The Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail in Oahu offers superb views!

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail: Oahu Lighthouse Hike & Sunrise – 2024

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Oahu.

With spectacular ocean views and a good chance of spotting marine life and birds, the out-and-back easy to low moderate trail is a wonderful hike to enjoy as a family and one of the best things to do in Oahu.

View from the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail in Oahu, Hawaii
Ocean views from the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail in Oahu

We’ve hiked the Makapu’u Point Trail more than once and it’s on our Oahu itinerary each time we visit the island. Especially if we visit in the winter, because it’s a prime whale-watching route.

The hike is beautiful, short, and not too difficult a climb, so for us it’s a no-brainer.

Spoiler alert: The lighthouse itself is off-limits!

Read on to discover how to hike the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, along with our tips for the best experience!

And if you are looking for other family-friendly hikes in Oahu, check out our in-depth guides to hiking the Manoa Falls Trail and the Diamond Head Summit Trail!

Planning your trip to Oahu? Check out our 2024 guide to the most popular tours and excursions in Oahu!

The picturesque Makapuu Point Lighthouse on Oahu
Snap photos of the picturesque Makapu’u Point Lighthouse from above!

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Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail: Fast Facts

Length: 2 miles round trip, out and back
Elevation change: 500 feet
Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate (the incline can be steep at times)
Pets: Dogs on leash allowed

Oahu Lighthouse Hike

If you are searching for the Oahu Lighthouse Hike, you are in the right place. Most likely you are looking for this Makapuu Lighthouse Trail hike.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Difficulty

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail difficulty is easy. It’s one of the best family-friendly hikes in Oahu, because the trail is fully paved and quite wide.

Although there is a steady climb to the top of the ridge, it is gradual enough that it’s comfortable for most visitors.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Length

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail length is about a mile each way, for a total of 2 miles round trip distance for the out-and-back hike.

There are views along the way, so if you don’t want to complete the entire hike, you can still walk as much of it as you can or can manage with your time constraints.

The walk back is much quicker, since it’s downhill.

The stunning Makapuu Lighthouse on Oahu, Hawaii
A view of the stunning Makapuu Lighthouse

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Elevation Gain

Most of the trail’s effort quotient is because of the elevation gain.

If you walk all the way to the top of the ride, you will have ascended about 500 feet from the bottom of the trail.

The incline is gradual much of the way, with some steeper sections, so it’s much more doable that some of the other hikes on Oahu.

We aren’t in the best shape, but the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is one we always put on our Oahu itinerary because it’s easy and the views are usually stunning.

What about kids and dogs on the Makapuu Lighthouse hike?

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is an excellent family-friendly hike on Oahu, so it’s a great choice if you are traveling with young kids that love to hike.

Since the trail is an old road and is fully paved, you can even bring a stroller!

Your leashed dog can accompany you on the scenic Makapuu Lighthouse hike, so bring your furry friend along for this trail!

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Hours

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail hours are 7:00 am – 7:45 pm in summer (from April 1st) and 7:00 am to 6:45 pm in winter (from the day after Labor Day). This is when the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline Park is open.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Getting to the Trailhead for the Makapuu Lighthouse Hike

Driving to the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline Park

You will find the Makapu‘u Point Trail inside the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, at the most southeastern point of Oahu.

The park is located off Highway 72 (the Kalanianaole Highway).

If you are traveling from Honolulu, take the H1 east till it becomes Highway 72, and keep driving (past Hanauma Bay and the Hawaiʻi Kai Golf Course) until you arrive at the gate with the sign saying “Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline.”

From Honolulu, the distance is about 15.8 miles and the drive should take you about 25 minutes. (see Makapuu Lighthouse Trail map)

If you traveling south along the east coast of the island, drive to Kailua and then catch Highway 72 at Maunawili all the way to the park.

From Kailua, the distance is about 10.1 miles and the drive should take you about 20 minutes. (see Makapuu Lighthouse Trail map)

Parking lot at Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trailhead
The Makapuu Point Lighthouse parking area

Taking a shuttle from Honolulu (Waikiki area)

If you do not have a car, or do not want to drive or deal with potential hassles finding a parking spot at the trailhead, book a shuttle service!

This shuttle service from Waikiki area hotels is offered Mondays and Tuesdays and has varying pick-up times in the morning, starting at 7 a.m.

The ride includes a stop at the Halona Blowhole for photos, and bottled water.

Spots tend to fill up, so book well ahead of your visit.

>> Check price and availability for the shuttle to the Makapuu Lighthouse trailhead now!

This shuttle service, also from the Waikiki area, is a service for the Makapuu Lighthouse SUNRISE hike and is available Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Pickup is one hour and 30 minutes before sunrise time.

