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MAKAPU’U TOM TOM TRAIL IS THE MOST UNDERRATED HIKE ON OAHU

MAKAPU’U TOM TOM TRAIL IS THE MOST UNDERRATED HIKE ON OAHU

Known as the Makapu’u Tom Tom Trail or the Tom-Tom Trail, this is one of the most underrated hikes on Oahu due to its spectacular views of the beach from the steep cliffs.

** Tom Tom Trail is technically closed to the public and there have been instances of police giving citations at the bottom. With the above knowledge, whether you pursue this trail or not is up to you. It is important to note that many of the good hikes on Oahu are closed to the public because of liability issues and other land-rights-type topics rather than the trail safety itself being a huge issue.

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MAKAPU’U TOM TOM TRAIL ON OAHU, HAWAII

This is possibly the most underrated trail on Oahu. After living in Hawaii for almost two years I only decided to do this hike during my final week and then I did it twice that week! It has the most amazing sunrise and the short hike for the incredible view make it well worth the effort.

In this blog post, I will share with you all of the details you need in order to enjoy this hike such as distance, incline, best viewpoints along the way, where to park, the best time of day, photo opportunities, and other attractions nearby.

Makapu’u Tom Tom Trail Details

  • Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 11.3km
  • Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 4 hours up and down
  • Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 1,113m
  • Hike Difficulty: This hike has a very high amount of incline and is often near large drops. It is for experienced hikers due to distance, incline, and terrain.
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THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS

How to get to the Tom Tom Trail

You will need to begin from the Makapu’u Lookout parking lot and cross the road. From there you follow the fence either inside or outside it doesn’t matter the fence will end in a few hundred yards and there are holes throughout it. To the left of the fence is safer but some of my favorite vantage points came early on in the trail if you venture right. Be careful either way.

I’ve added a pin location to the map below showing where to park in the Makapu’u Lookout parking lot. If it’s full you can park further down the hill in the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail parking lot.

MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE MAKAPU’U TOM TOM TRAIL

After setting off from the Makapu’u Lookout, the first 15 minutes of the hike are steep. You make your way alongside the fence, through the long grass up the hill. However, after those first steep moments, you are walking along the edge of the cliff for the rest of the trail. You can peer over at the Makapu’u Lighthouse and check the surf conditions at Makapu’u Beach. We could even watch a dolphin show with our bird’s eye view of Sea Life Park.

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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.

What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my 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.

For those Puka fans out there, this one will not disappoint. This hole is beautiful and can make a nice frame for photos. The rock formations along this hike are all actually very interesting but not all were perfectly stable, so take some serious care if you are getting close to the edge for a view or photos. If you didn’t get enough Puka on this hike, head to the Pali Puka hike just off the Pali Highway for one of the most epic views on the island.

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While you can hike all the way through to Waimanalo (maybe leave a second drop car there so you don’t have to walk back), most of the people I know turned back after reaching the Puka or shortly thereafter.

Sunrise at Tom Tom Trail

If you weren’t convinced about this hike already, here is one more reason for you to consider it, but it might have you getting out of bed at a ridiculous hour. Start walking up the trail with a phone light or torch about an hour before sunrise. Sit wherever you can find a comfortable rock, ponder your thoughts with some coffee or a snack and wait for the sun to rise over the ocean, lighting up Makapu’u beach and revealing the lighthouse.

I took a timelapse for sunrise at this very spot and just sat and enjoyed the sunrise as the camera snapped away. Wow, I know everybody heads to the Lanikai Pillbox hike for sunrise but why crowd around with 50 other people when you have a rock sofa on a cliff all to yourself! Skip to 3:36 to see the sunrise timelapse from this hike.

 

A funny story from the Makapu’u Tom Tom Trail

You know who you are! I can’t say I have never posed for a photo or set up a shot… I definitely have. However, this story was too funny to watch unfold.

