Oahu's Amazing Views from Koko Head Crater, The Lanikai Pillboxes, and The Crouching Lion
While I was staying in Oahu earlier this month, I got the opportunity to do three amazing but short hikes on the island. Although they all took under two hours, they were really unique packing so much character into such a little time. Each showed vastly different but extremely beautiful views and between the three of them I feel like there is an option with a level of difficulty suitable for every hiker who travels to Oahu!
Koko Head Crater: The Koko Head stairs are a famed hike in which you climb 1,048 stairs to the edge of the crater for gorgeous views over the ocean. It’s on the east coast of Oahu yielding a breathtaking sunrise view over the ocean. The hike starts behind the baseball field in Koko Head Park. After walking up the closed road for about a quarter mile, you start climbing the stairs almost immediately. These stairs are the remnants of an old railway used to bring supplies up to the military bunkers at the top of the crater in WWII.
The steps were not like a normal staircase. They were wide and large, making climbing them a difficult task. The first half of the stairs were on a gradual incline, but the second half were steep and relentless. I went up to watch the sunrise, so being in the dark made it a bit more difficult. There were a few spots where the ground dropped off and it was just the wooden planks beneath me. These areas were more difficult on the way down, because going up I couldn't see how far the drop was. Looking down the 30 foot drop made it much more difficult to trust my feet on the slick wood.
As I climbed in the dark, the grade became more and more steep until I was huffing and puffing. Finally after the last tough part, I was greeted at the top of the stairs by a sign that read, "Welcome Nerds," just below an old pillbox and outlook. The view from the top looking down at the crater and out at the ocean was breathtaking. As the sun rose on the horizon, a warm breeze blew forcefully around me. It was busy at the summit with more people than I expected for it being so early in the morning.
After watching the sun come up for about an hour, I descended back down the stairs. The views of Hanauma Bay from the old railroad track were gorgeous. The trek back to the car took a lot of focus because the steps were slick. I slipped a few times, but luckily I made it down in one piece. This was a short but surprisingly difficult hike that wasn't particularly technical but required endurance and perseverance to get to the top. Best of all, the views were amazing from the luscious crater I was perched on the edge of to the ocean vista beyond [1.68 mi, 1035 ft, 1:10].
Lanikai Pillbox: This is one of the most popular hikes on Oahu for good reason. The views were gorgeous, it was easily accessible, and the pillboxes were really interesting and historical. This was another sunrise hike, and the views made waking up early so worth it. This was a very short hike, but there were a few sections that were a bit difficult so it's not to be underestimated.
Kaiwa Ridge Trail starts on Kaelepulu Dr across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. There's no parking along the road, so we parked about a half a mile away and walked to the trailhead. The beginning of the trail was a dirt path between two fenced in properties. We walked by it the first time because it looked very unassuming, but as soon as we got on the trail it was pretty clear we were in the right place.
I scurried across the ridge to the second pillbox peeking out at the ocean as I traversed looking down at Lanikai beach. When we got to the top I climbed on top of the pillbox to sit and watch the sunrise. We had views of the Mokulua Islands and Kaneohe Bay in the distance. There were many people sitting on top of both of the pillboxes, but it was sill serene. It was windy, so although it was warm outside I was glad that I had my shell to keep me sheltered.
After watching the sunrise for an hour we descended the same way we came. I did this hike with my mom and my sister and they did great even though they're not avid hikers. Although it was steep in some sections, it was still a relatively short and easy hike that only took about an hour if you don't count the time we were watching the sunrise. The best part is that this hike was so close to Lanikai Beach that we walked there afterwards and had the shore all to ourselves [1.46 mi, 530 ft, 1:10].
Crouching Lion: The Crouching Lion hike in Kaneohe was the most difficult of the three short hikes on Oahu. It was short but extremely steep with difficult footing, but the views made it so worth it. After a fun morning hiking to the Lanikai pillboxes and hanging out on the beach, I decided it was time for another mountain adventure. So I packed my things and headed north to the trailhead.
Turning around, I was greeted with expansive views over Kahana Bay and at the Crouching Lion across the valley. In front of me was the Crouching Lion Trail's summit, a dramatic cliff overlooking the ocean. I made my way there quickly and saw a few other hikers climbing down from the top. At the trail junction there were a many memorials for hikers who had fallen off of these cliffs and died, so I paid my respects and continued with even more caution than usual.
When I reached the top of the cliff, I sat and soaked in the amazing views. The wind was whipping, blowing my hair into my face but it was quite refreshing after the arduous climb up. I was perched looking down on the water almost 500 feet below me and I was in heaven. All I could hear was the wind blowing through the brush and the waves crashing against the rocks. It was serene yet wild reminding me of why I love hikes like this so much.
When it finally came time to descend, I went back down the popular Crouching Lion Trail. It was much more distinct with the occasional fellow hiker ascending letting me know that I was still in the right place. It too was muddy, but it was mostly manageable as long as I stayed focused on my foot placement and weight distribution. When I got back to the trailhead, I was greeted with warning signs that I hadn't seen on my ascent of the other trail. It was an amazing hike but surprisingly difficult for its mileage. This is the perfect short hike for people who are looking for great views, a bit of an adventure, and who aren't afraid of heights [1.08 mi, 660 ft, 1:15].
Although these three hikes were all very similar in length they were extremely different in character. The Koko Head Stairs were an endurance game, but technically it was not a challenge at all. The Lanikai Pillbox hike was short and sweet with some great views and terrain accessible for hikers of every ability. Crouching Lion was a wild gem that boasts gorgeous views for the more adventurous hiker. All of them gave me a really unique view of Oahu, and I'm so glad I tried them all out! I can't wait to go back to Oahu to explore more of the beautiful hikes on the island!
Follow me on Instagram @lexi.brocoum for more pictures!