Experience the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu’s windward side and dramatic views (updated 2023)
One of the most thrilling experiences to do on the east side of Oahu outside of the spectacular beaches is to actually view them from above. The Lanikai Pillbox hike is one of the most thrilling and fun hikes to do on the island and the drop dead gorgeous views at the end are really just that awe inspiring.
The Lanikai Pillbox hike is also known as the Kaiwa Ridge trail which extends from the bottom area just opposite of the golf course to the pillboxes and surrounding areas.
Elevation gain 625 Feet
Length 1.5 Miles Round Trip
Duration 60 to 90 Minutes depending on hang out time and picture taking
Terrain Hills, Ridge, Loose Dirt
Difficulty Medium, the trail is a little steep at the starting point with some ropes to get you through some of the tricky areas.
Tip – all Oahu trails are challenging and always changing with conditions, stay on the trails and observe general hiking rules. The area is very open and exposed so bring sun protection for this hike
Starting the hiking area
Entrance to the Pillbox hike is opposite of the gold course with some small signs on the fence area. It starts off steep with lots of rocky areas and also ropes to get you through the tricky areas. The lower portions are shrubby and forested and then opens up to grassy and exposed areas. The entire hike is uphill on gravel, dirt and exposed rocks.
You’ll find some fantastic viewing spots along the way to take a break and enjoy those views while taking a break from the climb. Popular spots to check out along the way includes: Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach, Mokulua Islands, Waimanalo Beach area and Maku’u point and the entire eastern coastline of Oahu.
One the northeastern side, you can spot Chinaman’s Hat, Kaneohe Bay and all the surrounding areas northeast.
Reaching the Lanikai Pillbox bunkers
There are two bunkers located along the hike with the first one taking about 30 minutes to reach. These old military bunkers were built to protect the eastern coastline from any foreign attack with artillery guns to protect the area. What’s left are the colorful graffiti bunkers most visitors will climb to take selfies and just enjoy the views below.
The 2nd bunker is further uphill another 10 minutes climb and is also decorated with colorful graffiti art.
If you are up to the challenge you can continue up the Kawai Ridge trail another hour for more magnificent views until it descends into a neighborhood area at A’alapapa Street.
Most hikers will return the same route back they came from towards the gold course and to their cars or public transportation.
How to get to the Lanikai Pillbox trail
You can get to the Lanikai Pillbox using a car, Uber app or on public transportation on the Bus.
Directions by car
By car, the drive from Waikiki takes about 40 minutes, here are the directions below
Take the H1 freeway and take the Pali Hwy 61 all the way to the eastern side to Kailua town which dumps you on Kailua St4reet. Make a right turn on Kawailoa Street and follow it to Aalapapa street. Make a right turn to Ka’elepupu Drive. Take the first right on a no name street off Ka’elepupu Drive and you’ll see the Mid Pacific Country Club on your right side.
There are just 7 parking spots located on the right hand side by the entrance to the Mid Pacific Country Club and just opposite is a small handmade sign with the Pillbox Hike on a fence.
If you can’t find parking, go down for off street parking and walk up towards the golf club and look for the Pillbox sign on the left.
Arriving by public transportation
Using Google Maps is best to what your location is in Honolulu or Waikiki, in the search bar of maps type in Lanikai Pillbox and then click on the bus icon to give you the bus that you will need to take or transfer to get to Lanikai area directly. From downtown Waikiki area, catch the 20 or 3 bus to get to Ala Moana shopping center and then transfer to the Kailua bus.
Typically Bus 67 goes directly into Kailua town and you have to transfer at the main road to bus 671 to take you directly to Lanikai.(Bus 671 is a loop bus that goes directly from Kailua to Lanikai and you can use the Holo card as a transfer.
Other things to do in the area
If you are either driving or just taking public transportation to the Pillbox hike, there’s some cool attractions to also visit along the way. Here are some of our favorites.
Just a short hike downhill from the pillbox, you enter through one of the narrow alleys directly to the beach area to Lanikai Beach. Often said to be one of the prettiest beaches in Oahu with the softest white sand, Lanikai is a treat to visit especially during the week days when locals or visitors are sparse. Swim, snorkel or enjoying the day on the beach here at Lanikai is a fun way to unwind after a fun hike above.
If you feel challenged then, kayaking to the Mokuloa islands would be another challenge on its own.
Tip – there is only street parking available in the area so park correctly when you are looking for a spot in this neighborhood.
Check out more to visiting Lanikai beach here for more information and images
Another spectacular beach area that is adjoining Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach is more accessible with parking areas, restrooms, showers and more amenities to Lanikai. You’ll be rewarded with a nice expansive beach with gorgeous views and crystal clear waters and you can also rent Sup boards or Kayaks to do some fun water sports in the area.
Kayak to the Mokes
You can rent kayaks at Kailua beach and kayak to the coastlines or to the Mokes( Mokolua islands) just offshore and enjoy the challenge of getting to the islands. It takes about an hour in good conditions and if you go earlier in the morning, the waves and currents are typically flatter in the morning hour. The main island has a sandy beach for you to land on and some small trails that you can explore. The smaller island is off limits to any visitors and is a nature preserve.
