The view is breathtaking. A place of history and plenty of story. It is the Pali Highway.
the windward coast of Oahu, with Chinaman’s Hat and a portion of the Ko’olau Mountains in the distance
the view towards Kaneohe Bay, Maui Channel and the Pacific
The Pali Highway links Honolulu with the windward side of Oahu through the Ko’olau Mountain Range, and into Kaneohe and Kailua. The first road built through the Pali was in 1845. The Pali Road was developed into a highway in 1898. It was your typical winding mountain road with hairpin turns and switchbacks. My mom, when she was growing up, said the road often became quite treacherous during rainstorms and at night. Crossing over the summit of the Pali, mom said there was an eeriness about the place – during the day. This was where, Nu’uanu Pali, the decisive battle was fought in which Kamehameha’s army defeated the army of Kalanikūpule, the King of Maui.
With Kalanikūpule’s army reeling from the advance of Kamehameha’s forces, they retreated up Nu’uanu Valley to the Pali’s cliffs. Trapped, Kalanikūpule’s warriors, numbering between 700-900 men, were either pushed, or jumped, to their deaths from the 1,000 foot high cliffs. There have been other accounts in which a pitched, back and forth battle to the death ensued on the cliff heights before Kamehameha’s forces prevailed. During the 1898 highway construction, workers discovered 800 skulls which were believed to be the remains of Kalanikūpule’s warriors.
Stories surrounding the Pali have abounded through the years. They range from ghostly tales involving apparitions of warriors on night marches to those who died tragically, or mysteriously, along the Pali Road. The most enduring tale is not to be carrying any pork product over the Pali during the midnight hour. A car will suddenly die if anywhere near the Pali summit. It will not restart until after one. For outsiders and non-believers, they dismiss it all as foolish superstition. For those who grew up there and heard the anecdotal stories, they respect the supernatural occurrences.
For one of my uncles, it became a true story. He was returning home from the windward side with his wife and a friend. They were late in starting back due to heavy rains on the Pali. When it seemed safe to drive back, it was already late. They simply did not want to be anywhere near the Pali summit around midnight. Adding to their anxiety, they were carrying leftovers from a pork roast for my grandparents. The car suddenly died near the summit shortly after midnight. It did not restart. Once it was after one, the car restarted and they were able to complete their trip.
In 1959, construction began to modernize and improve the safety of the Pali Highway. A four lane highway that could be easily widened to six lanes, along with tunnels to replace the tricky, two lane roadway. Also, lighting would improve visibility during poor weather and darkness. Sections of the old roadway can be seen above or below the improved highway. And, those strange happenings along the highway, they still occur.
the towering heights of the Pali
a view of the Ko’olua Mountains from the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
To view the many scenic panoramas, there are a pair of scenic lookouts along the Pali Highway. The higher Nu’uanu Pali Lookout provides the better views, and is on a portion of the now-closed, older highway. There are several hikes that begin from the lookout. One hike is featured here. If a hike is done, it is advised to carry a small point and shoot, phone camera, or a disposable film camera.
About the photos –
These photos were taken during the holiday season in 1978-79 using a Canon FTb 35 mm SLR with Kodak Gold film (ASA 200).