|DIFFICULTY||LENGTH||ELEVATION GAIN||ROUTE TYPE|
|Easy||~2.5 mi / 1 – 1.5 hr||~500 ft||Out & Back|
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a popular and easy hike located on the southeastern tip of Oahu. The trail ends at an observation deck where you’ll enjoy panoramic views looking up the Windward coast, down the Southern coast, from the ocean to the mountains, truly breathtaking. You’ll also get good views of Koko Head and the historic Makapuu Lighthouse from various points of the trail. If it’s an especially clear day you might be able to catch a glimpse of the neighboring islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai in the distance.
The entire trail is paved and great for pets, kids, older folks and even strollers. There’s not really any shade along the way though so you may get hot and should bring your sunscreen. If you find yourself here sometime between November and May make sure you look out for migrating humpback whales in the ocean. The peak whale watching months are January through March. Thousands of whales make their way to Hawaii every year to mate, give birth, and nurse their calves.
Once you’re done with the hike there’s plenty of other places to explore in the area. Hang out at Alan Davis Beach to the West and check out Pele’s Chair. Or hike down to the Makapuu Tidepools nearby. And there’s always Makapuu Beach to the North.
Once you’ve parked make you’re way up to the trailhead, which will likely have many people coming and going as Makapuu is one of the most popular hikes on the island for locals and tourists alike.
The entire trail is paved the entire way up to the top (other than a bonus section up to some old pillboxes) so its great for older folks and children.
In this beginning stretch of the trail you can turn your gaze southwest and get some far-reaching views of Oahu’s South Shore, including Alan Davis Beach and the Kaiwi Shoreline right below you to the south. You’ll also get great shots of the less familiar side of the famous Koko Head Crater, you’ll be able to see right into the middle of it. You’ll quickly be faced with you’re first fork in the road, go straight along the paved road to Makapuu Point, or turn right onto the gravel path to head to Alan Davis Beach.
Farther up the path, after you make your first bend, you’ll come to the first lookout point on your right, where you’ll see some info posted about the Kaiwi Channel. If you’re lucky enough to be here on a rather clear day (like I was) you’ll be able to make out the faint sight of the islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui in the distance. You can also head along a short little path to a rocky outcropping.
After this lookout point the trail will bend a couple time and the views will get even more impressive as the Windward Coast starts to come into view. Not too far up ahead you’ll come to another lookout point, this one dedicated to the humpback whales that migrate down from Alaska to the Hawaiian Islands every year during mating season. Whale watching season runs from November to May. At this lookout point you’ll find a couple of viewfinders to get a closer look at the whales.
It’s also around this point that you can find the trail down to the Makapuu Tide Pools sitting at the bottom of the cliff. Be careful though, the pools are technically closed and a rogue waves hitting the pools have resulted in deaths before. But if you decide to make your way down it’s a great place to hang out and watch the waves crash against the rocks.
As you continue on the trail when you’ll almost at the top you’ll see another fork in the road. If you go right onto the dirt path you can make your way down to some old structures.
As you continue on you’re finally at the top. You have your choice of 2 different viewing platforms. The platform to the left is the best in my opinion. From there you have incredible panoramic views from Oahu’s South Shore all the way up it’s Windward Coast, which is full of lush little islands right off the coast. While you’re looking up the coast you’re likely to see some hang gliders or parachute gliders as well.
But before you head back down, get some additional trail by heading to some old military pillboxes that are accessible from a dead-end road that branches off near where you turned to get to the viewing platforms. If you look up the hill you’ll see 3 pillboxes at the top of the mountain. The trek up is not well defined, and there’s multiple ways to the top. But the top, which is much less crowded, really has some of the best views of the hike.
There’s a parking lot off of Kalanianaole Hwy in front of the trailhead. When that fills up people park on the side of the road leading up to the parking lot.