MAKAPU’U TOM TOM TRAIL IS MOST UNDERRATED HIKE ON OAHU
Also known as the Makapu’u Tom Tom Trail, this is one of the most underrated hikes on Oahu due to its spectacular views of the beach from perilously steep cliffs.
** 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.
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 view quality/effort ratio is unmatchable on the island.
How to get to 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.
You might also be interested in one of the most popular blog posts I’ve written: TOP 10 HIKES ON OAHU
Makapu’u Tom Tom Trail distance/length
This is an out and back hike and some of the best views come very early in the hike so depending on how energetic you are feeling it can be as short as a 2-mile hike. The total out and back hike is a 6.6-mile hike. If you just want to see the Tom Tom Trail Puka it is probably about 3-4 miles out and back.
What to expect on the Tom Tom Trail!
The first 15 minutes of the hike are steep and full of regretfulness. However, after those first painful 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.
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. I would tell you not to do anything stupid but how could you really listen to me after the two photos above. 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.
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, including my lazy self, turned back after reaching the Puka.
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 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 hopefully snapped the moment they were searching for.
No harm in creating a moment whether you did actively participate in it or not. I have to appreciate the creative effort. Maybe I found it so funny because I have done similar things in the past, not necessarily putting a tent up but creating false scenarios. Once again I have nothing against posing for a shot but we thought the whole scene was great entertainment and was thinking you guys might like a real moment from our morning hike… rather than our own posed photos.
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. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island.
Why I recommend this hotel: It has its own private lagoon. While lots of people love the beach it is perfect for families. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries. There are no currents, waves or sea creatures to worry about. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach so don’t worry the beach is right there also.
Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.
Why I recommend this hotel: The Sheraton is always exceptional no matter the location but imagine you are leaning over the edge of an infinity pool, the ocean is below you and you turn to your left and watch Diamond Head crater in the distance. That’s where you will be at the end of each day, having a Mai Tai cocktail in your infinity pool. Later on, in the evening Rumfire is a great bar venue, which is actually part of the Sheraton. It is open to the public and is one of the best high-end venues on Oahu. It has a small dance floor but is mostly standing and seating areas for drinks, chats and good times.
Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.
Why do I recommend this hostel/hotel: This is the perfect hotel if you want location but are willing to sacrifice a pool and some luxury items to save up to $200 per night. All of the hotels in this area are minimum $300 per night and often much more. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway. Didn’t you come halfway across the world to swim in the beach!
Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.
Why I recommend this hostel: Unfortunately Waikiki and Honolulu, in general, are not cheap. You can grab a dorm room for under $35 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach. This location really is great. You are near a lot of attractions and can take public transport to a lot of great east coast beaches and hikes. It is the number one hostel in Waikiki and I’m sure you will meet other adventurers to go on hikes with!
Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.
Why I recommend this hotel: Disney Aulani Resort combines luxury accommodation with family fun. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind. The kids club and massage center are just among a few of the many activities included in your stay. Attend ukelele lessons, free fire-pit story-telling at night and more and more! Your kids will never be bored and the quality of entertainment and facilities is just beyond amazing.
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 AND WHY
A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?
Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018
The best Waterfalls: 11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII
The Best Hikes on Oahu: 10 BEST HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII
My favorite experience on Oahu: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII
The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU – THE BUCKET LIST