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Kailua Lanikai Pillbox Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Updated on July 15, 2016

Joined: 5 years agoFollowers: 865Articles: 143
Lanikai pillbox
Lanikai pillbox | Source

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

A markerPillbox hike starting location -
382 Kaelepulu Dr, Kailua, HI 96734, USA
get directions

This is actually the least-steep portion of the trail!
This is actually the least-steep portion of the trail! | Source
Arid, windward conditions mean you'll see some interesting plants
Arid, windward conditions mean you'll see some interesting plants | Source

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 Pillbox

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mokulua Islands, as seen from the pillboxesThe 'first' Lanikai pillboxIt is easy to climb up/jump downLooking towards Kailua from the pillbox's roofDo you dare to climb down in?Inside the pillbox is full of graffiti How many men watched the sea through this slit?
Mokulua Islands, as seen from the pillboxes
Mokulua Islands, as seen from the pillboxes | Source
The 'first' Lanikai pillbox
The 'first' Lanikai pillbox | Source
It is easy to climb up/jump down
It is easy to climb up/jump down | Source
Looking towards Kailua from the pillbox's roof
Looking towards Kailua from the pillbox's roof | Source
Do you dare to climb down in?
Do you dare to climb down in? | Source
Inside the pillbox is full of graffiti
Inside the pillbox is full of graffiti | Source
How many men watched the sea through this slit?
How many men watched the sea through this slit? | Source

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 Pillbox

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Second pillbox, as seen from the firstTake time to check out the unique vegetationThe second pillbox, a little less decoratedAnother view of the Moks
Second pillbox, as seen from the first
Second pillbox, as seen from the first | Source
Take time to check out the unique vegetation
Take time to check out the unique vegetation | Source
The second pillbox, a little less decorated
The second pillbox, a little less decorated | Source
Another view of the Moks
Another view of the Moks | Source

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 Hike

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Oahu's windward coast, looking toward Chinaman's Hat IslandLooking toward Kailua Mountains
Oahu's windward coast, looking toward Chinaman's Hat Island
Oahu's windward coast, looking toward Chinaman's Hat Island | Source
Looking toward Kailua
Looking toward Kailua | Source
Mountains
Mountains | Source

The Descent

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.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have never been to Hawaii but I have heard of the Pillbox....great photos my friend.

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! It's so beautiful there it's difficult to take a bad photo.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Natasha,

      All right I must confess, after reading all these hiking hubs from various hubbers, I am feeling tempted to go on one! I have not been hiking in a while and need to do so! Beautiful pictures Natasha and I also liked your information on wheat to bring and how to protect yourself against the sun. These are useful tips for some people out there who have ventured out on a hike before. Great job Natasha! I have shared!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you for sharing!

      I must admit - the hills were a little tricky for me! I'm in decent shape, but really accustomed to very flat land. Even a little bump in the road seems like a hill to me, so a legitimate hill was fairly difficult! I hadn't been hiking in forever, either, but I have fallen back in love =)

    • Ali Dawson profile image

      Ali Dawson 4 years ago from Honolulu, HI

      I love the Pillboxes! Such a beautiful way to start a day (and good for you too!)

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I haven't been first thing in the morning, but I've heard it can be a lot of fun to hike the pillboxes with a flashlight and wait for the sun to come up. I bet it's amazing, since it's on the side of the island facing the rising sun. I have hiked Diamondhead Crater first thing in the morning and that was a pretty cool experience.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Beautiful! Hawaii has to be the most beautiful state in the union (outside, of course, my own NW mainland). One day, perhaps, I will visit...

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I've never been to the NW, but I hear it's beautiful. Thanks for stopping by, Wilderness, and I hope you get the chance to visit Hawaii sometime soon.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      How breathtaking. Are the pillboxes lookouts left over from the second World War or simply defense systems for the island? They are so strategically placed (in the most fabulous places)!! Admire your courage going up there.

      Great pictures.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Yes, they are part of the island's WWII defenses. A lot of the more developing hiking sites actually have signs about the defenses and how they had crossing lines of fire. I'll try to include some of those signs and diagrams in future hubs about Oahu hikes!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Again, you are quite an adventurous woman! Wow, I don't think I would climb down into one of these, but they are fascinating to read about.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Hahaha yes, that part kinda sketched me out a little. Actually, on one of them a rung was broken, so I was a little nervous! It was worth it, though.

    • HawaiianGarden profile image

      Ken Muise 2 years ago from Honolulu

      Great Hub. Gonna' do this trail tomorrow. Thanks for the information and great directions.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 2 years ago from Hawaii

      I hope you have/had a fun time! The view from up there is spectacular. I went at night back in January, and the view was just as breathtaking then.

    • HawaiianGarden profile image

      Ken Muise 2 years ago from Honolulu

      Yeah...it was incredible. Thanks for the tips!

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