The Nuuanu Pali Lookout is a perennial favorite stop among visitors to Oahu. The panoramic views of the Windward side of the island from this expansive cliff will blow you away.
Just make sure the winds don’t blow you away, too.
Located at Nuuanu Pali State Park, the lookout overlooks the 985-foot cliffs of the Koolau Mountain Range. (Translated, “pali” means “cliffs.”) And yes, it is extremely windy. The trade winds blow through the valley between the high mountains on either side, forming a strong wind tunnel of sorts. On extra windy days, you can even lean into the wind and let the gusts hold you up.
The Nuuanu Pali was the setting for one of the most significant battles in Hawaiian history. In 1795, Kamehameha I and his army invaded Oahu, arriving in an imposing fleet of war canoes at Waikiki Beach. The Oahu warriors were led by Kalanikupule, the alii nui (chief) of Maui and Oahu.
Kamehameha’s army marched to Nuuanu Valley to face Kalanikupule’s troops. The ensuing battle was fierce, bloody and unrelenting. Gradually, Kamehameha’s men gained an advantage, forcing Kalanikupule’s forces to retreat further up the valley. The Oahuans attempted to make a final stand, but Kamehameha’s army was too strong. Thousands of Kalanikupule’s men were pursued and driven over the steep cliffs to their deaths. It’s said that the victory was so complete that not a single Oahu warrior that got into the upper part of the valley escaped alive.
An engineering firm was hired in 1897 to build what is now the Old Pali Road, a winding road used to carry traffic across the mountains. During construction, workers found an estimated 800 human skulls and other human bones at the foot of the cliffs—the century-old remains of Kalanikupule’s slain warriors.
Today, Nuuanu Pali State Park is open daily (weather permitting) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, and there is ample free parking. A light jacket is recommended. Remove hats, caps or anything else that may be blown away by the winds. Take the H1 freeway (eastbound) from Waikiki, then take the Pali Highway, Route 61 via Nuuanu Pali Drive. Follow the signs to the lookout.