The Pink Pillbox hike on Oahu (also known as the Maili Pillbox or the Pu’u O Hulu Trail ), is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and overlooks the crashing cerulean waves along the Waianae coast on the 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.
PINK PILLBOX HIKE (MAILI PILLBOX)
The Maili Pillbox hike only takes less than 45-minutes to reach the top, but along the way, you will have an 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 short 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.
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MY EXPERIENCE ON THE PINK PILLBOX HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII
There is a steep and challenging route that 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 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 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 shoreline.
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. Below are my four Hawaii 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.
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.
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, is 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.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
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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 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!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU