Kailua Lanikai Pillbox Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as the Ka'iwa Ridge Trail, is one of Oahu's easiest hikes. Unlike many other easy hikes, it also has absolutely breathtaking views. However, easy for Hawaii isn't exactly the same as easy for other parts of the world - the climb is still steep and can be dangerous, if you aren't cautious. It is short, but the dry, steep conditions mean you'll need shoes with some grip.
This hike is also a little tricky to find - you literally park on a residential street next to a golf course and begin the hike by cutting between two houses! Finding this slightly out of the way hike is well worth the effort - just make sure to bring your camera and a bottle of water!
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Hiking to the Lanikai Pillboxes
This hike is located on the windward side of Oahu, which means it is dry, windy, and open. Before starting the hike, make sure to hydrate well, put on some hiking shoes, and apply plenty of sunscreen. Temperatures in the low to mid 80s with stiff breezes mean you don't always feel hot, but the sun's tropical rays can, and will, quickly burn your skin. If you have a very snug hat, or a hat with a strap, wear it on the hike. However, if it isn't firmly attached to your head, you may lose it along the way!
Make sure you don't leave any valuables (or anything else, for that matter) visible in your car. The neighborhood is classified as a high theft area, so make sure to either bring your items with you or lock them in the trunk. After finding a place to park, locating the trail's entrance is relatively easy. Yes, you cut between two yards, but a sign and a marked trashcan make the trailhead difficult to miss. The trail starts off with some very steep uphill trekking, but don't be afraid to grab onto roots, trees or even occasional helpful ropes. As you go uphill, it quickly becomes clear that this hike is more of a destination than a single trail. There are many routes to the top - just make sure to be safe. The rock is very fragile and flaky - in some paces you can literally break the rock off with your fingers!
As you hike, you move from a slightly wooded area onto the absolutely unprotected mountainside. The hike is technically short - you can do the whole round trip in less than an hour - but not necessarily easily, particularly if you're not accustomed to mountains. Also, the trail literally runs along the mountain's ridge, so those afraid of heights may have psychological difficulties with this hike. As noted above, there is no one set path - just make it to the pillboxes! You can see them clearly, so just pick your path to adventure.
First Lanikai PillboxClick thumbnail to view full-size
Unlike many decayed and decrepit pillboxes in Hawaii, the Lanikai pillboxes are very intact. The first pillbox is absolutely covered in graffiti. From American flags to your typical tags, the graffiti left by folks from around the world is worth checking out, in its own right.
It is relatively easy to climb on the first pillbox's roof for a unique perspective on the area. Also, you can climb inside the pillbox, either with the ladder from the roof, or by squeezing through the viewing slit. The inside is just as decorated as the outside and the graffiti'd cement block walls juxtapose with the beautiful scenery visible through the slit. What was life like on Oahu when these pillboxes were constructed? What was it like for the men assigned to them, a place already targeted by the Japanese on December 7, 1941?
Second Lanikai PillboxClick thumbnail to view full-size
Second Lanikai Pillbox
The second pillbox is only about an additional five minutes along the trail. You can clearly see it from the first pillbox, and the trail between the two is easy to hike. The second pillbox is a double pillbox with two separate sections. Just like the first pillbox, you can climb down inside. While the second pillbox does have graffiti, it is nowhere near as colorful as the first. The second pillbox is basically at the end of the ridge and offers fantastic views of the ocean, on one side, and the mountains, on the other.
Views from the Lanikai Pillbox HikeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Getting back down the trail safely is tricky. Because of the dry, dusty conditions and flaky rock, the trail is slippery. My best advice is don't try to work against gravity. If you take small steps, stay standing upright, and allow yourself to speed up if you need to, instead of trying to forcibly stop yourself, you should make it to the bottom safely. If you feel like you're off balance or trip, trying to stop yourself on the slope will just ensure you will fall over. If you go with the flow and channel gravity and momentum to assist your descent, you'll be a lot better off. Also, don't be afraid to grab onto roots or trees, once they become available!
If you have the opportunity to hike up to the Lanikai pillboxes, don't pass it up. The views are some of the most breathtakingly beautiful sights I've ever seen, and I'm sure you'll enjoy them, too.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.