Hiking to the Pu’u O Hulu Pillbox • October 14, 2017
At this point, we had been living on Oahu for 2.5 weeks (3.5 for Curtis) and had been staying in a hotel this entire time. We had found our home within the first 5 days of searching, but the escrow process in Hawaii is always at least 45-60 days long, which meant we’d be living in the hotel for 2 months. This is also coming from Connecticut, where we had been living in a hotel for 2 months before taking a month to travel cross-country — all this to say, we were feeling cramped, uninspired, and discouraged. Curtis was working long 12 hour days, and by the time he got home it would be dark outside and so all we were doing was eating and watching tv during the week. I was thankful to have a small kitchenette in our room to make meals, and Charlotte loved having a dog park right across the street, but we still missed Curtis all day and didn’t have much to keep ourselves occupied.
All this resulted in a rather rough start to our time in Hawaii. The one thing we really looked forward to was the weekends, when we’d try to get out both Saturday and Sunday for new hikes and to explore the island. You can imagine our disappointment when we found out Curtis had to go into work on a Saturday morning as well. Not wanting to lose one of our special days, we decide to venture out to the Leeward (West) coast of the island to go for a sunset hike.
It took us about 45 minutes to drive out to Wai’anae to the base of the Pu’u O Hulu trail. I’ve seen others refer to this as the “Pink Pillbox Hike” — but we didn’t find the pillbox painted pink to be the highlight of the trail. Parking for this hike is along a road that leads back to a large neighborhood development, and there seemed to be plenty of room to park. The climate of the trial was dryer, as it had been for the Makapu’u Trail, with dry grass and cactus plants growing around and a rockier path. This makes it an ideal sunset hike because the sun isn’t beating down on you (I suppose you could make it a sunrise hike, but since you’re on the West side it wouldn’t be as impressive as on the East coast).
The trail is 1.5 miles round-trip and gains over 500 feet of elevation. Another easy hike, but we were still glad we went for it. Initially it was steeper as the trail went up loose gravel, then it switchbacked up and along the ridge until we came to the Western end with unobstructed views of the ocean and the first pillbox nearby. There are actually several pillboxes at this summit, the pink one just happens to be the one where most people stop. We went a little further to a higher one, climbed on top and sat down together.
We enjoyed the closer views of the Wai’anae Mountain Range, including the highest peak on the island, Ka’ala. Prior to coming here, the Wai’anae range just looked like one long and flat mountain range, much less impressive than the Ko’olaus. But actually experiencing them up close showed us how many peaks, ridges, and valleys were over here just waiting to be explored. Of course, this “peak” was still only around 530 feet above sea level, and Ka’ala stands at over 4000, so we had a long ways to go!
Not wanting to walk back in total darkness, we left a bit before the sun actually set. We were surprised to see so many people still making their way up the trail as we were heading back down — I totally understand, if we lived on this side of the island I feel like I’d want to hike this peak to see the sunset on a weekly basis! We made it back to our car, thankful that we had been able to enjoy the evening together, and enjoyed watching the last colors in the sky fade as we drove back to our hotel home.