Lanikai Pillbox Hike is an easy, pleasant and beautiful trail, located in the prestigious neighborhood of Lanikai, on the east side of the island of Oahu. It’s also known as Kaiwa Ridge Trail. Lanikai means “heavenly sea”, and this scenic trail depicted exactly that: clear blue ocean with the iconic Mokulua islands as its backdrop. From the start of the hike to the second pillbox is 0.6 mile. People usually turn around at the second pillbox, however, it is possible to continue the trail for another half an hour down to a residential area on A’alapapa Street. If you have your car parked at Ka’elepulu street, add 20 more minutes to return back to it.
The hiking trail was unpaved and steep in the beginning section. Because of this steep incline in the beginning of the hike, it’s ranked as intermediate. I was climbing up large rocks using both hands and legs.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a popular trail with many people going up and down, and parking can be difficult to find. Go early and start the hike when the weather is still cool.
We parked on the side of the road, as there is no designated parking lot for this trail. Make sure you don’t park on the bike lane as your car will be towed. The trail head is at the end of Ka’elepulu Drive. Walk past the Mid-Pacific private club golf course. On the left side of the street, you will see the road splits into two sections. The one on the right that is closer to the metal fence is the start of the trail; you are on the right track if you find yourself on a narrow dirt road sloping up with a ditch in the middle. Do not go on the wide section on the left that says “Private Road.”
As soon as you start, you will come across a metal gate without a door, and plenty of signage telling hikers to pick up trash after themselves and warning signs about heat stroke.
The trail was rocky and sloped up quickly. There were small loose rocks and gravel on the trail that made it slippery. Within the first five minutes of hiking, I already came to a clear view of the Nā Mokulua islands.
The Nā Mokulua islands are the iconic representation of Lanikai. They are also known as “The Mokes” or “Twin Islands”, which formed between 2.7 and 3.9 million years ago. These islands are depicted in countless postcards and calendars. You can also rent a kayak to visit the island on the left, which is known as the Moku Hui, and you will find the famous natural bath on the south side of the land.
The trail started in the shade with tall trees, and then became uncovered. I can understand why there were warning signs for heat strokes since most of the trail was not shaded. Luckily, on the day we went, we were well shaded by the clouds, and the cool ocean breezes make our hike even more pleasant. Seeing the Mokulua islands within 5 minutes of hiking was a pleasant surprise.
There were two “pillboxes” on this trail. Both of them were WWII bunkers and now covered in colorful graffiti. One of the most photographed place was at one corner of the first pillbox, where one could sit on top of the “ALOHA” sign to take pictures with blue ocean and the Nā Mokulua islands behind. The second bunker offers a higher and broader view of the entire coastline of Kailua and Kaneohe, on a clear day, you can see as far as Huula. You will need arm strength or help from a friend to climb on top of the bunkers, there was no ladders or ropes to go up.
On the trail, there were pretty little purple and yellow flowers. The tall grasses were soft when bushed against them, therefore long pants are not necessary.
Even though Lanikai Pillbox Hike is relatively short, it is still wise to wear shoes with traction and ankle protection as it was slippery. Make sure to use sun screen and bring a bottle of water with you. There was no restrooms on this trail. The closest restrooms were at Kailua beach park.
After the hike, we went straight to the Kailua beach, swam and cooled down. There were showers, restrooms and changing rooms at the Kailua beach park. The facilities were clean and well maintained.
We were hungry after all these activities, and found a great little breakfast place called Over Easy by the entrance of the Kailua town, 10 minutes drive from the trail. Over Easy offers good local breakfast and coffee. Their giant fresh fruit cream cheese pancakes were delicious. We really enjoyed our day hiking, swimming and eating delicious food. This was a perfect day.
More Oahu Hikes
Manoa Falls and Maunawili Falls – Two Great hikes in Honolulu Watershed Forest
Oahu Hikes: Laie Falls Trail and Kaiwa Ridge Trail
Koko Head Trail Hike: a 1048-Step Challenge
Waimea Valley and Waimea Falls – One of the Best Easy Hikes in Oahu
Crouching Lion Hike: A Walk through the Jungle