>> Check price and availability for the shuttle for the Makapuu Lighthouse SUNRISE hike now!

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Parking + Fee

Once you arrive at the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, follow signs and park at the parking lot.

It’s a fairly large parking area, but the hike is popular, so arrive early to secure a spot.

Makapuu Point Trail parking area
The parking area at the trailhead

Note that sunrise and sunset are popular times for the Makapuu Lighthouse hike, so arrive a little earlier than your planned start time to make sure you get a parking spot. This is especially true at sunset.

There is no fee to enter the park or the trail, so this hike is one of the best FREE things to do in Oahu!

Finding the Trailhead

You should be able to see the start of the trail from the parking area!

In fact you can see the trail going up the ridge as well, and there are almost always other hikers to follow.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Best Time to Hike the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

You can hike the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail year round, but note that this part of Oahu tends to be hot and dry, so you’ll want to do this hike early or late.

The park is open from 7 a.m. to 7.45 p.m.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Sunrise

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail sunrise is spectacular and colorful!

Not only are the views stunning early in the day, it’s also a pleasant time to hike, and you’ll be well on your way back before the heat of the day starts to make the walk uncomfortable.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is one of the best sunrise hikes on Oahu, well worth an early wake-up call on vacation!

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Sunset

Another great time to do the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is at sunset: in fact, this hike also makes the list of the most beautiful sunset hikes in Oahu!

View from Makapuu Point in Oahu, Hawaii
The views on the Makapuu Point hike are stunning!

How long does the Makapu’u Lighthouse hike take?

The Makapuu Lighthouse hike is so stunning that you’ll want to stop often to enjoy the views and take photos.

Plus, the viewpoint is an excellent place to look for marine life.

We suggest allowing about a couple of hours, to take in the views at leisure.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail Information

If you are looking for a picturesque lighthouse hike on Oahu, this is your trail!

From the trailhead, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail climbs steadily up the western side of the ridge.

The trail, which used to be an access road for the lighthouse, is paved for its entire length, and is fairly wide.

A view of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail in Oahu, Hawaii
A view of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail as it curves around the ridge

Views Along the Route

There are views of the ocean and the coastline along the route as you climb, and you’ll want to stop to take lots of photos!

Look for Koko Crater, the iconic natural landmark on this section of the Oahu coast.

A view of the Koko Crater from Makapuu Point
A view of the Koko Crater from Makapuu Point

If you visit after rains, the landscape looks nice and green, a beautiful contrast to the blue Pacific Ocean. But at other times, it may look dry.

Since the trail is a relatively dry and hot part of the island, you won’t see the lush tropical vegetation for which Hawaii is known: instead, look for arid-weather plants like kiawe (a species of mesquite) and panini (prickly pear).

At about the midpoint, the trail changes direction and flattens out a little but still climbs steadily along the eastern section of the ridge to the top.

And as you get close to the top, you can see World War II era pillboxes.

Views from the Top of the Ridge

The views from the viewing areas at the top of the ridge are breathtaking.

Southeast Oahu coastline view from Makapuu Point
A view along the southeastern Oahu coastline from Makapuu Point

The lookouts have guard rails, and offer expansive ocean views, with picturesque offshore islets jutting out of the water.

On a nice day, the colors of the ocean here are several beautiful shades of blue and aqua.

Look for the picturesque shoreline of Makapu’u Beach, Koko Crater, small offshore islands, and waves crashing on the rocks below.

On a bright and clear day, you can even see the islands of Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, which lie off the coast of Maui!

Walk around the viewing areas and enjoy the views in all directions.

Whale Watching

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail and the viewing areas at the top are excellent for whale watching in season.

If you do the hike between November and May, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales. You are especially likely to see whales here between January and March, the peak period.

While you may see whales from the viewing area with your naked eyes, be sure to also scan the ocean through the provided scopes, or, better yet, arrive with binoculars.

From the viewing areas at the top, we’ve twice had the good fortune to see whales cavorting the waters below, once even a mama with a calf.


If you are a birder, come prepared with binoculars.

Frigate bird male in flight
A male frigate bird in flight

The offshore islets you see from the top of the ridge are offshore bird sanctuaries.

You may see frigate birds, with their black plumage and hooked bills. Males have bright red pouches on their throats that look like little balloons.

See below for the many beautiful Hawaiian birds you’ll see on this hike.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse

From the top of the ridge, you can look down upon the Makapu’u Lighthouse, and its white fence.

Makapuu Point Lighthouse
Looking down at the Makapuu Point Lighthouse!

Built in 1909, the lighthouse has a bright red roof that makes a striking contrast to the blue waters of the ocean.

Although you get only a distant view of the lighthouse from the top, it’s still worth the walk! Bring a camera with a zoom lens and take stunning photos to capture the sight.

