Hiking is one of the most popular activities on O'ahu and with good reason. The island is home to some of the most beautiful and challenging hikes in the world, and few hikes are as popular as those that lead to World War II "pillboxes".
Pillboxes (bunkers) were built on the island during World War II to serve as lookout points and defensive positions against potential enemy attacks. Today, many of these structures still exist and have become popular hiking destinations. Here are some of the most popular pillbox hikes on Oahu:
1. Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Located on the east side of the island, this trail takes you through a residential neighborhood and up to the top of a ridge overlooking the beautiful Lanikai Beach. Along the way, you'll encounter two pillboxes, both of which offer incredible views of the turquoise waters below. This hike is a very popular sunrise spot, for good reasons. To make this hike into a loop, from the 2nd bunker you continue the trail all the way around in a U shape and descend at the end, steeply into the neighborhood. For a less crowded experience visit for sunset. You will not have the sun rising from the ocean but you will have the sun setting behind the Ko'olau Mountains makes the golden hour light very precious.
2. Pink Pillbox Hike (Pu'u o Hulu)
The Maili Pillbox Hike is a popular hiking trail located on the west side of Oahu, Hawaii. The hike is approximately 2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of about 900 feet.
The trail is considered moderate due to its steep inclines and rocky terrain, so it is recommended that hikers wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water. The hike can take anywhere from 1-3 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you spend at the summit.
The trail features panoramic views of the west side of Oahu, including the Waianae Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Along the trail, hikers will come across several military pillboxes and bunkers that were built during World War II. These structures were used as lookout points to spot potential enemy ships and planes.
At the summit, hikers will find several pillboxes that offer stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding area. The pillboxes are covered in graffiti, giving them a unique and colorful appearance.
It is best to start early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and be sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of water or go late evening for sunset to have the best views with beautiful lights.
3. Ehukai Pillbox Hike
The Ehukai Pillbox Hike is located on O'ahu's North Shore and offers stunning views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean. The trailhead is located near Sunset Beach, and the hike is approximately 2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 400 feet. The hike is considered moderate and takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. The trail is well-maintained and offers beautiful views of the ocean and the surrounding area. Along the way, hikers will pass by two pillboxes.
The first pillbox is located about halfway up the trail and offers a beautiful view of the coastline. The second pillbox is located at the top of the trail and offers a stunning panoramic view of the ocean and the North Shore.
Overall, the Ehukai Pillbox Hike is a beautiful and moderately challenging hike that offers stunning views of the North Shore and the Pacific Ocean. It is a great hike for visitors to Oahu who are looking for a beautiful and relatively easy hike.
4. Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail
The Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail is a popular hiking trail located on the southeastern tip of Oahu, Hawaii. The trailhead is located at the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse parking lot, which is about a 40-minute drive from Waikiki.
While not a traditional pillbox or bunker hike, this trail does offer a glimpse into the military history of the area, with old bunkers and gun emplacements dotting the coastline. The hike is approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of about 600 feet, and it is considered an easy to moderate hike. The trail features a paved path that is stroller-friendly and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the southeastern coast of Oahu.
At the end of the trail, hikers will reach the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse, which is still in operation today. The lighthouse was built in 1909 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse is not open to the public, but visitors can still enjoy the stunning views from the lookout point.
Overall, the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail is a great hike for visitors to Oahu who are looking for a relatively easy hike with stunning views of the ocean and the southeastern coast of the island. In winter time you can spot humpback whales playing in the water.
5. Kaneohe Pillboxes (Pu'uMa'Eli'Eli)
The Kaneohe Pillbox Hike is a popular trail on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, that offers stunning views of the surrounding area. The trail is officially known as the Pu'u Ma'eli'eli Trail. The trail is approximately 2.2 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of about 500 feet. The hike is considered easy to moderate due to some steep inclines and rocky terrain, so it is recommended that hikers wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water. The trail features two pillboxes, which were used as lookout points during World War II. The pillboxes are located at the top of the trail and they offer a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding area, including the Koolau Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
The hike can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your pace and how much time you spend at the pillboxes. It is recommended that hikers start early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and the crowds.
Overall, the Kaneohe Pillbox Hike is a must-do hike for anyone visiting Oahu who is looking for a beautiful and challenging hike with stunning views. Definitely one of my faves from all the pillbox hikes.
In conclusion, Oahu's pillbox and bunker hikes offer a unique opportunity to explore the island's history while enjoying some of the most beautiful views in the world. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there's a hike on Oahu that's perfect for you. So grab your hiking shoes and hit the trails!
*While hiking on Oahu, it's important to always stay on designated trails, bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and be mindful of the potential hazards of the terrain.