Kailua Trail, aka Pillbox Hiking Trail (Kailua, HI)

Summary: At the South end of Kailua, on the Windward side of the island, is a single ridge that divides the town from the restricted space of Bellows Air Force Base.  It’s not a complicated run, or even a very long run, but it offers glorious views, nice hills, a decent enough path, and not a lot of traffic.  It’s in a beautiful area of the island, and is as beautiful a place to run at dawn as it is in a rain storm.

The Good:  Good, good running.  Steep at times, but the trail along the ridgeline is just fantastic.  Low, low traffic — mostly hikers, and mostly folks just going up to the pillboxes.  The trail is very run-able, with only limited sections that mandate slowing to a near-stop.  On the right parts, it is ideal ridge-running — good trail, up high, right along the spine, with great views and few people, but plenty wide so make death unlikely.  With the trail head located so close to the Kailua Beach Park, there’s great support for the post-run — showers, drinking fountains, mostly-safe bathrooms, etc.  And did I mention the scenery?  Holy smokes — beautiful.

The Bad:  Once you get past the pillboxes, well, the quality of the trail drops.  Really, it’s just a matter of not really being able to see the trail as much as you’d want or need.  Yes, this is running country, just not a sprinting trail.  And once the sun comes up, if the clouds are gone, you will heat up.

The Ugly:  There are a few places where you can fall to your death.  No, they don’t sneak up on you or anything — but they are there.  Also, the path down the western descent is poorly marked; it gets the least use, I suppose, so it’s not likely to get better any time soon.

Type of route:  Trail.  Hiking trail, but trail.
Good to run in the rain? Um, if it’s a light rain, sure.  Large parts of the trail, though, route the water off the ridge when it’s a heavy rain, so you’d be on slick rocks in water.  I ran here in a heavy but short rain, and that was OK — just slick and muddy coming down.

Length: 2.2 miles from the Kailua Beach Park, to the far point overlooking the ocean.

Options for the route:  Yes.  Two of them, actually.  Option one is to drop down to the west side, and emerge onto Kamahele Street, on the far side of the (closed) road along the golf course.  From there, it’s a run back up the hill (blah) or a run around the canal and back to the beach (easy run, nice neighborhoods).  Option 2 is to keep heading down along the ridge, and head for the water tower.  From there, it’s a street run back as well.  Option 2 is the most poorly-maintained part of the trails — hands down.  Option 3, I suppose, would be to drop down to Bellows Air Force Base, and get arrested for trespassing.  Not something I’d suggest, though.

Elevation change on the run:  From beach up to about 650 feet at its highest point.
Water used:  Just going out and back is a 1 liter run.  Plan on 2 liters.

Where to start: Here.  Just past the Mid Pacific Country Club, on Kaelepulu Drive.
Where to parkKailua Beach Park.
Point your car’s GPS towards:   Kailua Beach Park, Kailua, Hawaii, 96734.

My Google Earth filehere
My Garmin filehere

Facilities
Water? Yes– at the Kailua Beach Park.  Good fountains, clean water from the tap, and showers — cold, but wonderful.
Toilets? Yes — at the Kailua Beach Park.
Medical care? No.
Ranger / park folks? Have not seen any — at the park, or on the trail.
Picnic areas? Yes– at the Kailua Beach Park.  That, or eat on top of the bunkers.
A place to change afterwards? Great changing areas — at the Kailua Beach Park.

Rewards in the area:  A swim to Flat Island.  What — you wanted more?

You’d run this route when…. you’ve had your fill recently of speed drills, or tempo work, or other serious training efforts.  This is a great run to do with just you and your iPod and some water.  It’s enjoyable — a fun, fun run.

My rating: 7

MusicParty Ben‘s Sixx Mixx #6, with Go Home Productions.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here and here.    Flickr: here and here and here.   More photos: here and here.    State Park Info: here