Returning to the Trailhead

After you’ve had your fill of the spectacular panoramas from the top, retrace your steps to return to the parking lot.

The return journey is a steady downhill walk, easy and quick!

Hawaiian Birds to Spot on the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail Hike

Make sure you take a good pair of binoculars with you, the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail hike is an excellent hike to spot some beautiful Hawaiian birds, both introduced to the islands and some endemic birds (found nowhere else)!

Some of the common Hawaiian birds you can expect to see on the hike are the ubiquitous and noisy common myna, the scaly-breasted munia with its distinctive chest scales, the highly invasive red-vented bulbul.

You can also spot the pretty red-crested cardinal and the warbling white-eye, with its striking distinctive white ring around its eyes.

Hiking along the coastline and at the Ka Iwa State Scenic Shoreline, you’ll see a lot of Hawaiian seabirds.

The most common seabirds you’ll find here include the wedge-tailed shearwater, the red-footed booby, the Great Frigatebird, and the red-tailed tropicbird.

Refer to our detailed post on Hawaiian birds to identify and learn about these bird species, some endemic to Hawaii, and found nowhere else on the world!

What to Bring on Your Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike

Sunscreen: The Makapuu Lighthouse Point Trail is fully exposed for much of the day, so you’ll want to use sun protection.

Bring and use reef-safe sunscreen and an SPF lip balm. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Drinking Water: Bring an adequate supply of drinking water. The trail can get very warm, especially during the day, and no potable water is available along the trail or at the park.

Snacks and Food: There is no food available at the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline. Carry a supply of snacks if you want to stay fueled on your hike.

Charged Smartphone: This trail is super scenic and you will want to stop every few feet on the way up to snap photos of the ocean and the coastline.

And of course you’ll want to take photos (and video) from the lookouts at the top.

Camera with Zoom Lens: This is a hike where a zoom lens can come in real handy.

Of course you do not want to lug around a heavy camera and lens unless you are hiking specifically to take photos (and this hike would definitely qualify!) so consider a small digital camera with a powerful lens.

We love our Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70S which fits in a pocket but has 4K video and a 30X lens that allows us to take decent photos of birds and wildlife on hikes.

Binoculars: If you hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail during whale watching season, bring along a pair of binoculars!

We like the Bushnell H20 waterproof and fogproof binoculars for hiking trips.

Scenic Makapuu Point
Makapuu Point is super scenic

Hiking Gear Checklist

Many of Hawaii’s hikes are demanding, make sure you are well equipped and well prepared. Here’s what we typically take with us:

Tips for Hiking the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail in Oahu

Start early for pleasant weather

We cannot emphasize this enough…start early in the day!

It gets hot as the day progresses, and there is zero shade. You’ll have an infinitely more pleasant experience weather-wise if you start early in the day.

Even better, plan to catch sunrise if you visit in the winter months, or at opening time for mellow golden hour light in the spring and fall.

While you’ll see folks on the trail early in the day, it will very likely still be less crowded than at other times of the day or the evening.

A close up view of the Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Oahu, HI
Use a zoom lens to take a close-up of the Makapuu Point Lighthouse!

Or start late (but note park closing time!)

Later in the day is also more pleasant from a weather perspective than in the middle of the day.

If you can catch sunset, or the spectacular colors in the sky post sunset, all the better.

But plan to arrive early enough that you can enjoy the hike at leisure and be able to exit the park before it closes, to avoid being cited or towed.

As of the time of writing, the park closes at 7.45 p.m., but we recommend checking the official park website or looking for signage at the park for the correct closing time for the date of your visit.

Also note that typically, the trail will be more crowded around sunset, and if you plan to drive, you need to allow for time to find a parking spot.

We’ve seen people parked along the road outside the park to avoid being locked out or cited after closing time.

Hike on a weekday

For lower crowds on the popular Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail, hike it on a weekday rather than on the weekend.

On weekends in season, you will likely have to wait for a parking spot unless you arrive really early in the day.

Rabbit Island Oahu
A close-up view of the offshore islets

Allow plenty of time

The scenery is spectacular so allow enough time to take in the views at leisure.

If you hike the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail during the winter, you have an excellent chance of spotting whales.

Trust us, once you see whales in the waters, you’ll want to stay as long as you can see them, in the hopes of seeing one breach!

Dress for the weather

Wear long-sleeved, light-colored clothing for the warm and sunny conditions you are likely to encounter.

We wore sneakers for this hike, but any comfortable walking shoes or secured walking sandals with good grip will work, as long as you stay on the paved trail.

The Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail in Oahu is paved
The trail is paved!

Secure your hat!

It’s likely to be windy at the top of the ridge, and the breeze is very welcome on most days.

