One of my favorite quick hikes on O’ahu is Lanikai Pillbox, as well as my favorite beach on the East side of island, Lanikai Beach. It is a short hike and super close to town (Honolulu/Waikiki), only about an hour bus ride or a 30 minute drive. If you just moved to island, or here visiting, this is one of the hikes I always recommend to travelers to check out, because it is so easy to get to. This hike is more on the mellow side for O’ahu, not strenuous, or illegal! I consider it pretty safe for all types of people including kids, so if you are not really into hiking, but want an incredible panoramic view of Lanikai beach, this hike is great for everybody! I always recommend to check out Lanikai Beach afterwards, because this beach is like no other on O’ahu, and a great way to cool off after a hike. So, if you are looking for a full day of hiking and beach loving, this is a one of the most beautiful places you will see on island.
1. How to Get to Lanikai Pillbox Hike and Lanikai Beach
The physical address where it will be easy to navigate to using Google Map is 265 Kaelepulu Dr, Kailua, HI, 96734 (I will also list directions below for driving there). For anyone that will be using the bus as transportation from Waikiki, Kuhio Street is the main street for bus routes. Locals and hotel employees are always pretty helpful for more information on buses. Buses are a great way of transportation around here, the bus is my main source of transportation!
The bus system can pretty much take you almost around the whole island. You need exact change, $2.50, or you can get a $30 bus pass for 4 days. I only recommend that if you are only staying here for that many days. If you happen to get here on the first of the month, and are staying for at least a month or longer, get a $60 monthly bus pass. You can get any bus passes at 7-11, unfortunately the million ABC Stores you ending up seeing don’t sell them! If you would rather just pay as you go, just make sure to have exact change, and keep the transfer tickets that the drivers will give you to hop on another bus. You can download the “DaBus” app for your smart phone, to stay up to date with all the bus routes and times. Google Maps will also provide the current transit information to help you as you go along. Here is the bus route I take when I am going to Lanikai from Waikiki:
From Kuhio and Namahana, you take either the 2 Bus (towards School St) or the 13 Bus (Towards Liliha). Both of these buses come through every 15 minutes, and both take you to China Town to hop on the next bus. You are going to hop on 3 different buses, so make sure you are aware of each bus time, so you don’t get stuck or miss a bus. Buses here can be late or early, so give yourself a 10-15 minute space in between to be safe. Google Maps always provides the whole route for you, so you will see the times for each bus.
I usually take the 13 Bus, and it drops me off at S Hotel St and Alakea St. Then you just go right on Alakea St. and go up to that next bus stop you see, to wait for the 57 or 57A. These two Buses will be taking you to Kailua. This is a beautiful scenic drive up the Pali Highway, the main highway that takes you to the East side of the island.
Then you will be dropped off at Kailua and Hamakua, to catch the 70 Bus towards Lanikai. This bus route will drop you off at Aalapapa Dr and Kaelepulu Dr. If you tell the bus driver you are trying to go to this hike, they will know exactly where to stop for you. They are aware that most people on this bus are trying to go to the beach or this hike. If you are just going to Lanikai Beach, you will be dropped off at Alala Dr and Kaneapu Pl, right in front of the beach entrance. If you look to your left, you will see another bus stop which is where the 70 will pick you back up to head back into town. Check bus schedule ahead of time, so you know when you need to be ready to take all 3 buses back home. Overall taking the bus here will take the most about an hour and a half.
2. Now Getting Your Hike on
When you reach Aalapapa Dr and Kaelepulu Dr, you go right up the hill on Kaelepulu in the neighborhood. If you are driving, you just need to find parking somewhere in the neighborhood. Be very cautious of where you are parking, there are tow areas. This is a pretty safe area to leave your car, just be cautious of leaving important stuff in the car. You just walk right up Kaelepulu and to your left, you will see a sign that clearly addresses the entrance to this hike. There is a Mid-Pacific Country Club at the end of the street, the entrance is to your left.
This photo is from my GoPro, so not the best shot due to the sun! But this gives you an idea of the type of hike you will be going along. Best time to go is at dusk or dawn, not a good hike for rainy weather. I feel like this is a safe hike, but just be cautious because there are steep hills overlooking the Lanikai neighborhood. So, be cautious you fellow photo lovers! I got incredible shots on this hike from my iPhone. The scenery with all the blue colors just brighten up the photo so naturally you don’t need any filtering. I went during the early afternoon, and the lighting was perfect on that beautiful sunny day.
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike aka Ka’iwa Ridge Trail, has 2 pillboxes that you want to check out. Here is another Gopro picture, this is the first pillbox you will see going up the trail. It is super easy to follow along, you keep walking up to your right, and you will see the second pillbox, which will have the higher view and where most people like to take pictures.
This is the view from the second pillbox. You will see the first pillbox to your left on the hill. This spot was my favorite for the panoramic view and for all the dope pictures I got. It wasn’t too crowded when I went, but there are usually always people there. I don’t ever recommend to go hiking alone, but this hike is pretty easy and safe. I actually met some really cool travelers on this hike on the bus! I was just looking for a quick and easy workout out of town, and happened to meet these cool travelers. Ali, from France, Lisa from Germany, and Michael from Brazil. It was super and easy for them to get to from their hostel in Waikiki. It was nice to have some unexpected company and share a pretty rad experience with them since this was my first time hiking this too!
3. Enjoy the Beautiful Secluded Paradise of Lanikai Beach
In my opinion, this is probably one of the most beautiful beaches on O’ahu. Perfectly provides you with a beautiful exotic beach that is covered with white sand followed by crystal blue waters. Waves are always super mellow, so not a good beach for surfers, but great for stand up paddle boarding. You get such an amazing view of the Mokulua islands with an incredible beach scenery. Even living here, I feel like I am away at a secluded paradise when I come to Lanikai. It can get crowded here, but mostly full of locals, and this is a great beach to go to for a break from the busy beaches in Waikiki, if you are staying in town. The water is cleaner and prettier, and everyone is just enjoying a day at the beach. There are places to check out on the beach if you want to rent any water toys or boards!
If you are driving from town, I would recommend to take the Pali Highway, for the scenic view, and other popular stops you can make on your way up. You want to take H1 W and exit 21B toward HI-61 N, Pali Hwy, keep right on Pali Hwy, continue onto Kalanianaole Hwy, continue onto Kailua Rd, turn right onto S Kalaheo Ave, then left on Alala Rd. This street will lead you to the hike or to Lanikai Beach.
Always take the time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors xoxo