***Due to the huge demand & response to my recent blog, What Does It Cost To Live For A Month in Honolulu, I’m going to be starting to focusing my blog entries on Hawaii hikes, beaches, activities, nightlife, and food, mainly on Oahu. I figure most people are always asking me for information about this, and it’s best to start writing it all down! Besides, what better way to plug my awesome Oahu travel guide eBook, Oahu Nightlife & Travel Guide? 😛
Not to worry, I’ll still be writing blog entries every now and then covering my epic adventures and bachelor trips abroad to Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere. Next up in August 2015: Serbia & Montenegro!***
It’s fitting that my first entry and review for an Oahu hike is an oldie but a goodie: The gorgeous Lanikai Pillboxes. Now a lot of people who are hard-core hikers on Oahu will scoff at me, scream out “Poppycock!” (or whatever it is in Hawaiian pidgin), and basically say that the Lanikai Pillboxes isn’t a “real” hike. I get what some of them are saying: The Pillboxes aren’t some intense, jungle-trekking, mud-filled, waterfall and valley laden adventure that take a lot of physical effort or hours of the day to complete. But for me, the Pillboxes fulfill all the essential elements of a hike on Hawaii or Oahu: (1) It involves climbing at a greater than 30 degree incline (2) You sweat and get more than 30 or more minutes of moderate exercise in a hot environment (3) You are rewarded with some ridiculous panty-dropping views while are you doing it, and especially at the end.
Lanikai Pillboxes fulfills all of these 3 essentials for an Oahu hike for me. On the one hand, it’s definitely not as crowded as some of the other more crowded and well-known hikes, like Diamond Head Crater, Koko Head Crater, Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, Manoa Falls, or Maunawili Falls. But it’s also not ridiculously hard to get to or hard to find and complete, and you’re not trespassing, like some of the other trail or jungle and saddle hikes. So it’s a great hike to start off with, to introduce you to the hiking scene on Oahu.
First of all, like the name implies, the Lanikai Pillboxes hike is in Lanikai. It’s easiest to drive straight there from Honolulu, about a 40 minute drive or so without traffic. You can take a bus there, but you will have to switch in Kailua to the 73 bus and it can take a while to get there and to get back. Like with most hikes, I would bring plenty of water (at least 1-1.5 Liters per person), sunscreen, sunglasses, and a good solid pair of sneakers/trainers. This is not a hike you really want to do in slippahs/flip-flops, although it can be done. Luckily, you won’t really need bug spray, since there aren’t any real mosquitoes on the trail.
I would recommend that you come to do this hike early in the morning, before the sun gets too high, like around 10 am or earlier. You can do it later, and I’ve done it around noon-early afternoon many times, but it’s balls-hot sometimes and you’ll be wishing that you had come when the sun wasn’t so high. This applies to other uncovered hikes like Diamond Head and Koko Head as well. You can also do it just before sunset around 4-5 pm when the sun is going down, but then it won’t be as fun to enjoy Lanikai Beach afterwards. Personally, I think it’s best to do Lanikai Pillboxes hike first and then wash off all the sweat and pass out on Lanikai Beach afterwards, as the waves lap at your feet and you enjoy the powder-white sand. The danger is that if you go to Lanikai Beach first, you’ll never ever manage to leave for the hike. Like ever!
So first of all, you have to find the entrance to the hike, which is located on Kaelepulu Drive, just across from the Mid-Pac Country Club and Golf Course. Funny story, my one friend tried to do this hike once when President Obama was playing golf here on vacation and they wouldn’t let him leave the hike until the President was done playing his 18 holes! Anyway, there’s not much parking on Kaelepulu Drive right next to the trail entrance, but look farther down on Kaelepulu drive or just park somewhere in Lanikai neighborhood. Just be very very careful that you are parking in the right area and not blocking a driveway, sign, or bike path, because you can get a $200+ ticket super quick by doing that by the time you get back from your hike.
Once you found parking and found the trail entrance, conveniently marked with a small red “Lanikai Pillboxes” sign, lace up your shoes and start the hike. The beginning part of the hike hugs a fence and climbs up a dirt and rocky path, at about a 45 – 50 degree incline. It can be pretty loose rock and dirt, or muddy if it’s been raining recently, so watch your footing and make good use of the tree branches and trunks along the way. When you are climbing up, veering off to the left is the best way to approach the first part of the hike, since there are more branches to grab, more footholds, and less loose dirt. After a few minutes of hiking up this part, which is the steepest part of the hike, you can veer left more to an awesome clearing where you get a first gorgeous view of the Mokulua Islands off the shore of Lanikai Beach!
