Hike Makapu’u Lighthouse (scenic, easy and beautiful in East Hawaii)

If you are looking for an easy hike with fantastic views and a lighthouse in the end to check out then you should visit the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail on the east side of Oahu.

The trail is relatively easy to do with children or all multi-generational families and is completely paved all the way to the end where you will get wonderful views of the lighthouse below and a panoramic view of the coastline going through East Hawaii.

You’ll get to see fantastic views along the way of Koko Head, Waimanalo area and to the islands of Lanai and Molokai in the distance on clear days.

Scroll down for more details to visiting this easy and fun hike to Makapu’u Lighthouse

Directions to get to the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Directions to get to the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

From Waikiki, it is approximately 45 minutes to get to the parking lot area

Take the Kalanianaoli Hwy 1 heading south which eventually becomes Hwy 72

Follow H1 through the Koko Head Crater and past Sandy Beach heading to Makapu’u Point

Parking area

Turn into the Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline and enter the Kaiwi parking area which is free to park, but the parking area is relatively small so get here early or later in the day or wait your turn until a spot opens up.

Gate opens at 7am

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail FAQ

Is there a cost to hiking the Makapu’u trail?

The trail is free of charge to explore


How long does it take to hike the trail?

Depending on how many stops you take for pictures or just enjoying the views, a straight hike to the end takes about 90 minutes for each direction.

What to wear on the trail?

Even though many wear flip flops on the asphalt road, I would recommend sturdy shoes especially if you decide to do the more challenging downhill trail to the tide pools.

Wear comfortable loose clothing and a hat since the entire trail is open, sunny and exposed with no shelter.

What else to bring with you on this hike?

Make sure to bring sunscreen, water and even a binocular if you want to spot marine animals or some of the islands in the distance.

A little history on the Makapu’u Lighthouse

A little history on the Makapu’u Lighthouse

Makapu’u lighthouse sits on top of a 600-foot cliff on the southeastern tip of the island and was built in 1909. It was made to help ships navigate the local areas to the east and southern part of the island when sailing and maritime commerce started to take off during the 20th century.

The lighthouse is still active and used as a navigational tool for maritime activity and is unmanned and fully automated. During its construction, the lens used was the largest lens created during its timeframe.

Makapu’u Lighthouse trail information

The Makapu’u Lighthouse trail is less than 2 miles roundtrip on paved asphalt with just a small grade uphill towards the observation point. Total elevation gain on the hike is approx. 500 feet.

It only takes about 90 minutes for each direction to get to the observation look out point.

There is an additional hike down to the tidepool area and blowhole below and does take more time and is definitely more challenging.

The trail is exposed and mostly sunny so bring water and any cover ups or sunscreen for the hike.

If you are hiking with kids bring plenty of water and snacks to keep them cool and full.

This is also a great hike for sunrise or later in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset on the southern side of the island.

Makapu’u Lighthouse trail information

What to expect and attractions around Makapu’u trail

Once you get to the end of the trail, you’ll see the lighthouse below but visitors cannot actually get to the lighthouse.

There are fantastic views of Makapu’u beach and the coastlines of Waimanalo and the east side of the island to enjoy.

There are also old pillboxes in the area that you can see or even visit afterwards

Towards the hike up, there are tidepool areas and a blowhole that you can spot from the lookout point with telescopes. (This is also the start of the downhill trail to the tidepool area)

Check out the gorgeous sunrise visiting Makapu'u point area

Check out the gorgeous sunrise visiting Makapu’u point area

Exploring the tidepools at Makapu’u point

Exploring the tidepools at Makapu’u point

There is a small trail that starts from the lookout area (third rest stop with a sign that talks about the whales) with the metal scopes. Only take kids that are active and fit or anyone other adults can walk down the trail with loose rocks, pebbles and even some larger rocky areas to climb down on. This is a very steep trail so take your time and do wear sturdy shoes.

There are tidepools that people do swim in but take care to see if the water is rough and crashing into the pools which is dangerous to enter.

There is also a blow hole in the area that you can explore but do stay away at a safe distance to watch this natural activity.

Exploring the tidepools at Makapu’u point whale signage

What else to do in the area

Visit Makapu’u Beach Park

Visit Makapu’u Beach Park

A quick drive from Makapu’u Lighthouse, this is a good beach for picnics and hanging out to watch the surfers and bogey boarders ride the waves. The waves here are rough and breaks hard on the shore, so it is mostly a beach to hang out and enjoy the views.

Visit Sea Life Park

Visit Sea Life Park

A fun kid friendly environment where you can learn about local marine life and also enjoy the fun water activities and marine shows at various schedules. You can explore the park area and visit various attractions that are geared for family fun enjoyment.

Waimanalo Beach park

Waimanalo Beach park

A gorgeous coastline drive about 5 miles will take you to Waimanalo Beach Park which is one of the nicest beaches here on the east side with plenty of parking calm and clear waters to swim in. The beach is over 5 miles long so there are plenty of spots to hang out or just beach comb the whole beach area.

Check out our post to visiting Waimanalo beach here for more information and images.

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Hike Makapu’u Lighthouse
Hike Makapu’u Lighthouse

Conclusion on Hike Makapu’u Lighthouse

For East side fun, you’ll love explore all fun activities and attractions around the windward side to include Waimanalo, Lanikai and Kailua areas. Hope this gives you some great ideas of things to do and see around the town and outlying areas to visit.

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