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LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE (KAIWA RIDGE): BEST SUNRISE ON OAHU

LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE (KAIWA RIDGE): BEST SUNRISE ON OAHU

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.

This is a short 20 minute hike

HIKING TO THE LANIKAI PILLBOXES (KAIWA RIDGE)

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.

Lanikai Pillboxes trail during our sunrise hike

LANAIKAI PILLBOX HIKE DETAILS

Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 1.4km round trip

Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 1-1.5 hours up and down

Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 124 meters

Hike Difficulty: This hike is one of the easiest on the island of Oahu due to the relatively short distance. Compared to many of the intense and wild hikes on Oahu, this is one for families and all levels of fitness.

HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST

Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you at least have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rain jacket, and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need.

What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.

  • Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
  • Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
  • Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
  • Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.

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.

LANIKAI PILLBOX TRAILHEAD MAP

On the map below, I have pinned the location of the Lanikai Pillboxes trailhead. There are clear signs at this point showing you where the trail starts so just find a park nearby.

WHAT MAKES THE LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE THE BEST SUNRISE HIKE ON OAHU?

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.

A short 20 minute hike

THE LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE

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 at least 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.

There are several different pillboxes throughout the hike and the trail will pass you by each of them. You can drop down inside them and peer out the viewing portals, imagining you were looking for incoming ships.

When looking from the pillboxes, you will catch a glimpse of Chinaman’s Hat, Makapu’u Lighthouse, Three Peaks Hike, and many stunning beaches along the east coast.

In the distance, you can also see Kaneohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, Waimanalo Bay, and the Makapu’u Lighthouse.

Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise View

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.

Lanikai Pillboxes and the Lanikai Neighborhood sunrise hike

BONUS ROUTE (KAIWA RIDGE)

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.

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 with a private lagoon.
  • Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
  • Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
  • Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
  • Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.

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!

HOLD UP! Are you sure you’re ready to start hiking and traveling? GET INSURED FIRST!

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Don’t wait for an accident to happen, Get insured. I fractured an ankle halfway through a multi-day trek and had THOUSANDS covered by through insurance claim.

I’ve been using World Nomads and SafetyWing for the past 6 years. I’ve made successful claims with both and found them professional, helpful, and reliable but most importantly.. cheap! I trust them both. World Nomads is great for travel up to two months and SafetyWing is perfect for long-term travel.

To find out why I choose World Nomads and SafetyWing, check out my review: Best (Cheap) Travel Insurance or get a quote below.

Adrian

Thursday 10th of February 2022

Thanks for sharing... As this is one of the hikes I would love to do, can you please help with answers for the following two questions?

1. Is there nearby parking or one needs to park in Lanikai closer to the beach and then walk to the trail head? 2. To avoid starting the hike in the dark and also ensure we can get on the top in time for sunrise, how exactly can we time the start? The sunrise is 6:10am ...

Mahalo.

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