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On Walkabout At: Makapu’u Lighthouse, Hawaii

Basic Trail Information

  • Name: MakaPu’u Lighthouse Trail
  • Where: Oah’u, Hawaii
  • Distance: 2.0 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 1.5 hours round-trip
  • More Info: Hawaii State Parks Website for Makapu’u

Topographic Map of the Trail

Narrative

A walk I highly recommend to anyone visiting the Windward Coast of Oahu is to take a couple of hours and visit the Makapu’u Point State Wayside and walk up the park’s hill to its lighthouse.  This state park is located on the southeastern shores of the island and just a short drive up the Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) from Honolulu.  From the state park’s parking area there is a paved trail that leads up to the summit of a craggy seaside cliff that provides one of the best views on all of Oahu:

Unfortunately for me the day I visited the park it was raining heavily at the start of my hike.  Understanding that this is after all Hawaii and rain can disappear just as quickly as it appeared I proceeded up the mountain anyway.  Despite the rain I was rewarded with this beautiful view of a rainbow that stretched across the valley in front of me:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

As I continued up the trail suddenly the clouds parted, the rainbow was gone, and I had a beautiful view of Koko Head Crater and the southeastern shore of Oahu in front of me:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

Down below me traffic zoomed down the Kalanianaole Highway made famous in the television series Magnum P.I.:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

The highway crosses the entire southeastern section of this Hawaiian Island and is really quite a beautiful drive:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

As I continued up the trail it was quite obvious how popular this trail is because there was quite a few people hiking up the trail ahead me despite all the rain that was falling earlier:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

It was a bit interesting as I reached the high portion of the hill to see that cactus had taken root all along the ocean side of the hill:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

Eventually the Makapu’u Lighthouse came into view:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

This lighthouse was first built in 1909 to warn approaching boats of the treacherous cliffs on this side of the island.  Up until 1974 when the lighthouse was automated it had to be manned at night by an operator.  The trail doesn’t actually end at the lighthouse since it is off limits, but on a bluff above it:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

What was interesting about the bluff was that it had a number of bunkers and anti-aircraft artillery positions used historically to protect the island from air attack:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

The bluff offered absolutely beautiful views of this section of Oahu.  For example directly in front of the bluff was Manana Island, the largest, and Kaohikaipu Island that are protected bird sanctuaries:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

 

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

Looking towards the North I could see a little bit of the Windward Coast but unfortunately most of it was obscured in clouds, I am sure the view would probably be tremendous on a clear day.  From the bluff I did have a clear view of the lighthouse below me:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

The red roof of the lighthouse in contrast to the deep blue ocean makes for some great pictures:

Picture of Makapuu Lighthouse.

The bluff is supposed to also provide views of passing whales but unfortunately I did not see any when I visited.  The bluff on a clear day is even supposed to provide a distant view of the neighboring island of Molokai.  Unfortunately the clouds obscured any view of Molokai.  However, I was more than enough pleased with the views I did get and the next time I am on Oahu I will have to hike this trail again on a clearer day to see everything I missed.

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