Difficulty: BEGINNER (Intermediate with Tide pools)
Time: 1-2 HOURS
Distance: 2 MILES (3 MILES if go to lighthouse and tidepools)
Elevation Gain: 500 FEET
Foot Traffic: VERY HIGH
Challenges: Shadeless, Steep climb with loose rock to tidepools
Sights: Lighthouse, Pillbox, Tidepools, Blowhole, Waimanalo Coast, Koko Crater, Maui, Lanai, Molokai
What to Bring: Sunscreen, Water, Decent shoes if going to tidepools
This hike, located on the southern tip of Oahu is a very popular tourist destination, and with good reason. It offers beautiful views of the Windward coastline, Koko Head Crater, and a lighthouse. On clear days, you can see the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai in the distance. While this hike has a nice paved path with a gradual incline to the top lookout point, there is a lot more to explore here. Go down the side of the cliff to see some beautiful (and dangerous) tidepools as well as a blowhole. You can go off the beaten path to get a closer look at the lighthouse and even find one of the many pillboxes on the island. The choice is yours at Makapu'u.
I had done the easy Makapu'u hike (almost more of a stroll than a hike) many times. However, I had never really ventured off the paved path to explore the other gems such as the pillboxes or the tidepools. What better time to do so than a Saturday morning!
***Update 7/15/17- I returned a different Saturday Morning with a better camera to take some higher quality pictures and to do a little more exploring. This post is a combination of both hikes.
Here's what my hike looked like. This gives you a rough idea of where the tidepools are located. If you go during the day, you will likely see people down there, so it shouldn't be too hard to find.
My first adventure started early as I got to Makapu'u at 530 am. My goal was to get down to the tidepools so I could see the sunrise from sea level. Having never actually been to the tidepools, going down a rocky cliff in the dark may not have been the smartest idea, but I was committed. I took the paved path to the place where I new the tidepool access began.
The path down to the tidepools is just behind this sign. The path will veer left. This being my first time doing this, I did not know this. I went right...
This led to a lot of unnecessary rock climbing down some sharp and steep rocks. Luckily, I am used to climbs like this so it didn't bother me. Like I said, I can't recommend going down to the tidepools for the first time in the dark.
I made it down to the tidepools with plenty of time to set up before sunrise. I made sure to check the surf report and tides the night prior. This place can be VERY DANGEROUS. People have died here from the powerful waves. A good rule of thumb is to never turn your back to the ocean. Luckily the day I went, it was low tide and a calm day so I had less to worry about.
It wasn't a perfect sunrise by any means, but it was still impressive. I was the only person at the tidepools watching the sunrise. Being down there alone with the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks as the world illuminated in front of me was a great feeling.
I also had coffee which made the experience that much better. Yes, I brought a ceramic mug for the sunrise. I'd say 50% of the reason I did this is because I prefer drinking out of a mug. The other 50% was for the insta opportunity ;)
After I had gotten my fill of the sunrise, I wandered around the tidepools, looking for some good shots. Here's a closer shot of the waves crashing up against the rocks.
And another of the lighthouse in the distance. We will get a closer look of that later.
There was even a bit of wildlife down here.
Here's a shot of one of the larger tidepools. People typically come down to swim and relax in these pools.. Today, I was just here to explore and take some pictures.
For me , the best part of the tidepools were the two blowholes, called the "Dragon's Nostrils." I have seen a few blowholes since moving here, but these were my favorite. They were much farther inland than any I'd seen before. You can feel and hear the water rushing beneath the rocks just before geyser begins to spout. It kind of reminded me of the way you feel a subway train before it arrives in the station. It was really cool.
It was time to continue exploring. I made sure to take the right path up this time. The hike back up from the tidepools is pretty steep. I was sweating pretty good by the time I made it up.
It's pretty easy to follow the path up. There isn't a marked trail or anything, but you can simply follow the natural trail of the land, beaten down by many people before you.
Before long, I was back on the path. Here's a shot of the tidepools from the path.
It was time to take the path to the "summit" of Makapu'u. I'm typically averse to crowded and touristy hikes, but I actually like Makapu'u. The trail is nice and wide and the views are awesome the entire time so it helps you forget how many people are around you.
This is why people come all the way up here. The view of the southern part of the windward coast is pretty unbeatable. You can see so many of the small islands off the coast of Oahu and the color of the water is gorgeous, even on a cloudy day.
Here's a photo from my more recent adventure at Makapu'u. Rainbows are more or less commonplace in Hawaii, but I never get tired of them.
Ah the lighthouse. It looks so beautiful up here. But let's take a closer look.
If you head back down the path about a quarter mile, you will see a path off to your left (right if you're heading to the summit). This is the path to the lighthouse.
You will eventually reach this fence that makes you think you probably shouldn't be here. If they really wanted to stop people, the gate would be locked. But as always, enter at your own risk. I will agree with that other sign though. Falling does suck.
Something about this lighthouse, the white fence, and the cliff made me feel like I was on some European coast, not Hawaii.
I decided these were signs I should probably adhere to.
But that didn't mean I couldn't stick my hand through the fence and snag a quick picture or two.
Last up, the pillboxes! There are two places to find them. The first is located on the hill just above the "summit." It's a short little climb to get up there.
But the views up there are totally worth it (plus a bonus of no crowds).
Of course the pillboxes themselves have seen better days...
The other pillbox is located just beyond the whale sign where the path that leads to the tidepools is located. This path heads right along the cliff and goes uphill. It's likely you will see some people standing on top of it.
Time to get ready for the invasion.
Pillboxes are always a great spot for the local artists to practice their craft.
Pillboxes are also a great lookout point for better views. Here you can see both Koko Head Crater and even Diamond Head Crater in the distance.
Despite the heavy crowds, Makapu'u has a lot more to offer than just the path to the summit. There's so many different ways to experience this place. I'm sure I will be back again.
Check out my video of this pleasant morning at Makapu'u!
Have you strolled the Makapu'u Lighthouse trail? Share your story below!
Also Check Out:
- Pineapple Project's post about Makapu'u and the Dragon's Nostrils
- Hawaii State Park's website with information about Makapu'u
- Lighthouse Friends post with history of the Makapu'u Lighthouse