I’m so excited to share with you one of my favorite trails here on Oahu today. I hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail as often as I can because these views never get old.
At only two miles-round trip, The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail in Waimanalo is a short but beautiful trail. Located on the most southeastern point of Oahu, you will see stunning views of the Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline, Oahu’s southeastern coastline including Koko Head, and, of course, the historic lighthouse. Although the actual lighthouse is closed to visitors, it makes a gorgeous backdrop against the clear blue sea.
Two years ago, the trail was repaved, and new lookout points were put in. Since this trail is entirely paved and short, this is a hike that you can squeeze in fairly quickly during a busy trip to Hawaii. Plus, you get stunning views the entire way up, not just at the end. I think that this trail is a must-do, and once you see the pictures of the trail, I think you will feel the same way.
What to Bring
The southeastern point of Oahu is drier and warmer than other parts of the island. Cacti are growing along the trail! In addition to it being hot and dry, there is no shade on this trail. So, you will need to bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of water. If you like, bring a snack to enjoy at the top. Even though the trail is paved, it does get steep as you gain 500 feet in elevation, so wear sneakers.
And, of course, don’t forget your camera. Throw it all in a backpack so that you don’t have to carry it while you are hiking.
There are no drinking fountains and no restrooms on this trail, so make sure to plan accordingly.
When to Go
Because it’s so hot and sunny here, you will want to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon when it’s the coolest. If you are in Hawaii during whale season (November-May), this trail should be on your “must-do” list because you can often see whales from this trail. I’ve seen people bring blankets and sit up there watching the whales.
Getting there and Parking
The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is not hard to find. It is located off of Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72). From Honolulu, take the H1 freeway east until it becomes Highway 72. Follow the road beyond Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, and Sandy Beach Park until you reach the park area adjacent to the highway on the right side.
The parking lot is free (looking for other free things to do on Oahu? Click here!). I’ve never had a hard time parking, but this is a very popular trail. Another reason to get here early is to get a parking spot.
Hiking the Trail
Since the trail is paved, you will see many families, children, dogs, and even some parents pushing strollers along this trail.
However, certain parts are steep, and even though it’s only about a mile each way, I frequently stop to take breaks, drink water, cool off, and soak up the views.
What to Look For
The views change quickly. As you begin the trail, you will see Koko Head to your right, along with a beautiful rocky coastline.
The view will soon change to water. This is a prime whale-watching spot during the winter months.
The lookout spots along the way help you enjoy the views. Do not veer off of the trail. It might be tempting, but the trail is paved and maintained for safety reasons.
As you continue up, you will see another lookout spot, where binoculars help you see boats and, of course, whales.
Keep walking, and you will get your first glimpse of the lighthouse.
Right as you get to the top lookout points, look for a plaque that is dedicated to nine naval aviators who crashed nearby in 1942.
And once you get all the way to the top, enjoy those views. Stay up here as long as you like and soak it all in. You earned it.
In the Area
Since the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is about 30 minutes from Waikiki, you will probably want to make the most out of your time on the southeast side of the island. On Kalanianaole Highway, there are some beautiful lookout spots to stop at, including Makapuu Lookout (located right next to the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail), Halona Blowhole Lookout, and Lanai Lookout.
About 10 minutes from the trail is Kona Brewing Company, a great place to go for lunch with beautiful views of a marina. The food is delicious, and you can try beer from the Kona Brewing Company that you don’t find in the supermarket or other places.
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