One of the most picturesque and rather easy hikes on Oahu is the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as Kaiwa Ridge Trail. It's located on the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii and it offers stunning views of the beautiful Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach, and the Mokulua Islands. If you're looking to do this hike, read on for directions to the trailhead and tips to make the most of your hike. Also, check out the hyperlapse video that shows you exactly what you're in for.
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What are the pillboxes?
This hike gets its name from the two military observation stations (pillboxes) from World War II that are located on this hiking trail path. Each pillbox offers a resting point for hikers as well as stunning panoramic views. Depending on your pace, you can reach the first pillbox in about 20 minutes or less. It's not unusual for most hikers to make it to the first and/or second pillbox and turn back from there. But if you're on the more adventurous side, you can go further down the path into the valley for more scenic views and generally smaller crowds. The whole hike itself usually takes about 1 hour to 90 minutes round trip.
Also worth noting is the best time of day to do this hike. Sunrise is best viewed from this side of the island, but sunset happens on the Waikiki side. Sunset can also be a trickier time of day since the mountains block the setting sun, causing the windward side of the island to get darker faster. Thus, sunrise is a good time of day for optimal photography lighting conditions, especially if you want to beat the mid-day heat. But sunset can also be great to enjoy after colors and a significantly less crowded hiking trail.
Getting to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike
The Lanikai Pillbox trailhead is located just off of Ka'elepupu Drive, directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. It's a little nondescript that may or may not have the sign up (it wasn't there during our recent trip). But due to this hike's popularity, it can usually be marked by the handfuls of people heading to the trail. This hike is free and there technically are not set operating hours although it is best done in daylight.
Due to the location of this hike in a residential neighborhood, it's recommended that you drive or take a bus. It's about a 40-minute direct drive from Waikiki. Just be forewarned that there isn't a whole lot of parking in the area. Your best bet is to find parking near Lanikai Park and simply walk the few blocks over to the trailhead. Make sure to read traffic signs and park in designated parking zones as traffic police tend to patrol the area regularly.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike - Safety Tips
Although this hike is considered intermediate, plenty of beginners can handle the terrain if they come prepared. The hardest part is the 10-yard long steep hill you encounter at the very beginning. If you start off on the far right side of the trail, there's a rope that can help with your ascent or descent. But if you're an inexperienced hiker, we highly recommend bringing a walking stick such as these compact folding hiking poles that we bring with us on every hike.
Hiking sticks or poles will help you with your balance while going up and down steep terrain. Several other hikers on this trail saw our hiking poles and immediately commented on how they wished they had some too. Along the lines of gear, proper hiking shoes are recommended to protect your toes and give you a good grip. This hike has many rocks and dirt paths that can get slick and muddy. Be very careful if you do this hike right after a heavy rainfall.
Day Trip - What to Do in Lanikai After the Hike
If you're making your way out to Lanikai for the hike, spend the rest of your day in the area. On your way into Lanikai, you'll pass by the popular, ever-crowded Kailua Beach. Spend some time here if you're lucky to score a parking spot. Or if you park near Lanikai Park as suggested above, walk a few blocks towards the water and enjoy Lanikai Beach. Top your day off with a post-hike fresh juice or açai bowl at Lanikai Juice.
More Oahu Hiking Guides
- Best Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/best-oahu-hikes - Underrated Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/underrated-oahu-hikes - Lanikai Pillbox Hike: http://bit.ly/lanikai-pillboxes - Koko Crater Trail Hike: http://bit.ly/koko-crater-trail