Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail
Photo Credit: Kelvin Lu
Kaiwi sunrise 2012

Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION FOR KAIWI STATE SCENIC SHORELINE – MAKAPU‘U

Due to the anticipated continued high surf on east facing shores of O‘ahu being generated from Tropical Storm Celia and Hurricane Darby, until further notice all park users who visit Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline -- commonly referred to as Makapu‘u -- should stay out of the water at the tide pools below the Makapu‘u lighthouse.

Periodically, very large waves break and sweep over the rocks flooding the tides pools, followed by a strong returning surge that pulls the water back over the sharp rocks and out to sea. Members of the public in the tide pools during these conditions have been swept out to sea and have drowned.

The public should not go into the tide pools during these conditions, and should stay far back from the water and view the area from safe distance on dry land. Only during calm seas and when the rocks around the tide pools are dry, and after careful observation of wave patterns should one consider entering the pools.

Any social media that recommends access to the water during high surf conditions is irresponsible and should be ignored. This area is remote and isolated, and in event of emergency, responders will either have to hike in, fly in or approach by water craft.

All park users must heed the park’s posted warning signs referring to “Waves break on ledge” as a reminder that these conditions may randomly occur without adequate time to exit the tide pools.

Trail Length 2.0 miles (round trip)
Activity Pedestrian
Difficulty Moderate
Terrain Hot, Dry Slopes
Elevation Gain 500 ft
Park Name Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline

Description

The Makapu‘u Point trail, within Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, offers outstanding views of O‘ahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. From the trail’s destination at Makapu‘u Head, one is rewarded with magnificent views of the windward coast and offshore islets, as well as the historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse built in 1909, which makes a stunning picture against the deep blue sea below (the lighthouse itself is off-limits). On a clear day, you may even see Moloka‘i and Lana‘i. The offshore islets are wildlife sanctuaries for Hawaiian seabirds, such as the ‘iwa, frigate bird, and tropicbird. This trail is an excellent place to view migrating humpback whales in season (November – May). Binoculars are suggested for viewing the whales and seabirds. An interpretive sign and viewing scope along the trail help you view and identify the whales seen from this location.

This portion of the island tends to be hot and dry and the vegetation includes low-growing kiawe and panini (cactus). The trail is exposed and is usually sunny and hot. It can be very windy at the summit. A hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water are recommended. Give yourself about 2 hours to enjoy this hike and it’s wonderful views.

Route

A parking area offers access to the trailhead. Follow the trail as it climbs up the western side of the ridge. Upon reaching the top of the ridge (about the halfway point), the trail switches back to the north, following the eastern side of the ridge. At this point it levels out somewhat, but still climbs gradually to the summit, where a pair of guard-railed lookouts offer panoramic vistas. To return, retrace your route.

Directions

The park and trailhead are located off of the Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) at the southeastern-most point of Oahu. 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. From the windward side, take the Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) southeast beyond Kailua, Waimanalo, and Makapu‘u Beach Park, after which the road climbs up toward Makapu‘u Head. The park will be on the left side of the highway.

Additional Info

  • Stay on the trail.
  • Pack out at least what you pack in.
  • No open fires.

UPDATE 2/3/16 – Repairs and Improvements to the Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail

THE MAKAPUʻU LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL IS OPEN

UPDATE 2/3/2016. The repaving of the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail was completed in October 2015. Several of the new viewing areas and rest benches along the trail are finished, including the placement of interpretive signs and viewing scopes. Renovation of the uppermost lookout continues and this lookout, plus 2 of the viewing areas, remain closed until the new railings are installed in March. The trail and completed viewing areas will remain open and accessible during this final phase of construction.