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Thanks to its easy 500-foot elevation and two-mile out-and-back route on a paved trail, the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is the perfect hike for beginners and seasoned hikers alike! Better still, the combination of breathtaking ocean views and the opportunity to see various wildlife makes it one of the most rewarding excursions on Oahu.

We’ve hiked the Makapu’u Point Trail more times than I can count, and it’s always a must-do whenever we’re on Oahu. The hike itself is gorgeous and short, with amazing views all around.

Regardless of what time of the year you book your Oahu vacation, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a must-add activity! Here’s all you need to know before planning your trek.

Makapuu Outlook Views

When To Do The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is part of the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline and does not have an entrance fee! It’s open year-round to visitors with the following hours:

  • Summer hours (April 1st through Labor Day): 7:00 am to 7:45 pm
  • Winter hours (begin the day after Labor Day): 7:00 am to 6:45 pm

Like many outdoor activities, it’s often recommended to plan your hike to coincide with the sunrise early in the morning or sunset in the evening.

Aside from being more comfortable temperature-wise, choosing one of these times will provide the extra magic of seeing the exquisite sights as the sky lights up with brilliant colors.

The sunset hike is particularly popular and is the perfect way to end a day of activity before returning to your Waikiki vacation condo for a relaxing evening.

If you are planning to hike early, you can reach it by car and park safely. We parked our car on the side of the road. Just a heads up—make sure you’re following all those parking signs.

If you’re up for a bit more driving, you can go a tad further and park in the Makapuu Point Lookout parking area. Once you halt here, you’ll not be disappointed by the stunning scenic view waiting for you at Makapuu Point. It’s perfect for snapping some killer photos of Makapu’u Beach down below.

So, once you’re done soaking in the sights, you’ll have to walk back down to the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail parking lot, where the trail starts winding back up the side of the mountain.


Makapuu Trail - Paved Path

What To Expect From Your Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Hike

The Makapuu Lighthouse hike is a moderate climb—nothing too crazy, just about 500 feet up to this awesome viewing platform.

When we checked it out, we even saw some older folks cruising up the trail with loads of energy—they were even outpacing us! So yeah, you can totally bring along the young ones, too, no worries.

So, now to the most important question: what can you expect from this hike?

Firstly, you will probably want to give yourself at least a couple of hours to complete the round trip. While you won’t need that much time to cover the 2 miles back and forth, there are plenty of spots for photo opportunities!

This area of the island also tends to be relatively hot and dry, so it’s always a good idea to plan for a leisurely hike. Some of the many key sights along the way include:

Makapuu Lighthouse

The Makapuu Lighthouse, an iconic feature of the trail, is a historic beacon offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean!

Built in 1909, this fully automated lighthouse is known for its large, red clamshell lens, one of the few of its kind left in the world.

Though visitors cannot enter the lighthouse, the path leading up to it provides numerous vantage points for breathtaking photographs, especially of the deep blue sea and the surrounding rugged terrain.

Views of Moloka’i and Lana’i

On a clear day, you might even be able to catch glimpses of the neighboring islands of Moloka’i and Lana’i from different points along the trail. These views add an extra touch to your experience, making it feel like you’re on top of the world.

See the Koko Crater

The Makapu’u Lighthouse hike will take about 30 minutes to reach the top. But guess what? Along the way, there are some awesome spots where you can check out the view.

So, as you start climbing, make sure to take your time and enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery towards Koko Head. It’s really something special.

Humpback Whale Watching

If you’re hiking during whale season (December-April), keep an eye out for humpback whales in the ocean below. These majestic creatures migrate to Hawaii each year and can often be seen breaching and playing in the waters off the coast of Makapuu.

Sea Life & Wildlife Sightings

Aside from humpback whales, the Makapuu trail is also a great spot to see other marine life on the coastline, such as dolphins and sea turtles. If you’re lucky, you may even spot monk seals basking on the nearby beaches or soaring seabirds in the sky — like ‘iwa, frigate bird, and tropicbird.