But you’ll want to wear a hat that you can secure firmly under your chin!

Go to the restroom before you arrive

There are no restrooms in or near the park.

You’ll find public bathrooms at the Makapu’u Beach Park.

Do not leave valuables in your car!

Unfortunately, thieves have been known to smash a window in order to steal things you leave visible in your car.

Be sure to take all valuables with you, and remove visible items before you arrive.

This is especially the case if you have to park on the side of the street because the official parking area is full.

Pack out what you pack in

Remember there are no amenities in the park.

Please pack out everything you pack in, to keep the park and the trail looking great for visitors that come after you!

Note the incline if you plan to bring a stroller or mobility device

Although the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is fully paved, it has a fairly steep grade — 5 percent in most places, and even steeper in some sections.

You’ll want to be sure you can manage a stroller up and down the trail if you plan to bring one.

Travelers with mobility issues may want to arrive with motorized mobility scooters that can traverse the incline comfortably.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Tide Pools: Do not venture down

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail tide pools are in an area closed to the public. They are subject to rogue waves that can wash you out into the ocean.

The steep trail leading down to the tidepool area is hazardous, with loose rocks.

The park recommends that you NOT try to access the Makapu’u Tidepools.

Visit Makapu’u Beach (Waimanalo)

Makapu’u Beach Park is located just a 3-minute drive from the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline and makes a great addition to your lighthouse hiking trip!

Makapu'u Beach in Oahu, HI
Makapu’u Beach is gorgeous!

The beach is gorgeous, with a backdrop of dramatic cliffs and pristine golden sands.

If conditions are optimal, you can swim or snorkel at Makapu’u Beach, making it the perfect spot to cool off after your hike. There is usually a lifeguard on duty.

If you brought a cooler with food, there are picnic tables where you can enjoy a picnic meal.

There’s a lot for parking, and showers and restrooms.

Book the shuttle if you do not want to drive

Book a shuttle if you want to hike the Makapu’u Point Trail but do not want to drive to the trailhead.

There is also a combination half-day shuttle tour that allows you to hike two iconic Oahu hikes in one day: Diamond Head and the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.

Book a Guided Oahu Hiking Adventure!

Excited about hiking in Oahu but haven’t hiked in Hawaii before? This guided hiking adventure is a great way to get started.

It’s customizable to your interests and abilities, and a local guide that’s familiar with the terrain will accompany you. Plus, round-trip transport is included.

You can pick two short hikes or a longer hike, and your guide can suggest specific hikes if you don’t know which ones you want to try.

>> Check pricing and availability on this customizable Oahu hiking adventure now!

Best Oahu Tours

Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?

Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!

The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.

Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!

Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.

A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu adventure for your bucket list.

We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.

Renting a Car in Oahu

If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.

Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).

While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.

We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Oahu car rentals now!

Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle

If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!

This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Oahu now!

Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!

Where to Stay in Oahu

Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.

While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.

Our faves include Halekulani for a splurge stay, the Lotus Honolulu for views of Diamond Head, and The Laylow for its awesome location.

Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!

On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.

>> Look for an Oahu vacation rental on VRBO now!

More Oahu Travel Inspiration

Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!

Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.

If you ar planning a short first visit to the island, we have the perfect day-by-day 3 days in Oahu itinerary for you!

Of course you’ll want to learn about all the exciting things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, and Waikiki, the touristic core of Oahu. We also have an article on the best places to eat in Waikiki!

Check out our guide to the best beaches in Oahu, and a round-up of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu. Also read about must-visit Oahu waterfalls and botanical gardens in Oahu you have to visit.

Oahu is home to so many must-visit landmarks! Check out our in-depth article on how to visit Pearl Harbor, and our guides on the beautiful Waimea Valley in Oahu and the spectacular Byodo-In Temple.

Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!

Discover the top places to go snorkeling in west Oahu, where you will find a long coastline with lovely beaches, and tips for snorkeling Kaneohe Sandbar on the island’s east coast as well as the super popular Hanauma Bay.

And if you love marine life, also check out our complete guide to (respectfully!) see and swim with dolphins in Oahu, and the best spots to snorkel with turtles in Oahu.

For hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, we have a round-up of the best Oahu hikes, and if you are looking to exclude the harder Oahu trails, a guide to the best easy Oahu hikes.

Find out how to do the iconic (and VERY popular) Diamond Head Hike near Waikiki for exceptional views. We also have a guide to the very popular Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu.

More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.

Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.

We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!

If you are a garden enthusiast, check out our detailed guide to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, our article on the unique Koko Crater Botanical Garden, and our guide to Foster Botanical Garden!

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Discover tips for hiking the popular Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail in southeastern Oahu, Hawaii. Best time to go, what to see, more!


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