My hiking partner Uriel and I sat at the top of the cliff relaxing, time-lapse snapping, coffee being brewed. No-one else was to be seen and the sun was set to rise in 15 minutes. All of a sudden a couple appears on the first lookout of the hike, roughly 15 minutes from the bottom. We thought to ourselves that we weren’t the only ones who were about to enjoy a great sunrise.

All of a sudden a red tent is being assembled. In a matter of minutes there it is a bright red tent sitting atop the lookout ready for a good night sleep… Oh, wait! Here is the man running up the cliff. What is he doing now? He seems to be holding a camera.

The woman is standing beside the tent and as the sun creeps over the horizon he snapped the moment they were searching for. She had just woken from a great night camping in the wild.

No harm in creating a moment whether you did actively participate in it or not. I have to appreciate the creative effort. Just a reminder.. don’t believe everything you see on social media!

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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!

HOLD UP! Are you sure you’re ready to start hiking and traveling? GET INSURED FIRST!

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Don’t wait for an accident to happen, Get insured. I fractured an ankle halfway through a multi-day trek and had THOUSANDS covered by through insurance claim.

I’ve been using World Nomads and SafetyWing for the past 6 years. I’ve made successful claims with both and found them professional, helpful, and reliable but most importantly.. cheap! I trust them both. World Nomads is great for travel up to two months and SafetyWing is perfect for long-term travel.

To find out why I choose World Nomads and SafetyWing, check out my review: Best (Cheap) Travel Insurance or get a quote below.

Kehau Bishop

Wednesday 13th of April 2022

I should add, you have posted here several pictures of yourself breaking the law. The statute of limitations has not passed. These pictures can be used as evidence of your crime in court. You should probably take them down.

Kehau Bishop

Wednesday 13th of April 2022

There’s a good reason this trail is closed. It’s very rude to trespass on private property. It’s even worse to sneak onto private land then encourage others to do the same. Because of arrogant people like you, we’ve had to hire a full time security guard. Police will be arresting trespassers. The penalty is $1000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.

6 Easy Hikes on Oahu | Things to Do | Hawaii Travel with Kids

Thursday 5th of December 2019

[…] you do not want the challenge of trails like Tom Tom and prefer an easier hike, or would like to hike a trail that can be explored safely with kids, […]

Lealyn

Wednesday 21st of August 2019

Hi! I really don't get the story about the red tent and it's driving me crazy! Maybe I am slow? Will you please explain it to me in further detail? Thank you! i really appreciate it! Definitely going to check out this hike! Amazing!

Jackson

Friday 28th of February 2020

It was just a story about watching an Instagram couple set up a fake camping photo.

Nicholas Koterbay

Thursday 25th of July 2019

This hike is definitely not worth the trouble. A hiker died back in 2015 falling 500 feet on this trail. It is illegal now to hike up it. Police sit at the bottom of the trail waiting for people to come back down daily and issue citations to appear in court. I would recommend never attempting to go up this trail. There are plenty of other legal and safer trails all throughout Oahu that you can enjoy.

Kehau Bishop

Wednesday 13th of April 2022

@Jackson, jay-walking on a public road cannot be compared to criminal trespass on private land. Those “people in suits” actually own this land or lease it. I’m sure you would not like to have your apartment broken into and walked through all day long. That’s the issue. You might someday comprehend the concept of private property and why it’s bad to trespass.

Jackson

Friday 26th of July 2019

Post has been updated with the following. Remember it is illegal to jay-walk but I'm sure we have all done that. Some rules are made by people in suits who haven't had a proper adventure in a decade.

** Tom Tom Trail is technically closed to the public and there have been instances of police giving citations at the bottom. The situation is the same at Stairway to Heaven. The hike is not very dangerous in my opinion although there has been one fatality in the last five years. With the above knowledge, whether you pursue this trail or not is up to you. It is important to note that many of the good hikes on Oahu are closed to the public because of liability issues and other land-rights type topics rather than the trail itself being a huge issue.