I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Hawaiian island of Oahu last month to visit my family. They live in a small town on the east side of the island called Kailua. The east side is also called the “windward” side of the island, about 30 minutes from bustling tourist center of Honolulu. Kailua is quite the opposite of Honolulu though. You will be hard pressed to find a hotel or tourist focused shops and stalls. It’s a place where you can get away from the pick-a-pearl and shell necklace vendors for a nice quiet day at the beach or a nearby hike.
My family likes to get outside as much as possible and they took us on some family-friendly adventures in the south eastern part of the island that are perfect for a getaway day. All of them are free except for the need of a rental flotation device on one if you don’t want to swim.
1. Lanikai Pill Box Hike
Along Lanikai beach there is a small mountain ridge that slices steeply upwards watching over the beach and homes below. Along the top of the ridge are old WWII era bunkers, or Pillboxes, that are easily accessible from a trail that connects them. To start the hike you park right past the entrance to the Mid-Pacific Country Club on Kaelepulu drive. Walk up the small road to your left and you’ll see a sign with an arrow pointing the way to the trail. The first part of the trail is quite steep and slippery but it gets easier after that. Once you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the “Mokes” and Kailua beach. You can even see all the way to Chinaman’s Hat. It’s a pretty easy hike when you walk, and a good strenuous one if you run. We had the whole family in tow from 4 years old to 40 and everyone loved it. My 7 year old son liked the Pill Boxes a lot since you can climb down in them and explore. The trail actually goes all the way down past the three bunkers and back into Lanikai but we didn’t take it that far. Here are some great pictures of the Lanikai Pillbox hike at www.unrealhawaii.com
2. Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail
At the southeastern tip of the island is the old historic Makapu’u Point Lighthouse that overlooks the expanse of the pacific ocean. This hike is less of a trail and more of a private road to the top. Even though it is paved you can’t ride bikes up it. You can park at the bottom right off of Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) and follow the trail up about a mile to the overlook above the lighthouse. At the start of the hike you are on the drier, west side of the mountain where it can get quite hot. After a bend in the road you’ll start to feel the stiff breeze coming off the ocean as you ascend to the top. Once you are on the windward side take a couple stops and watch the ocean, you are bound to see whales jumping out of the water if you are there between November and May. Now, you can’t actually get close to the lighthouse. It has been blocked off by a fence but you can go to the lookout above it and get a pretty spectacular view of the entire east side of the island as well Moloka’i. At the top there are remnants of more WWII era bunkers and slabs of concrete where an old military outpost once stood. There is also a plaque in remembrance of a seaplane that crashed there while returning from maneuvers during the war. Again, the whole family did this one without any grumblings. Oahufamilyactivities.com has some nice pictures of the hike at their website.
3. Manoa Falls
Time to get dirty. Ok, maybe just your shoes but this one can get a bit muddy at times. Monoa falls is located at the end of Monoa Street in a residential neighborhood. There is a parking lot near the bottom of the trailhead which charges to park. I can’t remember the exact amount but it was under $10. If you don’t want to pay you can actually park a little further away and walk up. I have a few suggestions for this hike that you don’t have to do but they wouldn’t hurt. First, wear some old shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. My wife wore flip flops (or slippa’s – however it’s spelled). While she made it to the top just fine, her feet got pretty muddy and she slipped around a lot. Next suggestion is to use some insect repellent. The mosquitoes were thick in parts. This is a deceiving trail because it is nicely groomed with gravel for the first half of it. The second half is wet and muddy. That said, the scenery is pretty fantastic. You feel like you are in an episode of LOST the moment you get on the trail. When you get to the end of the trail you’ll be greeted by a small waterfall, which in all honesty isn’t all that great. But, the hike is pretty fun and the scenery is so cool, you’ll still be glad you did it.
4. Paddle To The Mokes
Off the coast of Kailua beach are two small islands, the Mokuluas. Everybody just calls them the Mokes which is way easier to say. They are close enough to shore that a kayak or paddleboard trip is totally doable even to a couple of newbies like my wife and I. We borrowed a kayak and paddled off with our son for journey across the reef to the northern island. It has a small beach which makes it easy to land your kayak and take a walk around. Here’s some more advice, when you see a bunch of people paddling out to the island, just follow them. We decided we were going to go the whole “straightest line is the quickest” route and ended up getting tossed out of the boat by a rogue wave on a reef. A couple of bad words and reef cuts later and we were back paddling for our lives. Lesson learned. Once you get out to the island you can hike around and check out all the bird nests as well as the tide pools. If you are really adventurous there is a cove on the backside of the island where you can cliff jump into a deep pool.
There is so much to do in Hawaii but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and be packed with other tourists. Hopefully you’ll get to do one or all of these on your next trip to Oahu! Aloha!