The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is one of the most popular hikes on the island of Oahu for several reasons. This trail comes with a slice of history with the lighthouse, built-in 1909 standing at the most eastern point of Oahu. The second reason this trail has risen to popularity is that it is one of the few paved and well-maintained hikes on the island, making it possible for families, beginners, and non-hikers. Finally, Makapu’u Point Lighthouse is set on a 500-foot sea cliff and offers incredible views of the eastern coast of Oahu.
HIKING THE MAKAPU’U POINT LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL
In this blog post, I will share with you the details of the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail such as distance, incline, and duration. I’ll also help you out with where to park, the best time of day for the hike, how to spot whales from the viewpoint, and some tips for a great sunrise hike.
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MAKAPU’U LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 2.5 miles or 4km for an out and back return route.
- Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 1.5 hours with 10-15 minutes at the lighthouse to enjoy the view and hopefully spot some whales.
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 505ft or 153 meters but is relatively consistent in the incline with no aggressively steep sections.
- Hike Difficulty: This hike is one of the easiest on the island of Oahu due to the paved path and relatively short distance. Compared to many of the intense and wild hikes on Oahu, this is one for families and all levels of fitness.
HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD
I have pinned the exact location of the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trailhead below. From Waikiki, this drive will take you about 30 minutes depending on traffic. There is a public bus route passing through this side of the island but you can expect the journey to take well over an hour but it is a cheaper alternative to renting a car. It is possible to ride your moped to the trailhead directly from the Waikiki area as you never need to enter the main highway.
MAKAPU’U POINT LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL OPENING HOURS
The official opening hours for the trail open just before sunrise and close just after sunset each day. But you can always park out of the parking lot and miss the opening hours, which are specifically for the parking lot. The idea though is to have no one on the trail during the dark for safety, which is a fair call.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE MAKAPU’U POINT LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL
The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is one of the most popular and busiest hikes on the island. The first thing you need to do is grab a park. While there is lots of parking in the official parking lot, if it’s full you may need to park on the sides of the main road. Ensure you lock your car and take out all valuables because, unfortunately, it’s common for thieves to smash a window and steal your belongings while on the hike.
Known also as Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline Trail, you will find incredible views along the way of Makapu’u Beach, Koko Head, Molokai, Lanai, and the eastern coast of the island. Interestingly, the lighthouse marks the most eastern point on Oahu.
There’s only one trail on the island more popular than this one and it is the Diamond Head Crater Hike, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. There’s a long list of hikes to do on the island, but I’ve gone ahead and made a guide for the top easy hikes on Oahu, similar to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail.
The trail is paved for the entirety of the route, similar to the Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike, which is perfect for strollers and wheelchair access. For other hikers, it makes for easy walking so you can take in the scenery while on your ascent to the lighthouse viewpoint.
It’s a good idea to arrive early for this hike as there’s no shade along the route and that harsh Hawaiian sun can be piercing. I advise starting this one early after the gates to the main parking lot open at 7 am. If you want to start earlier or to make it a sunrise hike, just park out on the main road and walk-in.
Beginning from the parking lot, the trail winds up the path with a number of switchbacks. Views back towards Koko Head and Sandy Beach will appear on your right throughout this first series of switchbacks.
Once you rise over the crest, your attention should switch from the land to the ocean as you try and spot a humpback whale.
The next landmark to look out for is the Makapu’u Lighthouse, which was built in 1909. It’s technically off-limits to hikes due to trail degradation and safety issues but you will still have two clear opportunities to view it.
After about 30 minutes, you should reach the Makapu’u viewpoint where you can view the lighthouse and use several platforms to enjoy the scenery of Oahu’s eastern coastline. Down below you can watch the waves crash into Makapu’u Beach and veer up to see the cliffs where you’ll find the ‘off-limits’ Tom-Tom Trail and even the Three Peaks Hike in the distance.
HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST
Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you at least have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rain jacket, and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need. Below are my four Hawaii hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.
MAKAPU’U TIDE POOLS
After reaching the summit, you may want to visit the Makapu’u Tide Pools. While not part of the official hike and definitely much more intense than the paved trail, these tide pools are a sight to behold and a golden hour special. Many of the pools are big enough to swim in while often making for a beautiful sight providing reflections off their still surface.
WHALE WATCHING FROM THE MAKAPU’U POINT LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL
Every single year, from December to April, it’s a great time to be on the lookout for Humpback Whales in the oceans of Oahu. The whales are migrating from Alaska to Hawaii to give birth to their calves and can be spotted along the coastline throughout the winter months. Many tourists will pay for a whale-watching tour although all the locals know you can easily spot them from many coastal lookouts such as the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse.
There’s a mounted set of binoculars at the lookout but they are quite old and I would suggest bringing your own pair to scour the oceans. However, the whales are often close enough to the coast to spot with a naked eye.
MAKAPU’U POINT GUIDED TOUR
You don’t need a tour guide for the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail as it is quite a straightforward and well-marked route. However, there’s a way to enjoy the great views from Makapu’u Lookout aswell as lots of other great spots around the island (aswell as snorkel with turtles) on this great tour: HIDDEN GEMS OF OAHU TOUR
I hope you enjoyed this guide for the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail and have a great adventure out here on Oahu.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off)and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU