Lanikai Pillbox Hike In Oahu, Hawaii – Epic Sunrise Trail + Beach

The Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu, Hawaii is one of the best “bang for your buck” hikes I have ever done. This is a 20-30 minute easy uphill hike with some ocean views that are absolutely incredible.

The pillbox trail has become one of the most popular hikes in Hawaii, and it’s easy to see why! I’ve done it probably a dozen times myself over the years.

This travel guide will explain how to get there, and everything you need to know before you go!
The Pillbox Hiking Trail

The trail starts in a residential neighborhood in Lanikai (a community in Kailua), and goes up a dirt trail until you reach a ridge with some old World War II-era concrete bunkers.

There is plenty of room on the trail for kids, but make sure to steer clear of the edges because the drop-offs are pretty significant later in the hike.

Trailhead entrance sign for the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu, Hawaii
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Trailhead sign for Kaiwa Ridge Trail — aka the pillbox hike.

The hike is very short (you could probably do it in 15 minutes if you rushed), but it’s uphill ankle killer and a bit strenuous, so it feels longer. Total elevation gain is about 600 feet (180 m).

The dirt trail can get slippery after a big rain, so you’ll want to keep an eye on weather conditions before the hike. There are ropes to grab, but they won’t be needed unless the trail gets insanely muddy.

I’ve done the trail in sandals many times, so it’s not exactly treacherous, but it’s still a good workout for sure. You’ll want to bring water!

View from the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu, Hawaii
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Epic views in all directions!

Once you reach the bunkers at the top, you can climb on them or go inside of them.

It’s a fun place to chill after the hike, and there’s a nice ocean breeze so it doesn’t feel too hot up there even in the middle of the day.

You can keep going and do this as a loop hike, but the brush gets thick later in the hike so it’s not really worth it to keep going past the pillboxes.

At this point, most people turn back and hike the way they came.

Drone view of the Mokolua islands at Lanikai in Oahu, Hawaii
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Drone shot of the Mokulua islands at Lanikai.
Sunrise/Sunset Hike

Because of the 360 degree views that you get on top of the bunkers, this is also one of the best sunrise and sunset spots on the whole island.

The photos below show what kind of views you can expect at sunrise and sunset.

Bring a flashlight and coat if you go for sunrise, because it’s dark and the wind at the top can make it feel a bit chilly while you wait for the sun to come up.

Sunrise view at the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu, Hawaii
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Sunrise view.
Sunset view at the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu, Hawaii
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Sunset view.
How To Get To The Lanikai Pillbox Trail

The trailhead for the pillbox hike is located on a dead end road near a private drive. It’s across the street from the Mid-Pacific Country Club, a scenic golf course in Lanikai/Kailua.

You can get there by car, but parking is really scarce and you have a good chance of getting ticketed or worse.

It’s better to go by TheBus, but this does add a bit of extra walking since the nearest bus stop is 5-10 minutes from the trailhead.

The pin on the map below is the correct location for the start of the hike. From there, just follow the dash and that will take you up the path!

EXTRA: Lanikai Beach

While you’re in Lanikai doing the pillbox hike, don’t forget that Lanikai Beach is located just a 10 minute walk away!

This is one of the best white sand beaches in Hawaii, and it’s one of my favorite places to relax, swim, kayak, etc.

Lanikai Beach in Oahu, Hawaii
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EXTRA: Lanikai Beach.
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