makapuu lighthouse trail

Explore Makapuu Lighthouse Trail on Oahu’s Southeast Coast

Discover the Beauty of Makapuu Lighthouse Trail on Oahu’s Southeast Coast. The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is an ideal destination for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. This moderately challenging trail boasts stunning views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline, offshore islets, and the historic Makapuu Lighthouse. With opportunities to view Hawaiian seabirds and migrating humpback whales, this hike is a must-visit for nature lovers.

Trail Information

  • Length: 2.0 miles (round trip)
  • Activity: Pedestrian
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Terrain: Hot with Dry Slopes
  • Elevation Gain: 500 ft
  • Park Name: Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline

Trail Description

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail offers outstanding views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head, Koko Crater, and offshore islets. The historic Makapuu Lighthouse, built in 1909, is visible from this trail, adding to its charm. Along the trail, you’ll find wildlife sanctuaries that are home to various Hawaiian seabirds. Additionally, from December through May, the trail serves as an excellent vantage point to view migrating humpback whales.

To ensure you make the most of your hike, be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water. The trail tends to be hot and dry, with low-growing vegetation providing little shade. It’s recommended to allow about 2 hours to fully enjoy the hike and take in the views.


To begin your hike, park at the trailhead parking area. The trail starts by climbing up the western side of the ridge and then switches back to the north at the halfway point. Though the trail levels out, it continues to climb towards the summit. Along the way, you’ll encounter a pair of guard-railed lookouts offering panoramic vistas. To return, simply retrace your route back down.

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The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is located off Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72). If you’re coming from Honolulu, take the H1 freeway east to Hwy. 72. From the windward side, take Hwy. 72 southeast. The parking area is on the left side of the highway.

Additional Info

While hiking the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, please remember to:

  • Stay on the trail
  • Pack out at least what you pack in
  • Refrain from starting open fires
  • Keep dogs on a leash
  • Bring plenty of water and sunscreen
  • Consider bringing binoculars for whale watching


Unfortunately, the trail is not accessible for visitors using wheelchairs or strollers due to stairs and very steep sections. The estimated average grade of the trail is steep to very steep.

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales can be spotted in the waters surrounding the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail from December through May. These mammoth sea mammals often put on graceful shows as mother whales teach their calves through play.

Location and Directions

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is located at the southeastern point of Oahu. The gate to access the parking lot opens at 7 am. If you arrive earlier, you can park on the roadside. To reach the trail, turn right onto Makapuu Lighthouse Road and enter through the open gate marked “Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline.”

Tide Pools and Blowhole

Exploring the tide pools and blowhole near the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail can be dangerous for inexperienced hikers and children due to loose gravel on steep hillsides and strong waves. The trail leading to these attractions is unmarked, but white arrows indicate the route to follow. Swimming in the tide pools can be dangerous, and the blowhole eruption can injure bystanders. If you do visit these attractions, be sure to follow the white arrows back to the main trail and pack out anything you brought down.

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Hiking Tours

For those interested in guided tours, there are half-day tours available that include visits to both the Makapu’u and Diamond Head trails. These tours typically include transportation and visit other nearby attractions such as Hanauma Bay.

Hiking Essentials

When embarking on your hike along the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, be sure to bring the following essentials:

  • Headlamp
  • Rain jacket
  • Hiking boots
  • Durable socks

With this comprehensive guide, you’re now well-equipped to explore the beautiful Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. Enjoy your hike and take in the stunning views that Oahu’s southeastern coastline has to offer!