Looking for a quick, rewarding hike in Oahu with fantastic views? The hike between the Lanikai Pillboxes delivers.
But first, what is a pillbox?
You may be asking, “What’s a pillbox? Why do I want to hike to see one?”
Generally, it’s not the pillbox you’re going to see. “Pillbox” is a slang term for concrete guard posts that were used for armament. The Lanikai structures built in the 1940s, though, were only used as observation platforms. Technically, they aren’t pillboxes, but their location makes them ideal for panoramic vistas of the area.
The Hike: Getting Started
Before you get to the breathtaking views, you’ve got to get past the approach trail. This portion of the trail falls right beyond a chain-link fence that marks the trailhead. The approach is composed of slick volcanic clay slathered across a steep incline. In dry conditions, it’s passable. When wet, it’s downright difficult.
The slick ascent is upwards of 50 yards with inclines that vary from 35-50 degrees. In numbers, that may not sound too bad. Now draw it out on paper. Yeah. Steep. You may find ropes attached to a few trees here and there. The ropes are helpful but mud is mud. Expect to get a little dirty when conditions are damp.
Baby and I safely made it beyond the slick spots.
The Hike: The Rewards
After the approach, the terrain levels out to an easy trail with a few technical areas. (Just add water for an additional challenge, of course). From the first pillbox, the second is easily visible and a short hike away. The trail extends beyond the second pillbox. Many people (including ourselves) turn around and head back.
One of the most magnificent things about the Lanikai Pillbox Trail is the endless supply of breathtaking views. If you ever need encouragement for the hike, just stop and look around!
The trail traces a ridge with the Kailua Bay on the left and the massive Ka’elepulu Canal and Pond on the right. When facing the bay, you can see Popoia Island rising from the ocean on the left. Moku Nui and Moku Iki are the twin islands towards the center of the horizon. To the far right (most visible from the second pillbox) rests the expanse of Waimanalo Bay.
This popular trail is definitely worthwhile, rewarding hikers with great views for minimal effort.
Details Worth Knowing
• There are no restrooms, no water fountains for humans, nor sources of water for dogs. Heatstroke is common, especially for pets, so please bring water for you and your pooch.
• You are hiking along a ridge. It’s steep with loose rocks and gravel. Wear fitted shoes with a decent tread.
• There is zero shade. A hat and sunscreen will serve you well, especially in the summer months.
• This is a popular trail. Please be considerate when enjoying views from the top of the pillboxes. Take your photos and move along.
• Leave no trace. Take only photos and leave only footprints.