Have you ever seen one of those photos of a place that looks fake but your friend swears is totally real!?That’s what all of your photos will look like when you take them while hiking Lanikai Pillbox.
They’ll think you photoshopped every photo because water cannot possibly be that turquoise. The mountains cannot possibly be that green. And the neighborhoods can-NOT possibly look that perfect. But it is, they are, and they do. I swear!
If you don’t believe me, you can see for yourself. The next time you’re on O’ahu, take a drive to the east side of the island to Kailua. You’ll go through a short tunnel, then spill out to a beautiful view of the Kaneohe Bay!
That’s where the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is, a place we love and totally recommend! If you keep driving a bit further, though, you’ll reach the town of Kailua.
We lived in Kailua for six years, and owned a great little beach bungalow there. That’s where Max grew up until 2016, and we loved it!
The neighborhoods in Kailua are the kind where your neighbors will bring you fresh avocados and papaya, own a one-legged chicken that runs through your yard, and have kids can freely roam outside in a safe environment. I know, because that was our life.
Although we don’t live there anymore, Kailua will always hold a special place in my heart. There are so many great places to eat, and the breezes are the best on the island, at least in my humble opinion.
Where is Lanikai?
One of Kailua’s neighborhoods, Lanikai, is a special little jewel tucked away between mountain and ocean. It sits along one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Lanikai Beach. And right above that beach is one of the best hikes on the island in regards to view payoff: the Lanikai Pillbox hike!
Isn’t it gorgeous!? The photos really don’t do it justice.
Lanikai Pillbox Trail
The trail is a little rugged and steep, but it’s kid friendly as long as your child is active. The first time Max did the Lanikai Pillbox hike, he was about 7 years old and went with friends his age.
However, you are the best judge of whether or not your child is capable of doing this hike. I’d suggest googling “Lanikai Pillbox difficulty” to do some research.
The hike only takes about 30 minutes to get to the first pillbox (the structure with the graffiti) – there is a second one about 5 minutes further. You can see it easily from the first one. You can also keep going past the second one, but we’ve never gone that far.
The cool thing about the pillboxes on the Lanikai Pillbox hike is that you can climb on top of them and go inside of them! They used to be coastal observation stations in the 1940’s.
The Na Mokulua Islets (The Mokes)
There are bars you can use to climb down into the pillbox where you can look out into the ocean and see the Na Mokulua islets, or as we residents like to call them: “The Mokes” or “Twin Islands”. The view is pretty sweet!
Although the Mokes are the showstoppers, if you look to the south, you’ll see the coast of Waimanalo, a quaint small town south of Kailua. There you’ll find Waimanalo Beach, which easily has one of the prettiest beaches on O’ahu.
Since it’s flanked by mountains on the south side and has trees on the sand, Waimanalo Beach has a different feeling than some of the other beaches you’ll find around the island. It’s one of my favorites.
Although Waimanalo Beach is open to the public, there is a section called Bellows Field Beach Park that is only accessible to military card holders. There’s a gate guard checking IDs, so if you get to that point, you know you’ve reached the military only side.
View of Flat Island
To the north, you’ll see the town of Kailua all the way to Kaneohe’s Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH). Lucky Marines, right!? There is a round island right off Kailua Beach called “Flat Island”. It’s a popular spot for kayakers and snorkelers to explore.
We went there once and I came home with a little black crab in my hair! If I ever meet you in person, ask me to tell you the story. Traumatizing!
View of Enchanted Lake
To the west, you’ll see the Enchanted Lake and surrounding Kailua neighborhoods, as well as Mount Olomana with it’s popular three peaks (hikers love this challenging hike). To be honest, I can’t find a bad view during the Lanikai Pillbox hike. I don’t think you will either.
Lanikai Pillbox is a MUST
Hopefully now you have a better idea of why I think the Lanikai Pillbox hike is one you MUST do if you’re on O’ahu. It’s relatively short, easy for most people, and the views are spectacular. You’ll get to see my favorite town, Kailua, and the gorgeous community of Lanikai. And you’ll be able to take photos that will be so memorable, your friends will think they’re fake!
TIPS: You’ll find the entrance of the hike directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. Try to go during the week as it gets very crowded during the weekend, and parking is limited. During holiday weekends, parking is generally not allowed on Lanikai streets and shoulders during most of the day.
After the hike, check out Kalapawai Market. It’s a local grocery store near Kailua Beach that has a deli and coffee shop, and is easily one of our Top 3 food spots in Kailua. My favorite menu items are the Kalapawai Club, French Dip and the Tomato & Basil pizza. Honestly, though, everything is good! AND…they sell wine!
Get your food and vino, then picnic on the beach!
Would you do this hike on your Hawaiian vacation?! Let me know what you think in the comments!