Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail: 5 Things To Know Before You Go

The Makapu'u Point Lighthouse on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

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The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse is located on the southeastern tip of Oahu along the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline. And it is one of the cutest little lighthouses I’ve ever seen!

Built in 1909 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, this lighthouse is still in use today. Though it stands at only 46 feet tall, its focal height is 420 feet because of its location on a huge cliff.

Its small size doesn’t deter it from packing a big punch. The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse has the biggest lens of any lighthouse in the U.S. The lens is over 12 feet tall and contains thousands of prisms that shine light for 19 miles!

The trail to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse is known as one of the easiest hikes on the island of Oahu. However, there are a few things to know before you go.

Is It Really Easy?

The 2-mile roundtrip hike is completely paved and it is always busy! We saw folks of all ages and sizes out on this hike. And though it is known as one of the easiest hikes on the island, the constant incline is exhausting.

At least for out of shape hikers like me!

I would label this hike as ‘moderately easy’. It is paved, so there are no rock scrambles or muddy, slippery hills to slide on. However, I had to stop and catch my breath several times on the way up. And for folks with knee issues, the walk down could be painful.

View of Koko Head from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.
(View of Koko Head from the beginning of the trail.)
(After making it to the top.)

Also, the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail has very little shade. So, wear sunscreen and bring water. (I read about a dog that died from heat exhaustion on this trail in September. If you’re bringing pets, bring extra water for them!)

What it lacks in shade, it makes up for in wind. It was very windy the day that we went and we didn’t get too hot at all. This is a great hike to do in the winter months!

The view heading down the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.
(There’s very little shade, but gorgeous views of the ocean!)
Views from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.
(We didn’t see any whales this day, but we definitely tried!)

You Can’t Go to the Lighthouse

Another misconception about the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is that you can go to the lighthouse. However, this lighthouse is still a working lighthouse run (remotely) by the U.S. Coast Guard. Thus, it is fenced off and is not open to the public.

You can see the lighthouse from 2 different viewing platforms, but you can’t go up to it or go inside it.

There is a small, unpaved trail that gets closer to the lighthouse. And I’ve seen some up-close shots of the lighthouse on different blogs that must have used this path. However, this trail was closed when we were there (February 2024) due to erosion that had washed away the fence. Who knows when or if it will reopen?

Honestly, I enjoyed the views of the coastline more than the views of the lighthouse. So, don’t let this deter you from going on this hike. It’s still worth it!

The Makapu'u Point Lighthouse on the Island of Oahu.
(You can see the dirt trail that leads to the lighthouse here, but it was closed.)
The Makapu'u Point Lighthouse on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii.
(View of the lighthouse from the viewing platform at the top/end of the trail.)
Views of Oahu's windward coast from Makapu'u Point.
(The views of the coast were absolutely stunning!)

The Tide Pools

You can find all kinds of blog posts that tell you how to get to the tide pools at the base of the cliffs on this hike. However, the trail and the tide pools are closed to the public and there are signs there stating that fact.

There have been several severe injuries and deaths at these tide pools in recent years. In 2016 a man and his 6-year-old daughter were swept out to sea and died while visiting the pools. A 21-year-old woman met that same tragic fate in 2021. In 2023, a 33-year-old man was rescued by helicopter after falling and injuring himself on the trail down to the tide pools.

“We’ve had countless numbers of incidents (at Makapu’u tide pools) over the years. Patients getting swept off. A lot of drownings.”

Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Makena Hart

We chose not to go to the tide pools and I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it to anyone. Several other tide pools on the island are safer to visit. Why take the risk here?

Whale watching from Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.
Views from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.

(The trail to the tide pools is beside the whale watching area with the binoculars.)

View of the tide pools from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.
(My iPhone wasn’t the best for this picture, but you can tell how far down this cliff that you have to hike to get to the tide pools. The people look like specks from the trail.)

Pele’s Chair

The lighthouse isn’t the only attraction at this location! While you’re here, take the time to check out Pele’s Chair.

Pele’s Chair is a rock formation that resembles a chair from afar. The closer you get to the formation, the harder it is to make out the chair shape.

According to Hawaiian legends, Pele is the volcano goddess that created the Hawaiian Islands. This giant chair made of lava rocks is said to be hers. Legend says that this is where Pele sat after she finished her work on Oahu before heading to the other islands.

You can get to Pele’s Chair from the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail parking lot. Instead of taking the paved trail to the lighthouse on the left, take the dirt trail on the right down to the beach. It’s a flat easy trail and you’ll see lots of cool plants along the way!

It was late by the time we finished the lighthouse trail, so we didn’t go down to see Pele’s Chair. But we’ll definitely be checking it out next time we’re on that side of the island.

(This photo is from Flickr as we only saw the chair from afar.)
Cactus flowers along the trail to the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse on Oahu.
(Cactus flowers along the trail!)
Plants along the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.
(Who knew there were so many cacti in Hawaii?)

Alan Davis Beach

What better way to end a hot hike than with a swim? We didn’t come prepared to swim the day we did the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. However, Alan Davis Beach is great place to relax after that long uphill walk.

Depending on the tide, you can also cliff jump. According to several different blogs, there were boards sticking out from the rocks that people used to jump from. However, it seems like those have been gone since 2022. Local kids still jump from the rocks when the tide is high enough, but as a scaredy cat, that’s not something I’m interested in.

We didn’t go down to the beach on this trip, but I hope to go back and check it out soon!

(The views along the lighthouse trail are 10/10!)
(At the top of the lighthouse trail.)

As you can tell, there is more to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail than just the lighthouse.

This was one of the first hikes we’ve done on the island. Not only do I want to come back to this one to see Pele’s Chair and Alan Davis Beach, but it has me ready to do more hikes! It also made me want to explore more of the windward side of the island. (Check out this post for an explanation of what windward and leeward mean on Oahu.)

I’ll never forget the beautiful views on this trail!

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