Lanikai Beach & Pillbox (Hiking & Beach)
The best way to spend a day in Lanikai!
Lanikai, a residential community on the outskirts of Kailua, is one of our favorite areas to visit on Oahu's east side. Lanikai is best known for its soft white sand beach protected by the Mokulua Islands and the reef that sit just offshore.
The Ka'iwa Ridge Trail (Lanikai Pillbox Trail) will bring you up the small mountain ridge that nearly encircles Lanikai, and offers the best views of Lanikai, Kailua and the Mokulua Islands. This iconic postcard destination is a must see for any east side adventure.
Even though the Lanikai area is small, it can be helpful to have a plan ahead of time to make sure you don't miss out. In this article we will take you through our recommendation for a perfect Lanikai adventure that has all of the highlights: hiking the Lanikai Pillbox trail, and breakfast in Kailua, followed by a relaxing day at Lanikai Beach.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
(Ka'iwa Ridge Trail)
Lanikai Pillbox is one of the our favorite sunrise hikes on island. Coming in at just under a mile in length and around 406 feet in elevation gain, this hikes moderate difficulty can be conquered by most anyone. The trail is typically dry and rocky, but does get rain during the winter months. A good pair of hiking shoes are recommended. There is little to no shade offered, so you will want to pack a hat and sunscreen if you and the sun don't always get along.
The hike up will take most hikers around 30 minutes. This is at a steady walking pace with minimal stops. Once you've reached the top you'll see why tourists and locals alike gather at Lanikai Pillbox day after day to watch the sunrise. Watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean, Na Mokulua Islands, and Lanikai Beach is truly breathtaking.
Once you arrive in Lanikai you will park in the residential neighborhood just below the hike. The trailhead begins on a dead end road near the golf coarse, so parking near the trailhead is not an option. Look for parking signs as you are entering Lanikai and as you park. They often change parking restrictions due to road work or other construction. In most cases, you will be able to park within a mile of the trailhead.
Taking a moped, scooter or motorcycle is a great way to save some time finding parking.
Lanikai Pillbox is an out and back style trail. The entire hike is around a mile. It is very heavily trafficked in the morning hours, so be patient and show some Aloha to other hikers. For the most part, the trail is moderate in elevation gain. However, there are two sections of the hike that are quite steep. These sections are relatively short so don't let them deter you from from this amazing adventure.
Once you make it to the pillbox, you'll see the entire south east corner of Oahu. If you're standing facing the water you'll notice a peninsula all the way to your left. This is a marine military. Just in front of this peninsula you'll notice a small flat island. This island is the Popoi'A Seabird Sanctuary and is accessible by kayak or paddle board. Straight out from the pill box are the famous Mokulua Islands, known as the mokes by the locals. The northern island is known as Moku Nui and the southern is Moku Iki. Moku Nui is a very popular spot for kayakers, paddle boarders and surfers to hang out, enjoy the surf, and snorkeling opportunities.
Lanikai Pillbox is sure to please hikers of all skill levels. It's a very low effort, high reward hike and those are our favorite! You'll always find the best views around sunrise, but the hike is worth the effort regardless of the time of day.
Breakfast at Morning Brew
Located in Kailua, just a short drive from Lanikai, Morning Brew is a must after a morning hike. Local favorites like their loco moco keep us coming back. They feature a large selection of coffee, tea, pour overs, iced drinks, and an espresso bar. You'll also find no shortage of pancakes, waffles, french toast, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, I could go on, but I think you get the idea. You want breakfast? They've got it. They also offer a few vegan options!
There is usually plenty of indoor seating and there are a handful of tables outside. Parking is hardly an issue, as Morning Brew is located in a strip mall with a sufficient parking lot.
Time to Relax and Enjoy!
Lanikai Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches Oahu has to offer. Sand like powder sugar, water is typically crystal clear, and looking out to the Nu Mokulua in the distance is truly mesmerizing. This beach is perfect for relaxing while reading a book, enjoying some beach games, or just catching some shut eye to recoup from your morning hike. Looking to get a bit more active? No problem, there are plenty of snorkeling opportunities just a short swim from the beach. You can also travel to the Nu Mokulua island if you still haven't had enough adventure for the day. There are kayak rentals in Kailua, or you can grab a paddle board from GoGo Rental for a great workout. However you decide to spend your time at Lanikai Beach, we're confident it will be time well spent.
Lanikai Beach has always been one of our favorite beaches on the island of Oahu. Its crystal clear blue water, soft powdery sand, and scenic backdrop is the exact reason why Hawaii is a travel destination. As you sit on the shores of Lanikai, you’ll notice two small islands directly in front of you. These two islands, aptly named Na Mokulua, which in Hawaiian means The Two Islands, has always intrigued me. On any given day, schools of kayakers make the trip from either Lanikai Beach or the neighboring Kailua Beach Park, to “Mokes,” the name that the two islands is affectionately referenced to by locals. Kayaking isn't the only way to have fun Kailua there is the famous Lanikai pill box hike. This is all located in the city known as Kailua and is a great town to explore while you are out that area. Lot of good food and shopping and activities.
How To Get There
- If you'd like to fill up a cooler or grab some additional beach supplies before heading back to Lanikai after breakfast, there is a target located just across the street from Morning Brew.
- Lanikai is best enjoyed earlier in the day. Around mid afternoon the sun starts slipping to the other side of the mountain range which leaves the beach without direct sun.
Total Time: About 6-8 hours.
Total Distance: About 11 miles from Waikiki to Lanikai.
1.) Lanikai pillbox hike: One of Oahu most popular hikes with rewarding view of the Nu Mokulua Islands and amazing views of Lanikai Beach. It is a very moderate hike that is family friendly for almost everyone it does require some uphill climbing at the begging of the hike. If you want to catch sunrise, plan to arrive at Lanikai around an hour before sunrise. This will give you plenty of time park, walk to the trailhead and reach the pillbox by sunrise.
2.) Breakfast at Morning Brew: Morning Brew is only a 15 minute drive from the beach. Time to fill up for a long day soaking up the sun!
3.) Lanikai Beach: Your final destination for the day. Pull out the tent, beach chairs, cooler, and games and set up camp for the day!
Where To Park
When parking in Lanikai, first look for any signs as you enter or along the side of the road giving instructions on parking. They do close parking completely from time to time, but in most cases this will just be a street or two for select hours. If there are any parking closers they will be well marked so don't stress it to much. Although Lanikai is a very nice and safe neighborhood, theft is still high in Hawaii. We recommend never leaving valuables in any vehicle.
We offer several different rental items to help make your experience that much better and get you from point A to point B.
- Mopeds - a moped or scooter opens the door for endless fun and our premium model can be drove all around the island ask us for more info.
- Motorcycles- Require Motorcycle endorsement, we have everything from Harleys to Hondas and everything in between, check out our rentals tab to see our full list on inventory.
- Polaris Slingshot - Carrys two passangers and has an open cab.
130 Kailua Rd,
Kailua, HI 96734, Hi 96734