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On Walkabout At: Nuuanu Pali State Park, Hawaii

In the early 1800’s visitors who came to Oahu had two choices if they wanted to travel between Honolulu and the eastern side of the island.  They could take a canoe trip around the island or hike over the rugged Koolau mountains.  The pali (cliff) trail was the quickest and most direct route to the eastern side of the island, but it was very steep and slippery.  Hawaiians traveled the trail with ease for centuries but the first foreigners to visit the island had a very difficult time doing so:


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“The pass was almost too fearful to be enjoyed.  I suffered from apprehension list 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 pass this grand highway.”  [Reverend Reuben Tinker – 1831]

Since then this trail has become a multi-lane road known as the Pali Highway that was first built in 1897.  The highway still has the same incredible views that Reverend Tinker first experienced in 1831. The best place to experience these views is at Nuuanu Pali State Park:

Picture from Nuuanu State Park

The park is located off an exit along the Pali Highway high up in the Koolau Mountains.  The view from the park’s Pali Lookout is just absolutely incredible:

Picture from Nuuanu State Park

The lookout provides spectacular views from a 985 foot cliff overlooking the Windward side of the island.  It is amazing how the Windward side is so lush and green with little urbanization compared to the metropolis of Honolulu on the other side of the mountains.  The small town that can seen from the Pali Lookout is called Kaneohe and is home to a US Marine Corps base:

Picture from Nuuanu State Park

Mark Twain was even so impressed by this view to declare it the “Most Beautiful” he had seen:

Picture from Nuuanu State Park

Besides the incredible views something I did have to wonder about though is if Mark Twain had to see a bunch of chickens roaming around the island back in the 1800’s like they are now?:

Pali Lookout Chickens

The Pail Lookout is also famous for being the final battle site to determine who would rule the island:

Picture from Nuuanu State Park

In the late 1700’s, Kamehameha I, for the island of Hawaii south to unit the Hawaiian Islands under one rule.  The battle for Oahu began with the arrival of his forces at Waikiki in 1795.

Oahu had been defeated by Maui forces a decade earlier and Maui’s Chief Kalanikupule now led the forces on Oahu.  After many hard fought battles he was driven up Nuuanu Valley to this location.  Both sides fought with Hawaiian spears and Western firearms but Kamehameha’s cannon gave him the winning advantage.

The battle called Kalelekaanae (leaping of the anae fish), refers to the men forced off the cliff during the battle.  With Kamehameha’s victory on Oahu and the signing of an agreement with Kauai, he became the first king of the Hawaiian Islands.

Here is a picture of the impressive pyramid shaped peak that can be seen in the above illustration of the battle:

Picture from Nuuanu State Park

Finally here is the drop off that the defending warriors were pushed off of during the Battle of Nuuanu:

Picture from Nuuanu State Park

Highway workers actually found over 800 skulls when constructing the Pali Highway at the base of this mountain.  I do have to wonder though if the warriors were pushed off the mountain during a battle or instead executed by being pushed off the mountain after surrendering?  I think that is a more likely scenario of what happened.  Regardless of its tragic past the Pali Lookout really is a must see for anyone visiting Oahu today.

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