Oahu’s lush windward side is home to enchanting views, vibrant colors, and a rich history made for legends. Located just over 1,000 ft high atop the Ko’olau Mountain Range, the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is the best place to go for panoramic views of the entire windward side. Just a short drive from Kailua and Kaneohe, the lookout is located off of the Pali Highway (Highway 61).
This particular area of the Ko’olau Mountain Range is famous because it was the site of a legendary (and gruesome) battle in 1795, where King Kamehameha I and his warriors defeated the Oahu armies by driving them up from the valley and over the steep cliffs. This fierce battle united the island under King Kamehameha’s rule.
The lookout is a popular stop-off point for tourists and tour buses. The wind here is incredibly strong — so much so that you can usually lean back against it as if it were a wall. While you’ll see many people walking out to the lookout point for a few pictures and then heading back to their vehicles, there is much more that can be done here. Off to the left of the parking lot is the start to a trail that leads up the ridge to a “puka” — a hole in the cliff. This hike is gorgeous and thrilling, with sheer drop-offs to either side of the ridge.
To the right of the lookout is the entrance to the Old Pali Road, a mysterious and enchanting cliff-side road that has been closed to vehicle traffic for years and is overgrown and wild. There are some gates with signs warning of falling rocks posted at the entrance to the road, but the gates are open and the old road is popular with hikers and tourists so don’t be concerned to pass through.
The Old Pali Road followed a similar path of the current Pali Highway, connecting Honolulu to the windward side of the island. It followed the dirt path that the ancient Hawaiians used to pass through the mountains and is said to be a very spiritual place. Many local ghost stories trace back to this road. It’s been closed for over 50 years, and in that time nature has made great strides in taking it back. In many places, the jungle creeps over the road covering nearly half of it with plants, flowers, and lush greenery. The wind is calmer here, and it is peaceful and quiet…except for the ghosts 😉
Visit the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
Cost: Although there is a small fee to park (for non-locals), there is no cost to visit the lookout itself.
Hours: Daily during daylight (gates close at sundown)
Address: Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside, Nuuanu Pali Dr, Honolulu, HI 96817
Directions: From Kailua, take the Pali Highway (Highway 61) toward Honolulu. Shortly after passing through the tunnel, you’ll see an exit to the right onto Nuuanu Pali Dr, with signs pointing toward the lookout. Follow the signs; the lookout will be on your left.