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Lanikai Pillboxes

Bunker, Bunkers, Kailua, Kaiwi, Lanikai, Pillbox, Pillboxes -

Lanikai Pillboxes


What You'll See: Kaiwi Shoreline
Time: Approximately 60 to 90 minutes
Distance: 1.2 to 3+ miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy+


Getting There: The trailhead is up Kaelepulu street in the Lanikai neighborhood. The area is not only known for this popular trail, but also for being home to one of the nicest beaches on the island. This attracts a lot of visitors daily and makes parking competitive. Navigate the one way streets with care. Parking rules are strictly enforced, so heed the street signs. Watch out for the numerous pedestrians and cyclists and park with the residents in mind.

Time and Distance: Most hikers choose one of the first two bunkers as their turn-around-point. The second bunker is a common turnaround point and is less than a half mile from the start, but 500+ feet of elevation gain makes it pretty steep and slow going for most. Plan for a roundtrip of 60-90 minutes. More advanced hikers and trail runners may opt to journey the entire length of the ridge that sweeps East towards the water. Out and back that would be a little over 3 miles.

Tips: There are no amenities or facilities on the trail, so your last chance for a bathroom will be at Kailua Beach Park just outside Lanikai neighborhood. This trail is a hot spot for sunrise because of its location on the Windward shore, but sunsets over the Koolaus can be beautiful too. Watch out for blue skies and direct sun; it can get hot--especially for children and dogs! 


Photo by Yoshi Akaha

You'll want sun protection, a liter of water per person, and a wide angle lens to take in the panoramic views.

The first few minutes of the trail are the hardest. While the trail falls into the "easy" category, that's only because it's a relatively short trail that doesn't require technical skill. The trail up to the first pillbox is steep and gravelly. This will be a good introduction to the elevation gain that's common on the ridge hikes out here. The initial ascent has trees you can grip to help you climb. Choose your steps carefully or you'll double your effort when your feet slide backwards. Grippy trail shoes will help with this. You can also use shoe spikes to supplement your tread. If you journey beyond the 2nd pillbox, watch out for small side trails that can steer you off of the summit ridge.

Invasive Flora: In the past, farmers cut many lowland forests and replaced the native vegetation with plants for cattle grazing. Haole Koa and Fountain Grass (pictured right) now dominate this landscape. There are no boot scrubbers out here to clean off and deseed your hiking shoes, so take care to "brush your teeth" before your next hike. We wouldn't want to spread plant seeds that are known to harm our native ecosystems.

Here's a sweet video of Justin and Matt hiking the trail and providing pointers: