While the Ehukai Pillbox hike does not receive near the attention of other more iconic hikes on O’ahu, it is hands down the best hike on the north shore.
The north shore attracts visitors and locals alike with its laid-back vibe, white sand beaches, and world-renowned surf breaks, but that’s not to say adventurers looking to hike are out of luck.
Ehukai Pillbox is just one of the many popular pillbox hikes on O’ahu, along with Lanikai Pillbox, Ma’ili Pillbox, and Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Pillbox. However, Ehukai is the only pillbox hike located on the island’s north side. The trail, albeit short and sweet, rewards hikers with stunning views of the ocean and sunset, if timed correctly.
In this guide, I highlight what to expect hiking Ehukai Pillbox, how to get there, parking, and the best time to hike the trail. Stick around until the end for a list of my favorite north shore adventures to tag on pre or post-hike.
Complete Guide to the Ehukai Pillbox Hike on the North Shore
Ehukai Pillbox Trail Stats
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Distance: 2.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 734 feet
Time: 1-2 hours
Getting to Ehukai Pillbox Trail
If coming from Waikiki, the Ehukai Pillbox hike is just over an hour from downtown. Since you’re already making the drive across the island for the hike, make sure to make a whole day of it. Once you experience the north shore, you’ll never want to leave.
If you’re lucky enough to stay in the quaint town of Hale’iwa, the trailhead is located about a 15-minute drive further north.
The trail is located just past Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park, where hikers can park their cars.
While the parking lot is pretty good in size, the Ehukai Pillbox hike is a popular route and the lot fills up quickly. If you can’t snag a spot in the lot, look for parking across the street at Ehukai Beach Park.
In the event that the lot is full, look for street parking. If you’re completing the Ehukai Pillbox hike on a weekend, be prepared for parking to be a bit tricky.
Make sure to use the restroom located in the park before beginning the trail, as there are no facilities on the hike.
The Ehukai Pillbox hike trailhead is located at the back of the Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park parking lot. After parking, walk towards the back of the lot, away from the road. You will see the trailhead off to the left and marked by a sign.
Is the Ehukai Pillbox Hike Hard?
As with the other popular pillbox hikes on O’ahu, the trail is short and steep. Though you may find yourself out of breath once you reach the pillboxes, Ehukai Pillbox Trail is generally considered an accessible trail for hikers of all ages and experience levels.
For experienced hikers, the Ehukai Pillbox hike is considered an easy route, while those less accustomed to hiking in Hawai’i might consider it a moderately challenging hike.
With that being said, it is still important to treat it as a hike, not a walk. Pack adequate amounts of water and wear appropriate hiking shoes and clothing. Nothing ruins a hike quicker than being underprepared.
Further down, I outline a list of items I recommend wearing and bringing for your hike.
When Is the Best Time to Complete the Ehukai Pillbox Hike?
There is no bad time to hike the Ehukai Pillboxes. Most of the trail is shaded so you don’t have to worry about mid-day sun like you do on the Lanikai Pillbox or Ma’ili Pillbox hike.
The biggest concern on Ehukai Pillbox Trail is the number of other hikers, though the hike still doesn’t see the visitor numbers of the more frequented pillboxes around the island. Completing the hike in the early morning or on a weekday will award you with the most solitude on the trail.
If you’re visiting O’ahu during the winter months, the pillboxes offer a great viewing point to watch the big waves, surfers, and, if you’re lucky, whales.
Regardless of what time of year you are visiting, the Ehukai Pillbox hike is a great place to watch the sunset.
Don’t be fooled by its short distance and show up unprepared for the hike. The best way to ensure you have a great experience on the Ehukai Pillbox hike is to come dressed appropriately with the right items.
Though the trail is short, wear sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes or trail running shoes to provide good traction on the uneven, rocky, and slippery terrain.
I prefer trail runners over boots and highly recommend the Merrell Antoras if you’re looking to invest in a new pair. If you’re comfortable hiking in sandals, Chacos make for a great option and are the perfect adventure shoe for Hawai’i.
Lightweight Hiking Clothes
Though the trail is shaded, don’t underestimate the Hawai’i heat. Wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing suitable for the warm, sunny weather. I cannot get enough of the REI Trailmade Shorts and Swiftland Shirts.
Regardless of the length of the hike, bring more water than you think you need. Always carry at least one liter for short and quick hikes. I never set out on a hike without my 32 oz Nalgene or my 3-Liter Gregory Reservoir.
While you technically can opt to carry your phone and water, you’re going to want to keep your hands free for this hike. Day packs allow you to keep all your belonging in one place while freeing up your hands for the hike, just in case.
I love my small, Greogry Nano 16L pack. It’s light enough not to weigh me down but has enough structure to make it comfortable. If you don’t want to carry a backpack, consider bringing a fanny pack. I take my Patagonia Ultralight Hip Pack on all my trips.
