The Pink Pillbox hike on Oahu (also known as the Maili Pillbox or the Pu’u O Hulu Trail ), Hawaii is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and overlooks the crashing cerulean waves along the Waianae coast on West Side of Oahu. Most of the well-known hikes on Oahu are in the east or central zones of the island so it is great to get out west and see some different landscapes.
The Maili Pillbox hike only takes less than 45-minutes to reach the top, but along the way you will have amazing panoramic view of the highly underrated western shoreline of Oahu. It’s a completely different vibe out on the west side and I encourage you to combine this hike with one of the beautiful west side beaches where you can often swim with turtles or dolphins.
You will probably get some great ideas from my most popular blog post: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU: THE BUCKETLIST
WHERE IS THE PINK PILLBOX HIKE
The Pu’u O Hulu or ‘Pink Pillbox’ Hike is a short ridge-hike on the west side of Oahu that overlooks the surrounding suburbs and beautiful stretches of beaches, which Oahu is known for. The hike extends along the ridge between the Nanakuli and Maili suburbs and can be seen clearly from the Farrington Highway below.
The Pu’u O Hulu hike starts on Kaukama Rd after the 9th light pole on the right-hand side of the road. One of the cool things about this hike is that it has different route options to take you to the five pillboxes at the top. Below is a map that has the Maili Pillbox pinned.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE PINK PILLBOX HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII
There is a steep and challenging route which is much shorter or there is an easier kid friendly option that zigzags up the mountain. We took the more direct route, which is what this blog post will be based on. The grass on either side of the trail scratched up our legs a little bit, which tells you it isn’t as highly trafficked as many of the other hikes on Oahu. While the trail is clear, this hike isn’t nearly as crowded as some of the other hikes on the island and we didn’t pass anyone until we got to the pillboxes.
The skies were a clear as we began our journey and the sun beat down on us as we hiked up the steep dusty trail that led to some natural rock ‘stairs’. Before clambering up the natural slab steps we took a moment to look around and appreciate the view we had so far. From this height you could see the suburb of Maili and the bright blue water at the rock quarry.
The rock stairs started off pretty even and easy to climb, but as they went on they grew taller and the climb became a little more challenging. At this point in the hike I was starting to regret the leg day I had done the day before and the long run I’d done earlier that morning. It was almost like a natural version of the Koko Head Stairs!
The top of the stairs opens up into a dip of the ridge, giving you with a breathtaking view of the ocean. To continue the ascent towards the pillboxes you take a left here. We decided to explore to the right before continuing on, here we climbed out to the edge of the cliff and looked out over Maili and the shore line.
After doing some classic summit yoga poses on the cliff and reenacting the iconic scene from The Lion King, we decided to head towards the pillboxes. The route we took takes you along the top of the ridge so you gain an amazing view along most of the hike. We came across a rock cliff that dropped the 700 ft. straight down and decided to do a little climb.
This wasn’t part of the hike but we wanted to see things from a higher viewpoint. This ended up not being the brightest idea as the rocks were quite crumbly. At one point the rock I was using as a handheld completely broke off. It was quite a scare at first but we all got a good laugh before getting back to the actual hike. It’s always best to stay away from the edges of cliffs when hiking on Oahu as things often aren’t stable and many tourists have fallen and found trouble while hiking.
We reached the first pillbox and took some time to check out the graffiti inside before climbing on top. Looking out from the Pillboxes you are rewarded with a great view of the ocean below and if you turn around you can enjoy the breathtaking, panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
We continued the climb and found the next pillbox which was gigantic. It was the size of three regular pillboxes. One of my favorite things about pillbox hikes like this one, Lanikai Pillbox hike, and Diamond Head, are that the pillboxes offer a perfect spot for a picnic or snack break.
After the giant pillbox, we came across the Pink pillbox. This was painted a bright bubblegum pink in October of 2015 in dedication to Breast Cancer Awareness. Standing inside it felt like you’d been transported to the inside of a Pepto Bismol bottle. The pink pillbox had recently been given a fresh coat of paint so the walls were pretty bare. We decided to climb on top where we found a painting of a pink ribbon, a symbol for breast cancer awareness. From here you could see the coral reef through the cerulean waters extend for miles down the shoreline in both directions.
About 100 ft beyond the pink pillbox is the final pillbox and the end of the hike. After enjoying the dazzling view and taking a few hundred photos we headed back the way we came but decided to take the zigzag trail down. I would definitely recommend taking the stairs up and taking this way down as the steep route would be very slippery because of how dry and dusty it was. Also, the longer, winding route offered some beautiful scenery that you wouldn’t want to miss.
This hike is less than 2 miles but with all of the pillboxes to explore and the distractingly impressive views of the west coast it takes over an hour.
MY FOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES ON OAHU
Looking for some idea for activities on your rest day from hiking? These are my favorite activities on the island… especially the doors-off helicopter flight.
- Oahu scenic helicopter flight: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off). You will be absolutely blown away when you see Oahu from the sky! Click to book your tour: Doors-Off Helicopter Flight Tour
- North Shore Shark Cage Adventure: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks! Click to book your tour: North Shore Shark Cage Experience
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Half-Day Cruise: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins. A once in a lifetime experience. Click to book your tour: Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: One of my favorite memories of Hawaii is floating in the water with a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. On this tour that is exactly what you will do! Click to book your tour: Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran
HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST
Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you atleast have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rainjacket and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need.
Hiking shoes – It’s best to use hiking boots with good grip and that can handle mud, rain, and tough terrain. Hiking shoes I use: Salomon Mid GTX
Rain Jacket – Never hike in Hawaii without a rain jacket, no matter how sunny it is in Honolulu. Rain Jacket I use: Arcteryx Lightweight Rain Jacket
Spare T-shirt – To change into at the top of a summit to be dry and warm as you will sweat through your original shirt while hiking: Dry fit hiking shirt I use: IceBreaker Merino Lite
Headlamp – So you can keep your hands free instead of holding a torch. Head Torch I use: Petzl Head Lamp 450 Lumens
My Camera Backpack: You simply won’t find a better camera backpack for hiking that my Atlas Athlete Backpack, which I’ve been using on all of my hikes all over the world for years now: Atlas Athlete Camera Backpack
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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