You Can See For Miles at the Pali Lookout
For an experience you will never forget, take the Pali Highway to this spectacular lookout, one of the windiest spots on Oahu. From the lookout point high among the eerie spires of the Koolau Mountains, you can see an unbelievable panoramic view of Windward Oahu.
Nuʻuanu Pali is a section of the windward cliff (pali in Hawaiian) of the Koʻolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley on the island of Oʻahu. Today, it offers one of the best panoramic views of the windward (northeast) coast of Oʻahu. A main highway (Hawaii State Highway 61) connecting Kailua/Kāneʻohe with downtown Honolulu runs through tunnels bored into the cliffside.
The Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside is a lookout above the tunnels where visitors are treated to a panoramic view of the Oahu’s windward side with sweeping views of Kāneʻohe, Kāneʻohe Bay, and Kailua. It is also well-known for strong Trade winds that blow through the pass, forming a sort of natural wind tunnel. Kaneohe Bay is the largest sheltered body of water in the main Hawaiian Islands.
The Nuʻuanu Pali was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history, in which Kamehameha I conquered the island of Oʻahu, bringing it under his rule. In 1795 Kamehameha I sailed from his home island of Hawaiʻi with an army of 10,000 soldiers.
After conquering the islands of Maui and Molokai, he moved on to Oahu. The pivotal battle for the island occurred in Nʻuanu Valley, where the defenders of Oʻahu, led by Kalanikupule, were driven back up into the valley where they were trapped above the cliff. Thousands of Kalanikupule’s soldiers were driven off the edge of the cliff to their deaths 1,000 feet below.
In 1898 a carriage road was built over the Nuʻuanu Pali to connect Windward Oʻahu with Honolulu. This road was later replaced by the Pali Highway and the Nuʻuanu Pali Tunnels in 1959.
Hawaiian folklore holds that one should never carry pork over Nuʻuanu Pali, especially at night. In olden days, motorists reported that their cars mysteriously stopped and would not start until the pork was removed from the car. Jimi Hendrix wrote a song with the title Pali Gap, a name he made up but presumably meant to refer to the Nuʻuanu Pali, which includes both a gap and a cliff (Pali).