alola region. Instead, 11-year-olds are sent on their Island Challenge, where they must pass eight Trials and four Major Trials, led by seven Trial Captains and four Island Kahunas. And while it’s not necessary to fight them all, you can do that at multiple points in the game. So let’s see which of these formidable figures is the strongest in all of Alola!
Known as the ‘Prince of the Trainers School’, Ilima is a specialist of the normal type. The first Trial Captain you will ever encounter, his trial consists of fighting the Yungoos or Rattata lines. This is pretty easy and, frankly, fighting Ilima too.
Ilima uses a similar gimmick to Black and White’s first Gym, except that instead of using a Pokemon that has an advantage over your starter, it has a Smeargle that has a super effective move. This is a clever way to showcase Smeargle’s gimmick, but the downside is that Smeargle has terrible attack stats and Ilima’s other Pokemon aren’t that great either. It’s especially unfortunate because there are so many great Normal-type Pokémon on Melemele Island. All in all, Ilima is at the bottom of the list for a reason.
Kiawe easily has one of the coolest character designs in all Pokemon. Kiawe studies Alola’s traditional dances, justifying his focus on the Fire type. His process consists of watching different Alolan Marowak dances and discovering the differences between them.
Kiawe’s team is all about physical attacks, ultimately consisting of Arcanine, Talonflame and Alolan Marowak. While this looks great on paper, there are a few issues with his team. First of all, he doesn’t have many answers to the Fire-type weaknesses, especially the Water-type attacks. Second, none of his team has a full moveset, and they could all really benefit from it. So while his team may seem intimidating at first, it’s pretty easy to handle if you have a few water or soil types.
The Grass-type trainer Mallow is a cheerful girl who loves to cook. She incorporates this into her trial by having the player collect ingredients for a meal that the Totem Pokemon will love. And while she may seem like a wimp since she’s young and uses Grass-type Pokemon, her team is surprisingly strong.
Mallow’s ace Tsareena is quite sizable with a great 120 Attack stat. In addition, she has two more defensive Pokemon with some immunities: Trevenant and Shiinotic. Mallow’s main goal is to drain and restore HP with moves like Leech Seed, Horn Leech, and Giga Drain. This keeps her sturdier Pokemon alive longer and makes it easier for Tsareena to eventually finish you off. And while she has the same problem as Kiawe when it comes to type coverage, her team is much better structurally.
Hala is a constant presence in all Gen 7 games. He gives you your starter, is your rival’s grandfather, is the first Kahuna you fight, and is a member of the Elite Four in Sun and Moon. However, all of this is negated by the fact that Hala is one of the most disappointing trainers in all of Alola.
Hala is a Fighting type master, one of the strongest offensive types around. Not only do they hit hard, but they have many answers for the three species they are weak against. But for most sun and moon, Hala has hardly any answers to this. To make matters worse, only one of his Pokemon has a full move set. Three of them only know two moves! While he gets better coverage in his rematch and in the Ultra games, Hala is still a pushover and one of the weakest Elite Four members ever.
Lana is a young girl who is devoted to her family, especially her younger siblings. She likes Water-type Pokemon and often spends her time fishing, which is probably why it’s an important part of her process. It’s surprisingly tough, which is also the perfect way to describe her team.
Lana’s team consists of three Pokemon that can take a beating. Lanturn has a lot of HP, Cloyster is a defensive monster and Araquanid has a much higher Special Defense than you might think. What makes her team particularly strong compared to the ones before her is how she covers her weaknesses. Cloyster and Araquanid destroy Grass types and Lanturn is immune to electrical attacks. Don’t let her shyness fool you, Lana is one of the toughest Trial Captains out there.
Olivia is the Kahuna of Akala Island and a member of the Elite Four. She runs a jewelry store, so it’s appropriate that her specialty is Rock-type Pokemon. And unlike fellow Khauna/Elite Four member Hala, Olivia is actually a challenge.
Despite Rock types having five weaknesses, Olivia can cover most of them with her Ultra team. This is mainly because she has exchanged three of her Sun and Moon Pokemon with dual weaknesses with those they oppose. In addition, she adds a Sand Stream Gigalith that will increase her team’s special defenses. However, her coverage isn’t perfect and she can still be handled easily by Water and Fighting type Pokemon. Either way, she’s a real gem of a trainer.
Nanu is one of the more fascinating characters in Alola. A former special agent who was investigating the Ultra Beast Guzzlord, he is now a police officer and the island of Kahuna for the island of Ula’ula. And although he declined to join the Elite Four, he is still a formidable trainer.
Nanu’s team of Dark-type Pokemon is pretty much built to eliminate two of Dark’s main weaknesses: Bug and Fighting. Many of his team are familiar with Rock and Flying type moves, along with some frustrating status moves. He also likes to lower your stats with Intimidate and Snarl. But there is one big flaw in Nanu’s team: he never considers Fairy-type Pokemon, and there are a few that can destroy his team. But even then, Nanu is a trainer not to be taken lightly.
Mina is unique on this list in that he can be found in another main Pokemon game: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee. Her father considers her a ‘fey vagabond’, who wanders from place to place and paints whatever she pleases. And her Fairy-type team is no joke.
Unlike most other Trial Captains, Mina’s strongest team has five Pokemon. Also, unlike most Trial Captains, Mina has her weaknesses covered. She only has to worry about Steel and Poison-type Pokémon and has enough cover moves to handle both. She does have some issues with a lack of major violations and overall vulnerability. Fortunately, she solves the latter by having a Prankster use Kefki Reflect and Light Screen. The only thing stopping her from ranking higher on this list is how relatively weak her team is in the Ultra games.
Sophocles is a young boy who runs the Festival Plaza. An electric-type enthusiast, Sophocles often works with Steel-type Elite Four member Molayne to develop various machines for his trial. Sophocles is also one of the trainers who can come and challenge you after you become champion. And his team is good!
In Ultra Sun and Moon, every member of Sophocles’ team is at level 67. He also has many great Pokemon that really pack a punch, such as Magnezone, Electivire, and Vikavolt. However, he falls into the same trap as any Electric master: ground types. A Ground-type Pokemon would completely destroy the shop against Sophocles. The closest he has to fight is Vikavolt, but it has no moves to return super-effective damage. Aside from that glaring weakness, Sophocles is still shockingly good.
Acerola is a ghostly orphan who adores Ghost types and is also the descendant of a royal family in Alola. But what really stands out to her is that she is the only Trial Captain who is also a member of the Elite Four.
The great thing that Acerola is right about her team is the diversity of type. In her teams for Sun, Moon, and the Ultra versions, she only has one Pokemon that is pure Ghost type. This gives her a lot of type coverage to handle many different types of teams. Plus, her team is bigger than most other Ghost teams. This means that while she doesn’t really have an answer to Dark-type Pokemon, she can still survive and hit them back hard.
Hapu may be the youngest Kahuna in Alola, but she’s also the best. Freshly chosen to succeed her late grandfather, Hapu continually demonstrates that hard work and supporting others makes a person strong. And this definitely shows when she challenges you as Champion.
Hapu’s championship team is one of the strongest you’ll come across, with a top level of 69. It features three Pokemon that are absolute tanks and two more that can strike hard and fast. One of the most surprising parts of this team is its ace Mudsdale, whose defense increases every time he is hit. While it may seem easy enough to hit her with an Ice-type attack, Hapu is still able to take these blows and come back even stronger. And that’s why she’s the strongest Kahuna in all of Alola.
NEXT: Pokemon: Every Last Gym Leader, Ranked By Difficulty