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Hawaii / North America

The Famous Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Lanikai Pillbox Hike Opener

The Lanikai pillbox hike is easily one of the most famous hikes on Oahu (after Stairway to Heaven, Koko Head, and Diamond Head). If you’re new to hiking, this could be a good way to motivate yourself to do a slightly more challenging hike.  If you’re basically a pro hiker, this little trail will have a super rewarding view for the little bit of effort you’ll have to put in.  Either way, here are some basics to help you with the Lanikai pillbox hike.

First, What Exactly is a Pillbox?

Pillboxes are little concrete rooms that were basically used to keep an eye out for approaching enemies. Oahu’s pillboxes were built for the U.S. military during World War II.  (In other locations, pillboxes are used as a line of defense, but the ones on Oahu were never used for that purpose.)

 

How to Get to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Getting to the Lanikai pillbox hike is actually pretty simple.  Google Maps will get you pretty close to the starting areas, and handmade signs that the locals have set out near the very start of the hike will lead you the rest of the way.

The struggle is figuring out the parking situation. There is no designated parking area for the Lanikai pillbox hike, so it’s all street parking.  Please be considerate of those living in the area! Do not blog their driveways! Also, please be aware of any no parking street signs that are posted.


Lanikai Pillbox Hike Sunrise

When to Go to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Honestly, the Lanikai pillbox hike is a perfect hike for any time of day.  Many people opt to go for sunrise, because it’s the best place on the island to catch it. If sunrises aren’t your thing though, the view at the end of the hike is stunning any time of day.

The number of people on the hike is actually quite consistent from sunrise to sunset.  (Clearly I’ve done this hike quite a few times.)  The one aspect that the time of day might change is the temperature.  If you’re going in the heat of summer, hiking in the middle of the day might not be the best move.

 

What to Bring on the Lanikai Pillbox Hike

You actually don’t need a ton of gear for this hike, so don’t burden yourself with anything extra.

-Water: honestly, you should always bring water with you when you hike.

-Shoes with Grip: the first section of the hike can be quite slippery, so it definitely helps to have shoes with some grip on the soles.

-Sunglasses: it’s Hawaii.  The sun is usually quite bright.  Sunglasses are nice to have.

-Camera: you’ve just got to capture that stunning view.

-Optional: a backpack just to carry the other items, in case you’re like me and you prefer to keep your hands free.

 Lanikai Pillbox Hike

What to Expect on the Lanikai Pillbox Hike

While the first hundred feet of the hike are quite steep, don’t let that stop you! (I promise, that’s the worst it gets.) After that, take a quick break, and power on through.  You can make it to the first pillbox in 25 minutes (roundtrip, the journey is about 45 minutes).  There are other pillboxes further down the path, but honesty, the view stays pretty similar to the one you see at the first pillbox.  You’ll see two small islands, locally known as the “mokes,” from the graffiti-covered pillboxes.

Fun fact: while one of the mokes is owned by the military, you can actually kayak to the other one!

 

Looking for another Oahu pillbox hike to try out?  Check out the North Shore’s Ehukai Pillbox!

Or if you’re trying to find another fantastic Hawaii sunset spot, the Haleakala sunrise on Maui is pretty spectacular.

 

Have you ever done the Lanikai pillbox hike? Tell me about your experience in the comments!  (I promise I’ll respond!)

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it for later!

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Lanikai Pillbox Hike Pin #lanikai #lanikaipillbox #lanikaipillboxhike #hike #hawaii #oahu #oahuhike

58 Comments The Famous Lanikai Pillbox Hike

  1. Nicky

    Oh lovely. Hiking in Hawaii is an awesome and memorable thing to do. I loved the view from Diamond Crater down towards Honolulu. Will have to give this one a try when i next visit!

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      Haha yes!! It’s pretty much tradition to head down to one of those nearby beaches either before or after the hike! I’m not sure you can scuba dive there though, because the water is pretty shallow, but snorkeling is definitely an option!

  2. Josy A

    Last year I did a hike along the English coast in Kent and we saw sooo many pillboxes. There were thousands dotted around the UK too. Now they are mostly covered in graffiti, or slowly sinking back into the ground!

    The Oahu pillbox hike looks soooo much nicer (well, it’s those epic Hawaiian views!)

    It’s kind of cool that you can get the same historical sites on opposites sides of the planet!!

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      Not going to lie, the Hawaii pillboxes are also covered in graffiti, so if that’s not your thing, I thought I’d let you know.

  3. Claire

    How hot does it get in Hawaii in the summer afternoons? I imagine it can get pretty intense? I never knew this about myself until I moved to LA a year ago, but apparently my body really can’t handle extreme heat, I get heatstroke very easily despite hydration. Sucks cuz I love to hike! Never had problems in Colorado or Alaska. If I come to Hawaii do you think I should go in the winter, or is it actually not as bad as I’m thinking? Maybe the sea breeze actually takes the temperatures down a notch?

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      I will say that while Hawaii can get kind of hot (like it rarely breaches the 90s), it is nothing in comparison to that California heat that breaches 100 degrees. That being said, I do think it’d be better to come between like October and May for you, just to be safe :).

  4. Mateja

    One thing I wished I had more time to do when visiting O’ahu was to do more hiking around the island. The views are just breathtaking! Definitely need to return to experience the sunrise here <3

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      Oh yes!! Our hikes are so amazing! It’s one of my favorite things to do on the island, so its definitely worth another trip :).

  5. umiko

    I learned a new thing today: pillbox, though I was hoping to see at least one picture of it. Looks like this hike is very popular for the locals.

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      It’s not super recognizable usually with half of it stuck in the dirt and it covered with people lol. I have another pillbox hike that I’m hoping to write about in the future that’ll be much easier to see :).

  6. Meg

    We really wanted to do this hike while in Oahu, but we were there for a marathon relay and couldn’t make it work with our schedules. I’ve definitely bookmarked this in case we ever go back and I can try it again! There is a beach nearby we loved, though: Bellows Beach. It’s so pretty!

  7. Rosemary

    What incredible views. Great shots. I love this hike that sounds pretty approachable and accessible. Have been hiking in Maui, but have not made it to Oahu yet. Interesting history about the pillboxes. I look forward to going back and exploring more of Hawaii soon.

  8. Emily

    I had no idea what a pillbox was, or that they even existed, before I read this! So interesting! I love that you’re always out exploring on foot. You’re inspiring me to finally buy some hiking boots!

  9. Erica

    a very beautiful place indeed! good to know that this is ideally great to visit/ hike to any time of the day.. but i’d love to see the sunset so i think i’d hike in the wee hours 🙂

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      Just a tip: the sun won’t actually set on that side, but the sun will rise on that side, so perhaps that information will influence that decision.

  10. Sheila

    Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing this hike. My husband is an avid hiker and is always looking for new hikes to try. I accompany him on some of the shorter ones. This one looks like something I could do and catching the sunrise there looks amazing!

  11. Meenakshi

    That view of the sunrise is just awesome. Never heard of this beautiful place before.Thanks for introducing me to this mesmerizing place and your captures do complete justice to it 🙂

  12. Esther

    I am an outdoor girl always waiting on a chance to go for a hike in the mountains or a just ride a bicycle on the beach. You have brought the exact picture of what i thought Hawaii was like.
    I guess my next step is to plan a trip and enjoy those beautiful views.
    great pics btw

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