12 Jun Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike and Tidepools – Oahu, Hawaii
The Makapu’u Lighthouse trail is one of the most accessible and popular hiking paths on Oahu. The lookout is one mile each way on a wide, freshly paved path where you can enjoy stunning views of the ocean and Koko Head.
The wide, paved path up to the look out with a lower, dirt trail down below to the coastline.
In addition to the main Makapu’u hike, there are a number of other trail options. Instead of heading up the paved path from the parking lot, you can take the flat dirt road to the right and head straight to the coast. Toward the top of the main paved pathway, there are a few side trails to explore as well, including one leading down to some pretty impressive tidepools (more on that below).
When we last did the hike (May 2017), they were starting to construct bathrooms at the top of the hill. And the trail out to the lighthouse itself has been closed for a while, so you can’t get up close to it, but you can see it from the main path and from the final look out.
The paved trail is extremely straight forward. The only things you need to know is that it gets crowded and hot, so it’s really best to go first thing in the morning. We have often seen the parking lot overflowing by mid-day, even in the middle of the week.
Rewarding views at the summit
The way to the tidepools starts near the top of the main trail. When you’re walking up, there’s a look out point on the right side of the path. Next to the look out spot is a sign warning about high waves and the rocky path starts right there, on the left side. You can’t really see the tidepools below until you get further down the path.
Enter the path to the tidepools between the sign and the rock wall
Hikers making their way down the rocks to the tidepools
Getting down to the tidepools takes quite a bit more agility and should be done in closed-toed shoes. There is not a maintained trail, although you can kind of follow where the rocks are lighter in color and there are occasionally white arrows spray painted on the rocks. Step carefully and find a way down that you’re comfortable with.
As you’re approaching the tidepools, there’s a blow hole to the left that sprays and roars when waves come in at just the right angle. Some of the rocks in the tidepools do get slippery when wet, and the waves crashing over the reef can come in surprisingly far. It’s a really amazing place to experience, but you have to be very careful about where you go. I would stay a good 50 yards from the edge and stick to the innermost tidepools if you’re swimming.
Tips for Makapu’u Lighthouse and Tidepools
- Go early to get parking and avoid mid-day sun
- Bring sunscreen and water
- If visiting the tidepools, wear sturdy shoes
- Strollers, dogs, and jogs are all OK here
- Bring binoculars to watch for whales! (Nov – May)
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