Nu’uanu Pali Lookout on Oahu


You’ll find many gorgeous views on Oahu, but few can rival the mystery at the Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside Park. You’ll find this park off Highway, 61, also known as the Pali Highway. (By the way, the word pali means cliff in the Hawaiian language. It is pronounced like pah-le.)

A little history about Nuuanu Pali
When King Kamehameha was on his quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands under his one rule, the last battle was fought at the Nu’uanu Pali. King Kamehameha and his forces arrived on Oahu near Waikiki Beach and as they fought the Oahu army, they drove them into the Nu’uanu Pali. Tragically, many men fell off the cliffs as they had no where else to go.

In the early 1800’s there were only two ways to travel from Honolulu to the windward side of Oahu. You could take a canoe or hike over the steep cliffs of the Koolau mountains via the pali trail that cut through Nuuanu Pali. The pali trail was the most direct route, but it was very dangerous because it was steep and very slippery. On a placard at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, there’s an interesting quote from 1831 from a visitor, Reverend Reuben Tinker, who tried traversing this rugged trail:

The pass was almost too fearful to be enjoyed. I suffered from apprehension lest I should fall from the rocky steep. I took off my shoes and by setting my feet in the crevices of the rock, I worked myself along, assisted by a native, who saw nothing to wonder at but my awkwardness and fear on passing this grand highway.”

A view from the Pali Lookout
A view from the Pali Lookout

What to know before you go.

  • Effective April 2021 a $7 parking fee is required for all non-Hawaii residents. Check the park’s website for any updates to fees.
  • This state park is located in the Koolau Mountain range at the elevation of 1,200 feet. It will be chillier there than what you may have grown accustomed to at the beaches. You may want to bring a light jacket.
  • Hold onto your hats. The Pali Lookout is typically very breezy.
  • The Pali Highway is a beautiful drive in itself. From Honolulu it is on the way to a couple of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, Kailua and Lanikai Beaches.
  • Plan about 15 to 30 minutes to visit this area, read the placards, and soak in the views.
  • Don’t leave any valuables in your car. Don’t even leave any suspicion that there are valuables in your car.

Here’s a video Andy filmed from the Nuuanu Pali Lookout. You may notice that there are no people in this video. That’s not from skilled editing and filming. Would you believe we had the entire park to ourselves? We could hardly believe it!

Have you visited Nuuanu Pali Lookout? Would you agree it’s a view that must not be missed?

  1. The view from the Pali lookout is truly beautiful. Keep in mind though it gets really windy up there so if you have long hair be sure to bring something to tie it back with. I used to cross the Pali Highway at least twice a day and I miss that commute. One of my favorite things was how you could be down in Honolulu where it was bright and sunny out and then you’d drive through the Pali tunnels and all of a sudden find yourself in a downpour of rain! Also be sure at some point to turn off the Pali Hwy. and on to Old Pali Road for an extra relaxing and gorgeous drive.

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