You can catch your breath here and take a quick water break, while you take all the duck-face, sexy-angle, “Look at me, I’m in Hawaii and you aren’t, bitches! Nanny nanny poopoo, stick your head in doo-doo!” Instagram and GoPro selfies you can manage. Don’t go overboard, there are so many more opportunities coming up. After you get done satisfying your inner narcissist, continue the hike up the dirt and rock path, sticking to the fairly obvious trail. If you ever get a little lost going up, and not sure which way to go, always try to take the far right path that slowly winds up the hill; it’ll usually be easier, and lead to rock areas that are less crazy to climb.
Make sure to take plenty of water breaks, as it can get pretty hot because it’s totally exposed here, especially at mid-day under the blazing sun. I’ve seen some little kids and ridiculous parents carrying babies in front-packs/back-packs sprinting up and down this thing, but you don’t have to show off for their sake. They will inevitably beat most of your sorry butts, so just accept it! As you slowly climb upwards, you’ll see a concrete structure higher up on the hill that you will eventually get to, and your first goal: The 1st Lanikai Pillbox.
The Lanikai Pillboxes, as far as I know, were old military outposts that they used to station soliders at during the WWII time to look out for enemy planes and Japanese aircraft. That obviously didn’t work out too well (#PearlHarbor), so now they are abandoned but you get to enjoy them in all their tagged and graffitied glory! When you reach the 1st Pillbox, you’ll be tempted to stop and relax here, after about 25 minutes, but I would advise you to just slowly make your way around the front or back of the pillbox, take a breather and water break, and push on to your next, way better destination: The 2nd Lanikai Pillbox!
If you manage to suck it up and hike up/sprint up another 5 minutes, you’ll see the 2nd Lanikai Pillbox, which has a way better wrap-around 360 degree view of all of Lanikai, Kailua, Kaneohe, and up the Windward coast/east coast up to as far as Kualoa Ranch and Chinaman’s Hat, and as far south as Waimanalo and Makapuu beach. Take a leap up, with some help if you need it (or do a pull up, you pansies!) and get up onto the top of the 2nd Pillbox. This is a great place to reward yourself with an awesome selfie, water break, lunch and sandwich break, meditate, hook up, or whatever you do when you discover such a baller panty-dropping sight.
One word of caution: This 2nd Pillbox can be completely empty sometimes, or completely full sometimes, especially on busy hiking days like the weekends. For the love of ALL that is holy, please please please do NOT act like a Japanese teenage girl with ADHD and a GoPro and take hundreds of thousands of selfie and group selfie shots for all eternity, while some other people are trying to enjoy the view and relax. Besides, everyone else want to take their selfie shots also! 😛 Just be considerate and don’t hog the view. Take in the gorgeous sight of Lanikai and Lanikai beach, stare down at the multi-million dollar house you’ll never be able to afford, and notice how many of them are starting to convert to solar energy.
If you look to the right of the 2nd Pillbox while staring at the gorgeous blue ocean and Mokulua Islands, you’ll notice that the path continues onwards and the trail actually ends farther down. You can continue to go on this trail for another 45 minutes or so as it leads up and down and up and down a less maintained path, but then the problem is that you end up in the deep part of Lanikai, farther away from your car or where you started. It’s also a little harder to hike since not as many people do it, and the path isn’t as traveled. Also, you don’t get any better or higher wrap-around view than from the 2nd Pillbox. Most people usually end at the 2nd Pillbox and then head back. All told, getting the the 2nd Pillbox should take you about 25-35 minutes up if you are in decent shape and the same to do it in reverse, plus the time you spend with your mouth gaping at all the panty-dropping Fifty Shades of Blue ocean around you.
On the way back down, just watch your footing, and realize this is where most people eat it, especially if they are hiking without sneakers. Watch out for loose dirt, and put your foot on solid rock instead if you can. Reverse directions and make sure you veer left in general, except for the last section right before the last steeper section, where if you veer too far left you will go off course. Once you start reaching the looser dirt, veer right again, and then monkey-swing your way through the branches, trees trunks, and use the footholds to get back down the trail to the fence where you began. This is the most slippery party, especially if it rained and it’s muddy or it’s super dry and dusty. The first time I did this hike, I saw some poor local lady eat it like 3 times and fall screaming on her okole as her little kid went flying down the hill. She was not happy!
After you get down, give yourselves all a “Lanikai Pillbox High Five!” and wind your way down to the Lanikai Beach for a well-deserved rest and shower in the beautiful waters of Lanikai. Congrats on finishing your first (or second…or hundredth) Oahu hike!
Until next time, this is The Traveling Bachelor, saying “CHEE-HOO!!!”
Overall Hike Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Coconuts (1 Coconut = Lame, Brah! <=> 5 Coconuts = CHEE-HOO!!!)
Difficulty Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Coconuts
Getting Lost Finding It/Getting Lost On It Rating: 2 out of 5 Coconuts
Panty-Dropping View Rating: 5 out of 5 Coconuts