Nuuanu Pali

By Sherilee Berasis

On the island of Oahu, there's a place you can visit to enjoy dense green forest, spectacular mountain-to-ocean views, and a piece of Hawaiian history, all free of charge. This special place is the Nuuanu Pali.

Nuuanu is an area located on the southeastern part of the island and "pali" is a Hawaiian word meaning "cliff".

Getting there is very simple if you're coming from Honolulu. Get on H-1 freeway then take the Pali Highway off-ramp. Once on Pali Highway, follow the green signs alongside the road to reach your destination. The ride should take approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Ladies, don't wear a dress or skirt when visiting the Pali because it's very windy and you won't enjoy yourself if you're worrying about strangers seeing your underwear. Likewise, gentlemen, don't wear hats, loose sunglasses, or toupees to the site because when a strong gust of wind comes along, you may never see your belongings again.

Because of the wind, a jacket or sweater is recommended. Depending on the season, sporadic showers of rain are also common. Do bring a camera, for the view is fabulous and you will not be disappointed.

Nuuanu Pali is surrounded by dense forest heavy with moisture. As you travel up Pali Highway, the houses begin to thin and the greenery begins to take over. During the winter and spring there are many waterfalls to be seen in the mountains which include Puu Lanihuli high above to the left and Pu'u Konahuanui, the highest peak in the Koolau Mountains, to the right. The trees, covered with moss and green twisting vines, block out the sun and civilization. The plants and vines seem to have taken over everything except the asphalt road being driven on.

All of a sudden, the forest ends and a small open parking lot appears. The lookout is at the end of a paved walkway. On the sides of the walkway are a couple of vendors. One vendor sells T-shirts and hands out pamphlets which educate people about the issue of Hawaiian Sovereignty. The other vendor sells Polynesian arts and crafts.

From the lookout, many towns and places of interest can be seen. To the left are the Koolau Mountain Range, Kahaluu and the new H-3 freeway. Straight ahead is Kaneohe and Kaneohe Bay.

Olomana and Kailua are to the right. You can also see Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station, the Koolau and Pali golf courses, and Kapaa Quarry. The Koolau Mountains are awesome, majestic, and breathtaking. The blues of the ocean and sky blend together, making it difficult to tell where the earth ends and where the sky begins. Sometimes, the clouds and mist drop low over the mountains and sheets of rain can be seen falling over the land and sea. Double and triple rainbows are also a familiar sight.

The cold wind constantly blows and brings the scent of rain, ferns, and damp earth mixed together. Standing there, at the edge of the cliff, watching land, sea and sky come together and feeling and hearing the whipping wind all around, it is easy to be transported back to a time before concrete, automobiles, and pollution.

More than 200 years ago, a great warrior chief from the island of Hawaii named Kamehameha envisioned uniting all the Hawaiian islands. Many chiefs, including High Chief Kalanikupule from the island of Oahu did not share in Kamehameha's dream and decided to challenge him. In 1795, thousands of Kamehameha's warriors drove Kalanikupule and his army up to Nuuanu Pali where many fell or fought to their deaths.

Later, in the early 1800s, the kamaaina (local people) would traverse the deadly Nuuanu Pali with children, food, and supplies tied to their backs. In 1897, a highway was built and during the construction, workers found approximately 800 skulls and other bones at the bottom of the cliff - remains of the warriors who were defeated by Kamehameha. Many more improvements were made to the highway and now the old road is a hiking trail which branches off from the lookout point. So, if you ever get to the islands and would like to learn a bit about our history, get some great pictures, and get a taste of the real Hawaii, you must visit the Nuuanu Pali.

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