The Nuuanu Pali Lookout is a phenomenal stopping point along the Pali Highway (pronounced POLLY) on the way to Kailua. The panoramic views of the Windward side of the island from this expansive cliff are a must-see attraction for visitors to the island. For anyone paying close attention, there are multiple ways to get to Kailua (where Lanikai, my favorite beach, is located). You can drive along the coast on Hwy 72, which wraps around the East part of the island - running into Hanauma Bay, Sandy's Beach, and Makapu'u). You can also take the Pali Highway located off H-1 going West from Waikiki or Hawaii Kai. Taking the Pali is the fastest way to get there. Parking is $3, which is a rip off considering you'll be there for maybe a total of 10-15 minutes. But it is free for Kama'aina residents (those with a Hawaii ID), though.
The lookout is really just that - a spot tucked away in the mountains where you can see Kailua down below and in the distance. Located at Nuuanu Pali State Park, the lookout towers over the 985-foot cliffs of the Koolau Mountain Range. (Translated, "pali" means "cliffs."). In addition to the scenery, it is also extremely windy up here. The trade winds blow through the valley between the mountains on either side of the lookout, forming a strong wind tunnel of sorts. On extra windy days, you can even lean into the wind and let the gusts hold you up. Don't be surprised to see people doing Hawaii's version of Kate Winslet.
The scenery is definitely amazing. But for history buffs and law dorks, the story behind the Pali Lookout is even better. Prior to being a united monarchy and later part of the U.S., the Hawaiian Islands were a collection of independently-ruled islands. In fact, Hawaii was not united until (historically speaking) recently - in the late 1790s. King Kamehameha I (KUH - MAY - UH - MAY - UH) was the leader who united the islands under one ruler after his troops invaded and destroyed the armies of the other islands. Anyway, in 1795, Kamehameha landed on Oahu, the last island standing. Although the war between the islands lasted awhile, eventually Kamehameha's troops drove the Oahu forces (led by some guy whose name I haven't even tried to pronounce - Kalanikupule) up to the edge of the Nuuanu Valley and this cliff. Both sides had Western firearms, but Kamehameha had the game-winning advantage. Cannons. The fleeing troops were given an option: join Kamehameha or jump off. I'm guessing they didn't jump...I mean, you fight all that time and you're gonna give them a chance to jump? No way, they were pushed.
In the 1890s, an engineering firm was hired to build what is now the Pali Highway, the winding road you took to get here. During construction, workers found about 800 human skulls and other human bones at the foot of the cliffs. There is a plaque at the lookout that talks about the battle.