Nuuanu Pali

The Nuuanu Pali Lookout on Oahu reveals one of the greatest panoramic views on all the Hawaiian islands, providing a taste of what lies in store for visitors to Oahu. Comprising a section of the Koolau Mountain Range, which separates Honolulu and Kaneohe, the Pali Lookout is a historical battle site dating back to 1795. Today the Nuuanu Pali tunnels link one end of the island to the other, and the Old Road guides tourists to the lookout, which is now one of the biggest island attractions.

Initiated by King Kamehameha I, the bloody Battle of Nuuanu involved more than 10,000 of the king's men. After arriving in droves on Waikiki Beach, the king's soldiers marched toward the Pali Lookout, squaring off with the other troops, attempting to gain ground and eventually take control of Oahu. After fighting for some time, Kamehameha's men gained a significant advantage over Oahu leader Kalanikupule's men, who were from both Maui and Oahu, forcing a withdrawal up the valley floor. Kamehameha's troops proved too strong for the other soldiers, who were overpowered, and many plunged to their deaths over the cliff side. This battle is one of the most significant in Hawaiian history. While new highway construction was underway by Nuuanu Pali, more than 800 skulls were uncovered, revealing most of the casualties of the Battle of Nuuanu.

The Pali Guardian Stones are another of the attractions to see when visiting Nuuanu Pali. Old folklore and superstitions surround many of Hawaii's historical sites, and these stones are no different. Closer to the back end of the Pali Lookout there are two guardian stones called Ka-lae-hau-ola and Hapuu. Both are said to be goddesses who were once guardians of the passageway leading down the Pali, meaning cliffs. Many travelers left bark cloth, or kapa, and flowers to ensure safe passage. Long ago, many Hawaiian parents buried the umbilical cords of their babies here in hopes of protecting them against harm.

From the lookout, the windward side of Oahu is exposed in all its beauty and lush grandeur. Many areas popular for hiking and cycling during Oahu vacations come into view. The Koolau mountain cliffs, rising more than 300 yards up, are striking. Once at the top, it gets exceptionally windy, so much so that visitors are advised to keep a tight handle on all their possessions—including small children. The valley between the mountains creates a tunnel-like vortex that the trade winds fly through at high speeds, creating an intense movement of air.

Today, weather permitting, Nuuanu Pali Lookout and the entire park is open daily from 9 am to 4pm. There is plenty of parking for visitors with car rentals, and admission is free. Nuuanu Pali can easily be seen on self-guided tours, but it is also one of the top things to see during guided tours on Oahu. Anyone driving can reach Nuuanu Pali Lookout by taking the H1 Freeway from Waikiki east toward the Pali Highway and onto Route 61 via Nuuanu Pali Drive. Signs offer direction to the lookout itself, but a more in-depth look around the scenic area is highly recommended.

Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority - Chuck Painter
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