Ka'Iwa Ridge/Lanikai Pillbox Trail

The Lanikai Association has created a webpage (www.lanikaipillbox.com) where you can find information on the Kaʻiwa Trail, otherwise known as the Lanikai Pillbox trail.

With more than a thousand hikers per day on many days of the year, the trail is being "loved to death," resulting in severe erosion that washes into the ocean during heavy rains, events that are bad for our coral reef. Moreover, the combined attractions of the trail and Lanikai Beach have also given rise to Waikiki-like traffic and parking congestion in a residential neighborhood that is effectively a cul-de-sac.

At the urging of the Lanikai Association, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has begun to try to find solutions for a situation that has become detrimental to the well-being of our residents. DLNR has hired the landscape architecture firm PBR Hawaii & Associates to prepare a study on the trail with the goal of managing its use through DLNR. The study may be found here. We expect an update in the spring of 2020.

We feel this trail should be preserved as a popular hiking trail, but in the last few years the increased traffic, which was estimated a year ago as about a thousand a day from very early sunrise walkers to full moon midnight hikers, have created serious safety and liability issues, as well as many other concerns that are adversely impacting our community such as noise, irresponsible behavior such as flying drones, and lack of respect for the private landowners bordering the trail. As there is no trail maintenance or garbage pickup, it is up to the trail goers to pick up after themselves and their dogs. This trail belongs to all of us, so please do your part to ensure the beauty of this trail experience remains available for future generations.

Dog owners should note that many dogs die on this hike from heat exhaustion.

It is recommended that trail users have proper foot attire, water, sunscreen, and a cell phone in case of emergencies.

Background Information

The Ka’iwa Ridge Trail, also known as the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, consists of 4.073 acres and is managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The beautiful panoramic views and accessibility of the trail make it a very popular hike.

The structures at the top of the ridge, which are commonly and mistakenly referred to as the “Lanikai Pillboxes”, functioned as Coast Artillery observation stations in 1943 and were not equipped with defensive armament. The raised concrete platforms found in the stations did not mount machine guns but high-powered observing instruments to fix a maritime vessel’s position from the station. In military terms, a pillbox means a defensive site such as a machine gun pillbox.

Sometime after WWII, the military sold the ridge to a private individual, and then it was subsequently resold one or perhaps two more times to private individuals until the late 1980’s. The last private owner submitted plans to build a house on the site and drill a hole through the rocks to provide ventilation for the house. Around this time the State was promoting it’s Na Ala Hele trail system, and the Lanikai Association requested the State buy the property, since it was already a well-publicized trail. The State then incorporated the trail into their Na Ala Hele trail system but has since removed it from their website.

The two sanctioned accesses to the ridge line trail cross over private property easements. The most popular access initiates at Bluestone condominiums on Kaelepulu Street in Lanikai, and the second initiates in Enchanted Lakes at Kamahele Street. After the second “pillbox” the land is all owned privately. Those continuing on the path at this point are trespassing.