Beginning of February • Hiking the Ka’iwa Ridge Trail • February 4, 2018
Curtis returned home just in time for the first weekend in February, and all was right in our world. All he wanted was a low-key lazy weekend after being away from home, and that was more than alright with me. We spent much of Saturday either on the couch or in the back yard tending to our gardens. We had a fun meeting with our neighbors, who all happen to be family and have given us a warm welcome to the lane.
Sunday was of course the Super Bowl, and we had a cozy morning at home doing a whole lot of nothing. By the afternoon, Charlotte was growing restless, so we decided to move up our sunset walk on the beach to a mid-afternoon hike — it made sense, since the Super Bowl started at 1:30 Hawaiian time, wouldn’t the beach be less busy? We gathered our things and hopped in the car. Right after Curtis started the car, I threw out the idea of going for a short hike since it wasn’t too hot and sunny, and so we jumped out and grabbed our hiking boots and water bottles and were ready to go!
Today’s hike was the Ka’iwa Ridge Trail, which is much better known as the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, or even simply, “The pillbox trail.” You’ll see it in almost every “Things to do on Oahu” post, and the sheer popularity of the hike is what has kept us from making the short trek earlier. We have seen time and time again the effects of having many feet walk the same trail, how erosion damages trails and how the more hikers on the trail, the greater chance of injuries and littering. However, we also acknowledge that popular trails are popular for a reason, and we couldn’t go without hiking this ridge. We hoped that having the Super Bowl going on at the same time would mean less crowds. While the trail still had plenty of traffic, I imagine that it’d be even busier on any other Sunday afternoon.
This trail has 2 different starting spots: the front, more popular way begins on Kaelepulu Drive in Lanikai, and the back way begins on Kamahele Street. Since we were planning on going to the beach immediately afterward, we decided to just go the more popular way. The hike begins at the end of a residential street with limited parking, so we parked in the Southernmost Kailua Beach parking lot and added an extra half mile to our hike each way. We walked along the road through the Lanikai neighborhood until we came to the end of Kaelepulu Drive, with the country club to the right, a private drive continuing on, and “private property – no trespassing” signs on either side. On the left, there was a narrow dirt path leading inbetween with a traffic sign that read “Pillbox Hike”.
The trail begins as a steep and narrow dirt path, and becomes wider as you go up. There were always several side trails from so many people taking “short cuts.” We pushed through each steep section and stopped frequently at scenic spots to take pictures and give Charlotte water. A sign warns you at the beginning of the trail that “Many dogs have died doing this trail.” While it is an easy ridge hike by Oahu’s standards, it is very exposed with little shade, which is why we thought this cloudy and cool afternoon was the perfect time for this hike. Also, we considered the hike up and down to be relatively easy, compared to how muddy and slick the trail could be after it rains.
Most hikers end their hike at one of the 2 pillboxes (concrete bunkers) with picturesque views of the Lanikai neighborhood, the gorgeous turquoise beach, and the Mokulua islands. These were fairly crowded, so we continued along the ridge to a quiet space to end our hike. Next time, we’ll come up the back way to enjoy an even quieter hike along the beautiful ridge line. I had seen the view facing the ocean many times in pictures, but I hadn’t seen any facing the opposite side — towards the Ko’olau mountain range. It was cloudy, as it usually is, so we weren’t able to see the entire ridge, but we were able to point out what peaks we knew and which ones we’ve done. We loved that we could see all the way down to the Southeastern tip of the island, the North side of Makapu’u Point. And while the mountain views will always be my favorite, it was equally hard to look away from the turquoise water, still so bright and clear even on a cloudy day. The beautiful diversity of these two main views is what made this such an enjoyable hike.
The sun started to come out from behind the clouds, so we began our descent. I’ll always consider going down to be more difficult than going up, especially on these eroded dirt trails. We made our way down and back to Kailua Beach, where we hung out for a while longer. Curtis did some metal detecting and Charlotte and I wandered around. I was hoping that the hike would make her lazier so we could just sit in the sand, but she got her second wind once her feet hit the sand and the scent of that second wind carried her little nose all around, with me following closely behind. Thankfully, there were no dead fish involved this time, and we all returned home tired and happy with our short and spontaneous weekend adventure.