Tide Pools & Rock Formations

As you make your way along the trail, be sure to stop and view some of the tide pools and unique rock formations, such as the Makapu’u tidepools!

These areas are home to a variety of sea creatures, and their vibrant colors and interesting shapes make for great photo opportunities.

As you walk down the Makapu’u Tide Pools, you can stop by the Halona Blowhole, a famous rock formation located next to a sandy beach near Waikiki.

While it might be tempting to venture off the trail to explore these areas, you should always stay on the trail. Specifically, the tide pools are a CLOSED AREA and are considered very dangerous because of strong currents and waves.


Makapuu Lighthouse

How To Get To Makapuu

If you stay in one of our Waikiki vacation condos on Oahu, getting to the trail is about a 30-minute drive! If you don’t plan to rent a car, there are shuttles from Waikiki that will take you to the trail — like this one.

Either way, you will see the trailhead from the parking lot. The trail itself is the former access road for the lighthouse, making it very accessible and pretty wide. While it’s not overly steep when walking up the western side of the ridge, you will need to take care when walking back down.

So, if you’re heading to the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline Park to hit up the Makapu’u Point Trail, here are a few ways to reach the destination.

By your own Vehicle

The park is right down Highway 72, also known as the Kalanianaole Highway, at the southeastern tip of Oahu.

If you’re coming from Honolulu, just hop on the H1 east until it turns into Highway 72. Keep moving past Hanauma Bay and the Hawaiʻi Kai Golf Course until you spot the gate with the sign that says “Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline.”

From downtown Honolulu, it’s about a 25-minute drive covering roughly 15.8 miles.

If you’re coming from the south side of the island, like Kailua, you can take Highway 72 to Maunawili and follow it all the way to the park.

From Kailua, it’s a quick 20-minute drive covering about 10.1 miles. Boom, you’re there!

Through Shuttle Service

Don’t have a car or just don’t feel like driving? No worries—book a shuttle service!

There’s a shuttle from Waikiki area hotels with various pick-up times starting at 7 am. The ride will take you around South Oahu. You’ll also be taken to the Hanauma Bay Lookout, including a stop at the Halona Blowhole for some great photos and bottled water.

These spots fill up fast, so make sure to book ahead.

There’s also a shuttle for the Makapuu Lighthouse sunrise hike available. Pick-up is scheduled an hour and a half before sunrise.

Check the price and availability for the shuttle to the Makapuu Lighthouse trailhead now!


Makapuu Outlook

Our Top Tips For Enjoying The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is an epic experience about 15 miles from Waikiki! While you are sure to have a memorable time, here are six simple suggestions to take your enjoyment to the next level:

  • Pack water, as there are no drinking water stations on the route
  • Wear appropriate footwear even if it’s only a two-mile hike
  • Bring sun lotion and a hat
  • Don’t forget binoculars to take in the stunning views and wildlife
  • Enjoy the walk, scenery, wildlife, and relaxed vibes

Once you’ve completed this trail, you can take your Oahu stay to the next level by visiting the nearby Sea Life Park or checking out some of the best botanical gardens on the island!


 

FAQs

Are dogs allowed on the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail?

Yes, leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.

Is there an entrance fee for the trail?

No, there is no entrance fee for the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. It is free for all visitors to enjoy.

Are there any amenities along the trail?

There are no amenities such as water fountains or snack shops along the trail, so it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks and water.


Get, Set, Go!

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail offers an ideal hiking experience for both beginners and experienced hikers. Open year-round, this hike boasts stunning ocean views, historic landmarks like the Makapuu Lighthouse, and opportunities for wildlife sightings, including humpback whales during the season. With no entrance fee and accessible from various parts of Oahu, it’s a must-do activity.

Remember to bring water, wear proper footwear, and consider hiking during sunrise or sunset for an even more spectacular experience. Whether you’re capturing photos of the breathtaking landscape or simply enjoying the serene environment, the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail promises a memorable adventure.


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