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The Pali Overlook provides a scenic — and windy! — view of the windward side of the island of Oahu. It consistently ranks as one of the top attractions for visitors. Even with recent parking fees, it’s a bargain.
The word “pali” means “cliff” in Hawaii. So Kauaii’s stunning coastline is called “Na Pali” because the cliffs plunge to the sea. On Oahu, the Pali Overlook is called “Nuuanu Pali” because it is in the Nuuanu valley. One of the highways that now link windward Oahu to Honolulu is called the Pali Highway because it runs through tunnels in these cliffs.
Along this highway, there is an overlook of the windward side of the island and Kaneohe Bay. That view alone is well worth the three dollar parking fee. (Until recently, parking was free at the overlook, and Hawaii residents still may park for free.) The panoramic vista shows a less urban side of the island still just minutes from Honolulu.
An obvious part of the stop is the wind that always blows at the overlook. It frightened me on our first visit. Now, I drag visitors there just to watch their hair go sideways. Hats take flight, umbrellas turn inside out. Experiencing the wind at the Pali Overlook is a story to take home because photos don’t show the wind, you need to have been there to tell the tale.
A less obvious side of the stop is the connection to history. It was on these cliffs that Kamehameha I cemented his rule of the islands. The Battle of Nuuanu was one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaii history. Kamehameha’s invading army from Hawaii Island pushed Oahu defenders to these cliffs, where many were forced off and, legend has it, others jumped rather than submit to his rule. Either way, reportedly 400 soldiers fell to their deaths 1,000 feet below the cliffs.
While the overlook is a fabulous place for photographs, it is important to remain behind the barriers. A year ago, a local man died when he went beyond the railings, walked to the edge and fell. The edge of any cliff is hazardous in Hawaii. Pay the three dollars, stay on the overlook platform and enjoy this unique view of history and geography.