Kailua Town is uber trendy with a host of cool bars, brewpubs, coffee shops and restaurants to hang out in and enjoy an afternoon, pau hana time to dinner on the east side. There’s fun shopping with boutique stores and other shopping venues to explore in the area and enjoy the small town vibe of Kailua.
Check out more to visiting the Kailua town here for more information and images
More inside tips to doing the Lanikai Pillbox hike
Hiking the Lanikai Pillbox Trail on Oahu is a rewarding adventure that offers stunning panoramic views of the island’s coastline. To make the most of your experience, here are some inside tips:
Start Early: The trailhead can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. To beat the crowds and avoid the heat, start your hike early in the morning.
Parking: Parking can be limited, so consider carpooling or taking a rideshare service to the trailhead. Be sure to park legally to avoid fines.
Footwear: Wear sturdy hiking shoes with good grip. The trail can be steep and uneven in places, so proper footwear is essential for safety.
Sun Protection: Hawaii’s sun can be intense. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.
Hydration: Bring plenty of water, especially if you’re hiking on a hot day. There are no water sources along the trail.
Respect the Environment: Stay on designated trails and avoid disturbing the local flora and fauna. Leave no trace by packing out all your trash.
Pillboxes: The hike leads to two historic World War II pillboxes. These are great spots to take in the views and snap photos, but be cautious when climbing on them, as they can be slippery and dangerous.
Litter-Free: Keep Lanikai beautiful by not leaving any litter behind. Pack out all your trash, including food wrappers and bottles.
Mind the Neighbors: The trail passes through a residential neighborhood, so be respectful of the residents by keeping noise levels down and parking legally.
Tide Pools: After your hike, consider exploring the tide pools at Lanikai Beach. It’s a serene and beautiful spot to cool off and relax.
Weather Awareness: Hawaii’s weather can change quickly. Be aware of the weather forecast before starting your hike and be prepared for sudden rain or wind.
By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience while hiking the Lanikai Pillbox Trail and taking in the breathtaking views of Oahu’s coastline.
Weather and best time to visit Lanikai, Oahu
Lanikai is a picturesque neighborhood located on the eastern side of Oahu, Hawaii. It’s famous for its stunning beach, clear turquoise waters, and the twin Mokulua Islands just offshore. Lanikai enjoys a tropical climate, making it an attractive destination year-round. However, the best time to visit Lanikai can depend on your preferences for weather and crowd levels. Here’s a breakdown of Lanikai’s weather and the ideal times to plan your trip:
- Summer (June to August): Lanikai’s summer months are warm and relatively dry. Expect temperatures ranging from 75°F to 88°F (24°C to 31°C). Rainfall is minimal during this time, and you can enjoy plenty of sunshine. These months are perfect for beach activities, snorkeling, and water sports.
- Fall (September to November): Fall is a fantastic time to visit Lanikai. The weather remains warm, with temperatures between 73°F and 87°F (23°C to 31°C). While there may be a slight increase in rainfall, Lanikai typically experiences less rain compared to the windward (eastern) side of Oahu. This is a great time to enjoy the beauty of Lanikai with fewer crowds.
- Winter (December to February): Lanikai’s winter is mild, with temperatures averaging between 68°F and 80°F (20°C to 27°C). These months are the rainiest on the island, so you might encounter some wet days. However, Lanikai’s charm remains, and you can still enjoy outdoor activities and the stunning scenery.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is similar to fall, with pleasant temperatures ranging from 69°F to 82°F (21°C to 28°C). The rainfall begins to taper off, and the landscape becomes lush and vibrant. Spring is an excellent time to visit Lanikai for comfortable weather and fewer tourists.
Best Times to Visit Lanikai:
- Fall (September to November): This is often considered the best time to visit Lanikai. You’ll enjoy warm weather, fewer crowds, and a reduced chance of rain.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is another great option, offering pleasant temperatures and a beautiful, green landscape. It’s an excellent time for outdoor adventures.
- Lanikai is a popular destination, so regardless of when you visit, it’s a good idea to arrive early in the day to secure parking at the limited beach access areas.
- Sunrise at Lanikai Beach is a spectacular sight, and it’s worth waking up early to witness it. The early morning hours are generally less crowded.
- If you’re interested in water activities like kayaking to the Mokulua Islands, it’s best to check with local outfitters for availability and weather conditions.
What to bring wear to Lanikai Pillbox
The hike is rocky and steep at the start so wear appropriate shoes and also for sun exposure at the elevations above. Sunsrceen, sun protection and water will be adequate for this hike to the pillbox area.
Check these other items for your checklist of essentials on this hike.
- Shoes with a grip
- Light snacks
Conclusion to Lanikai Pillbox hike
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Lanikai Pillbox hike is a definite must do on the east side of Oahu with some fun places to explore afterwards.
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