Other Optional Items
Other items to consider tossing in your day pack are sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, snacks, a camera, and a headlamp. If you’re planning to complete the Ehukai Pillbox hike for sunset, don’t skip the headlamp.
What to Expect Hiking Ehukai Pillbox Trail
The Ehukai Pillbox trail begins groomed and flat and carves a way through the forest and tall grass. Unforuntanetly, the flat section only lasts a few minutes before you begin the steady incline to the top.
Once you begin to gain elevation, the trail becomes rocky, rooty, and increasingly more scrambly. Luckily, almost the entire trail is shaded, so the sun isn’t a huge concern.
There are sections where ropes are tied between trees to give you a hand as you ascend. It is not necessary in most cases to use them, but they are there to help if needed.
On a rainy day, Ehukai Pillbox Trail becomes extremely muddy and slippery, making the steep sections that much more difficult (and comical) to scale.
Though it’s tempting to wander off the trail to find dyer and easier-to-navigate ground, doing so is harmful to the surrounding area and causes erosion. Remember to remain on the designated trail at all times.
There are two pillboxes on the Ehukai Pillbox hike. You come to the first pillbox about .5 miles into the hike.
You can climb atop the pillbox for a stunning view over the north shore coastline and residential area located below, and even explore inside the bunker. Though this view is beautiful, make sure to continue on in search of the second pillbox.
The second pillbox offers a better view in my opinion, and most likely has fewer hikers congregating around it. Many hikers turn around after the first pillbox because they don’t realize there’s another, can’t find the trail continuing onto the second, or are just tired and want to start making their way back down.
The second pillbox is marked by the notable spray-painted peace sign and is a great place to sit down, watch the waves, scout for whales, or enjoy the sunset.
If you choose to stay and watch the sun go down, make sure to leave enough time to safely make it back to your car before nightfall.
Other Things to Do on the North Shore
The north shore is without a doubt my favorite part of O’ahu. There is something undeniably charming about the north shore that the rest of the island just can’t compare with.
Below I’ve included a list of a few of my favorite things to do while visiting O’ahu’s north shore.
Grab Lunch at The Sunrise Shack
We never visit the north shore without stopping by The Sunrise Shack. The colorful aesthetic is what draws most people in, but their acai bowls, smoothies, and coffees are worth the stopover as well.
The Sunrise Shack is right down the road from the Ehukai Pillbox hike and makes a great pre or post-hike snack.
Snorkel at Sharks Cove
Sharks Cove is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island and one of our personal favorites. The spot is a hub for marine life and interesting underwater rock formations. On a good day, you can expect calm waters and great visibility.
As with all ocean activities on O’ahu, make sure to check the weather and wave report before venturing into the water. On rough days, Sharks Cove can be extremely dangerous. Always abide by signs and warnings posted around the area.
Shop in Hale’iwa
The quaint town of Hale’iwa is undeniably charming and filled with shops, adventures, and restaurants. Spend the day leisurely strolling the town with no real plans and soaking up the laid-back, beach town lifestyle.
Cliff Jump at Waimea Bay
If you’re like us and always looking for something to jump off of, head to Waimea Bay.
Waimea Bay has a huge rock jutting into the water that always has a line of locals and visitors alike waiting their turn to plunge 25 feet into the water below. As always, check the tide and waves before jumping.
Grab Dinner at a Food Truck
There is no shortage of food trucks on the north shore, the most famous of them being Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. You won’t find Giovanni’s without a giant line wrapping around the truck, but there are several other trucks just as delicious. Give yourself the full north shore experience and opt to grab dinner from a food truck rather than a sit-down restaurant.
More Pillboxes Hikes on O’ahu to Check Out
If you’re looking for more hikes that are similar in distance and difficulty and lead to beautiful views of the island, check out the other popular pillbox hikes.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Kaiwa Pillbox, known as the “Lanikai Pillbox,” is the most popular pillbox hike on O’ahu. The trail is located on the east side of the island and leads to an iconic view of the Mokulua Islands. This trail is a great place to watch the sunrise.
Kaneohe Pillbox Hike
Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Trail is a short and easy hike located on the east side of O’ahu, more commonly known as the “Kaneohe Pillbox.” The trail leads to sweeping views of the Kaneohe sandbar, Coconut Island, Kualoa Ranch, and more.
Pink Pillbox Hike
Maili Pillbox, often times referred to as the “Pink Pillbox” is on the west side of O’ahu. These pillboxes offer, hands down, the best views of the west side. The Lanikai Pillbox hike offers the best view for sunrise, while the Pink Pillbox boasts the best spot for sunset.
Make sure to check out my other O’ahu guides to help plan your trip or fill your weekends with adventure.
If you have any questions about the Ehukai Pillbox hike or the other pillbox hikes on O’ahu, leave me a comment in the section below.
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