Lanikai Pillbox Hike on the east coast of Oahu finishes on top of the ridge at old military pillboxes facing out towards the ocean where the sun will rise. It’s easily my favorite sunrise spot on Oahu, Hawaii.
Lanikai is by far one of the prettiest areas on Oahu, laden with spectacular homes, crystal clear water, and the famous Mokoluas also known as “mokes” (Mountains) out in the ocean. Only a few blocks back from Lanikai Beach is the beginning of the Lanikai Pillbox Hike (also known as Kaiwa Ridge), known for being one of the easier trails on the island of Oahu. There is no better way to start your day than with a short sunrise hike overlooking the ocean and amazing scenery.
HOW TO GET TO LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE ON OAHU
The Lanikai Pillbox hike is 40 minutes from Waikiki by car and about one-hour by bus (give or take island-time delays). If you are catching the bus, take the number 20 towards Kailua then transfer to the number 70 bus in Kailua town. Get dropped off at the A’alapapa Drive bus stop.
The trailhead of the Lanikai Pillbox Hike is on a small street that runs off Ka’elepupu Drive next to the Mid-Pacific Country Club. There is a sign at the exact trailhead where you exit the road and start walking up the dirt trail. If you follow Ka’elepupu Drive towards the golf club and then head right down the small street you will be solid and it is actually easy to find.
WHAT MAKES THE LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE THE BEST SUNRISE HIKE?
The sun rises over the Mokuluas, lighting up the ocean and beachside suburb of Lanikai with intense colors. Sitting on a pillbox, a piece of military history, 600 feet above all of this magic is a great way to take a moment to slow down on your holiday and appreciate where you are or to take a deep breath and be thankful you get to call Oahu home. Every time I do this hike, as the sun creeps over the horizon, I have a sense of renewed gratitude sweep through my body.
THE LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKING TRAIL
The hike itself is quite steep but very short. There is no defined trail but because it is so popular, there is an unofficial trail that is very easy to follow. To catch the sunrise from start to finish it would be best to begin hiking 30-40 minutes it emerges. That gives you enough time to catch your breath, set up a tripod or choose which pillbox is going to be your lookout. The time of the sunrise changes throughout the year so is sure to check before you plan your morning accordingly because although this hike is still great to do during the day, walking the trail for a sunrise hike is worth the early wake-up.
HOW TO FIND THE LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE TRAIL
The hike isn’t hard to find. It is directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club parking lot. Unlike many hikes on the island, there is a Lanikai Pillbox Hike sign. Normally there is ample parking in the neighborhood for the handful of people who are doing the hike each morning.
KAIWA RIDGE CONTINUED
Once you reach the final pillbox, you can continue around the corner for another 20-30 minutes and I actually suggest that you do. You get an amazing view of the Koolau Mountain Range. The ridges here are phenomenal and you stare straight at the spine of Oahu. It isn’t any extra to climb it just continues on steadily without any incline so it is really just a walk from the last pillbox rather than more ascent.
What to pack for a trip to Hawaii
What to pack for Hawaii?: After multiple trips to Hawaii, there are some items you NEED to pack. I wrote a blog post with all of my suggestions about things you might not think about packing: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY
Where to stay on Oahu
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island.
Why I recommend this hotel: It has its own private lagoon. While lots of people love the beach it is perfect for families. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries. There are no currents, waves or sea creatures to worry about. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach so don’t worry the beach is right there also.
Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.
Why I recommend this hotel: The Sheraton is always exceptional no matter the location but imagine you are leaning over the edge of an infinity pool, the ocean is below you and you turn to your left and watch Diamond Head crater in the distance. That’s where you will be at the end of each day, having a Mai Tai cocktail in your infinity pool. Later on, in the evening Rumfire is a great bar venue, which is actually part of the Sheraton. It is open to the public and is one of the best high-end venues on Oahu. It has a small dance floor but is mostly standing and seating areas for drinks, chats and good times.
Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.
Why do I recommend this hostel/hotel: This is the perfect hotel if you want location but are willing to sacrifice a pool and some luxury items to save up to $200 per night. All of the hotels in this area are minimum $300 per night and often much more. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway. Didn’t you come halfway across the world to swim in the beach!
Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.
Why I recommend this hostel: Unfortunately Waikiki and Honolulu, in general, are not cheap. You can grab a dorm room for under $35 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach. This location really is great. You are near a lot of attractions and can take public transport to a lot of great east coast beaches and hikes. It is the number one hostel in Waikiki and I’m sure you will meet other adventurers to go on hikes with!
Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.
Why I recommend this hotel: Disney Aulani Resort combines luxury accommodation with family fun. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind. The kids club and massage center are just among a few of the many activities included in your stay. Attend ukelele lessons, free fire-pit story-telling at night and more and more! Your kids will never be bored and the quality of entertainment and facilities is just beyond amazing.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY
A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?
Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018
The best Waterfalls: 11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII
The Best Hikes on Oahu: 10 BEST HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII
My favorite experience on Oahu: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII
The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU – THE BUCKET LIST