Lanikai is my sister’s favorite beach and I can see why. It means ‘heavenly seas’, and the name definitely suits it. Soft sand, calm waves, and a great view of the Mokulua Islands. On a few occasions, we’ve combined a hike at the Lanikai Pillboxes and a day at Lanikai Beach for a nice little day trip. There’s nothing more refreshing than jumping into the ocean after a long hike.
Your best bet is to find a parking spot near the beach and walk over to the trailhead. As with a lot of places in Hawaii, you need to go early to ensure a spot. Plus, you want to make sure you’re hiking during non-peak sun hours because there is very little shade up there. We started at around 9:30 and it was already blazing. The hike is a little over a mile and it took us about an hour and 15 minutes. I would say it’s probably considered an intermediate trail. There are some tricky parts with sloped areas, which makes sense since you are essentially climbing from the ground up to a ridge. Once you get up there, all that sweating will totally have been worth it. Climb up onto the pillbox to get the perfect IG shot of the islands. The second pillbox is the furthest we’ve ever made it because by then, we are usually hot and exhausted, and we still need to hike back down. Which is why the beach is a great destination post-hike. At that point, you will have gotten your exercise in for the day and can just relax on the beach.
But of course, if relaxing on the beach is not your thing, and you’re looking for something a little bit more adventurous, you can rent a kayak nearby and row to the Mokulua Islands. You’re only allowed to explore the left island, which is also a bird sanctuary. I went with my brother-in-law, Taki during one of my first trips to Hawaii. It was a bit too strenuous for me and I vowed to myself that it was a one-time thing for me. Fast forward 6 years, Ben really wanted to go, especially since it was his first trip to Hawaii. So I mustered up all of my strength and went for the second time. Ah, the things you do for love. I did tell him that it was my absolute last time though! This is another activities you’d want to go early for since the tides start picking up later in the day, which makes it harder to kayak and can make you feel a little seasick. I can’t remember how long it took to row there but you should reserve a day for it. You can also pack a lunch in a cooler and stay on the island for a few hours if you like.
At this point, I’m good with the kayaking, and I think I’m good with the pillbox hike too. But I always look forward to Lanikai beach each time I visit Oahu.
And since you’ll be in the Kailua area, might as well grab a bite at Boots & Kimo!