The Pali Notches Hike on Oahu is known for being one of the most dangerous hikes on the island but also one of the most impressive. It’s usually the way isnt it?
*Before I go any further with this blog post I need to tell you the following. This hike is considered extremely dangerous. Multiple people have died hiking the Pali Notches so attempt at your own risk, be extra cautious and wait for a fair-weather day as the wind really slaps this ridge hard.
PALI NOTCHES INFORMATION
DISTANCE: 0.8 Miles out and back
ALTITUDE: 430 ft
PALI NOTCHES HIKE HISTORY
Walking along the dangerously steep ridge known as Pali Notches Hike, gusts of wind threaten to knock you off either side of the cliff as you skitter up and down intimidating rock faces. This narrow ridge hike requires you to rock climb over the man-made notches, which were supposedly created in the 1700s by King Kamehameha’s warriors to harbor cannons and warriors on lookout while they kept Nu’uanu Valley secure.
The Pali Notches is known as being one of the most dangerous hikes on Oahu and many people have had been injured and there have even been some deadly falls along this ridge.
PALI NOTCHES HIKE
The Pali Notches trailhead for this hike starts by heading straight up an unmarked trailhead to the right side of the Pali Lookout platform, a popular spot for tourists. You can see the faint trail as soon as you step over the yellow chain fence that encircles the platform. You climb your way through a grove of Hau trees that quickly opens up into an incredible view of the Pali Highway to your left and Kaneohe to your right.
As you continue to gain elevation the wind seems to get stronger but so do the epic views. The path becomes narrower as you continue hiking the dangerous ridge. A sheer drop off to your left and to the right made sure we concentrated on each and every movement. There are a few scatterings of bushes every so often guarding you against a steep drop into the forest. The trail itself begins to level out as you come across the first of the Pali Notches.
The strong gales made the first notch a little intimidating but handholds proved easy to find. There was also a rope that you could use to assist your climb but I wouldn’t recommend depending on the ropes here too much as you never know how trustworthy they really are. We quickly clambered up the notch and were rewarded with the view from the top, which will take your breath away. The stunning blue waters of Kaneohe provide a beautiful contrast to the imposing cliffs.
The floor at the base of each notch is pretty flat and if you sit against the walls you can get out of the wind for a moment while taking in the view on either side of the ridge. After the first notch, the ridge trail gets very narrow (about 2 ft wide) and can be considered dangerous with strong winds common on this part of the island.
The second notch is where most people are a bit unsure. A lot of hikers struggle to climb down this notch due to the lack of sturdy handholds and climbing experience. A rope has been added to this section of the hike though, which definitely helped the climb down the rock face. The wind is still extremely powerful here but as long as you keep your body close to the notch wall and take your time it is definitely possible.
After the second notch, you continue on to another vertical climb to the top of a tall rock formation. Upon reaching this, many people stop here and turn back. From the narrow top of this formation, you get rewarded with a great view of the infamous chimney. The Pali Notches Hike is best viewed from the final point at the top of the chimney but it is also the sketchiest.
This is the hardest part of the Pali Notches hike. Up until recently, you had to free climb about 20 ft until you could grab onto the rope which was fine but proved to be challenging to get down. When we did the hike though there was a new rope that went down to the bottom of the chimney.
TIP: If you climb over the chimney you’ll eventually reach Konahuanui Ridge.
For this hike, you need sturdy shoes, water, and sunscreen. Some people recommend also bringing rope and gloves. Also, don’t forget to bring a buddy in case you run into trouble.
PALI NOTCHES HIKE MAP LOCATION
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