The Makapu’u tide pools are one of the most beautiful spots on Oahu, Hawaii, and unlike a lot of tourist hotspots, this one is a little off the beaten track. In fact, each week thousands of people walk past the tide pools while hiking along the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail without even knowing they missed one of the coolest spots on Oahu.
MAKAPU’U TIDE POOLS ON OAHU
There are two ways to get to Makapu’u tide pools. You can scramble down the rocks from the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail OR you can scramble along the rocks all the way from Alan Davis Beach/Pele’s Chair. I’ve tried both and will share the pros and cons of each method as well as give you all the information necessary for a fun and safe visit to these great Oahu tide pools.
How to get the Makapu’u Tide Pools
Option 1: The Simple route
The most common way to reach the tide pools is to scramble down the rocks. To do this you park your vehicle in the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail parking lot and begin walking up the paved trail. It’s not a tough trail but it will start have you sweating and breathing hard for about 30 minutes. About 2/3 of the way along the trail you will notice a bit of a cove on your right-hand side as you look down over the edge.
Also lookout for a whale watching signboard in this area. Then you simply scramble down the rocks. It’s not dangerous at all and is just like a natural scattered staircase. Bring shoes for protection unless you live the island flip flop life. As you begin to make your way down you will get your first view of the tide pools. You will ascend the same way up the rocks to leave and can check out the lighthouse and viewpoint while you are there. It’s only another 5-10 minutes so you may as well!
Option 2: The scenic adventure route
If scrambling down the rock face wasn’t adventurous enough for you, fear not there is another way. Park your car in the Makapu’u Lighthouse Parking lot but this time doesn’t take the Lighthouse trail. Head to the right of the trail along the dirt path that leads into the bushes. Walk for 15 minutes and you will arrive at Alan Davis Beach and the rock formation called Pele’s Chair. There are a couple of cliff jump spots here and it’s a cool beach so you may want to chill here for a bit.
Once you are ready to continue to the Makapu’u tide pools, wrap back along the coast to the left (Back towards the parking lot but on the other side of the cliff). You really do want shoes for this one because it is a decent little trek of about 45 minutes or so. Be careful doing this coastal walk if the tide is in, high and the waves are rough. The day I went was fine but as always I am writing a guide from my experience and you need to use your best judgment to stay safe. Along the way, we passed under huge overhangs and even found some private tide pools before reaching the main area we know as ‘the’ Makapu’u Tide Pools. Pretty much just keep cruising along the coast towards the lighthouse until you reach the pools.
BEST RENTAL CAR COMPANY IN HAWAII
Makapu’u Tide Pools Map
Conveniently the pools are on Google Maps but the site has its limitations and doesn’t tell you these two ways to access, which is why I detailed both. Beware there are two listings on Google Maps but the one nearest the lighthouse is the go.
Sunrise at Makapu’u Lighthouse and Makapu’u Tide Pools
I think the best time to hit the Makapu’u tide pools or Makapu’u Lighthouse is for sunrise. Likewise, if you do the Tom Tom Trail, which is just behind Makapu’u Beach and overlooks the whole stretch of coast. It’s one of the top hikes on Oahu. The sun rises right out over the ocean as it is on the east side of the island. At sunrise not only will the place be peaceful but the colors of the sky will hopefully give you an awesome sunrise backdrop. The effect of the sunrise is intensified by the reflections of the tide pools.
Blowholes at the Makapu’u Tide Pools
The other awesome part about the tide pools I have so far forgotten to mention is the blowholes! Several blowholes/geysers shoot water up into the air intermittently as pressure grows below the surface. Depending on the tides and conditions water can shoot with huge force tens of meters into the air.
The Makapu’u tide pools are a great place to swim with some of the pools several meters deep, while others are quite shallow. Just be careful swimming in the pools nearest to the edge of the coast on days with a big swell. However, most of the pools are quite protected and you can usually find some sea stars, crabs and fish hanging out. Go check them out and have yourself a private natural pool party!
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