Just a 5-mile drive northeast of Downtown Honolulu, the Nuuanu Pali Lookout offers panoramic views of the sheer Koolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast. Driving up the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests to get to the lookout, you’ll see the city disappear and the tranquil beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape emerge.
Perched over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline amid mountain peaks shrouded by clouds, the stone terrace overlooks the areas of Kaneohe and Kailua, Mokolii (a pointy island locals call Chinaman’s Hat) and the University of Hawaii’s marine biology research center, Coconut Island. Other notable landmarks that can be seen are Hawaii Pacific University’s Windward campus, Kaneohe Marine Corps Base and the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, which is part of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens.
After you’ve soaked in the view, continue through the Pali Tunnels to Windward Oahu. As you near the bottom you’ll face a “tough” decision: go straight to the buzzing beach town of Kailua or turn left through Kaneohe and follow the lush coastline to Haleiwa and Waimea Bay on Oahu’s famed North Shore.
The Pali Lookout is a site of deep historical significance. Named “Pali” meaning ‘cliff’ in Hawaiian, the Pali Lookout is the site of the Battle of Nuuanu, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united Oahu under his rule. This fierce battle claimed hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of which were forced off of the Pali’s sheer cliffs.
Note that the Pali Lookout is also known for its strong and howling winds. You’ll understand why the Nuuanu Pali Lookout is one of Oahu’s best scenic points when you feel the wind push up against you, hear the winds whistle through the mountains and see the breathtaking views of Oahu’s lush Windward Coast.