Makapuu Lighthouse Trail


If you are looking for a beautiful sunrise hike on Oahu, I recommend the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail on Oahu’s southeastern most point.  In addition to the excellent views of Makapuu Lighthouse along the trail, you’ll also enjoy outstanding coast views from Koko Head on the South to Kailua on the North. You’ll also see Makapuu’s role in WW II history with the concrete pillboxes built into the cliffs. (See all our photos from hiking Makapuu Lighthouse Trail.)

In the winter months, Makapuu offers a great vantage point for watching Humpback Whales. Along the path, there’s an educational plaque about Humpback’s annual visit to Hawaii. We were there in February and unfortunately we didn’t see whales. We did see dolphins, though.

On top of the great views, we enjoyed seeing lots of cacti. This section of Oahu is rather dry and only receives about 20 inches of rain per year. I don’t typically associate cactus and Hawaii, so that was an interesting contrast.

Oahu-Hawaii-Feb-2009 43

I think the best time of day to hike Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is early in the morning, if possible to enjoy sunrise and the cooler temperatures. Note that taking this hike is an excellent way to use jet lag to your benefit.


I would classify Makapuu Lighthouse Trail as a relatively easy hike. In fact, it’s more of a semi-steep walk. The path is actually a road that’s used to access and maintain the working lighthouse. (Note that no motorized traffic is allowed.) Since this trail is actually a road, it’s wide and well paved except for a few steps at the trail’s end.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is 1.4 miles one-way. It’s not a strenuous trail, but note that you’ll be gaining elevation all the way from the parking area to the trail’s end. The elevation gain is gradual, though.

You’ll find Makapuu Lighthouse Trail just off Highway 72, Kalanianaole Highway. See this Google Map and note the location of Makapuu Lighthouse Road. That’s the trail. There is a parking lot for this trail. As always, make sure that you don’t leave anything of value in your car.

If you don’t have the time to walk the trail, there’s a lovely lookout point that we describe here: Makapuu Lookout. From the lookout you will get to see the beautiful coastline, however you will not get to see the lighthouse.

  1. As always, great description and detail about the trail. Clicked through to the photos, too, and they were just as nice.

    This post jumped out at me because I remembered seeing a similar picture of that lighthouse over at the Hawaii Photography site, but it wasn’t labeled. Now I know what and where it is. 🙂

  2. @ Keahi – oh, I love that moon rise idea!

    @ Kris – Thanks for the kind words. We all learn something new about Hawaii each day, don’t we? 😉

  3. I have a question for you. Do you have to wait for the Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline State Park to open before you can park and begin the hike? Or can you arrive earlier and park without encountering any issues? Sunrise is closer to 6, while the park does not open until 7. This is my first trip to Oahu and I am not sure how the park rules are regulated. Thanks!

    1. Hannah — the gate was open when we went before sunrise a few years. Other people, mostly locals, were already parked and there walking the trail for their morning exercise. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that has changed or not. I’ll see if I can find out anything about that, but I can’t make any promises that I’ll get an answer.

      1. Just did some quick searches and found this useful information on Yelp:

        “The park gates open at 7AM, but one can park in the lot North of the entry which is open 24/7, and can walk down to the park entrance before 7 AM. Some park their cars along the Highway, which I am not sure is legal…”

        Check out this google map Notice that that parking area the Yelp reviewer mentioned is at a scenic lookout, which is about 700-ish feet north (above) from the Makapuu Lighthouse Road and trail entrance. At this time, there are no gates at that upper parking lot, so you can park there if you arrive before the parking gate opens to the Makapuu trail parking area.

  4. Would it be reasonable to do this Lighthouse Trail after we do Diamond Head or do you think that would be too much in one day? Also would we be able to take the bus from Diamond Head to the Lighthouse Trail and then back to Waikiki?

    1. We’ve hiked Manoa Falls after hiking Diamond Head and we were tired, but not exhausted.

      Check the website for TheBus to map out their routes and schedules.

  5. How long is this trail, is it an easy hike for people with disabilities? Sorry if you have already mentioned the distance of this trail? Thanks.

    1. Deb – read through the last four paragraphs which answer your questions.

      I think it can be a good trail for those with disabilities because it’s mostly on even pavement and the incline is gradual. There’s an easy alternative we mention in the last paragraph. You get a very similar view of one side of the coastline, however you can’t see the lighthouse.

  6. Hi from Australia
    We have a question please. Have looked at google maps and online cannot find an an answer, hope you can assist or suggest
    Is there a bus stop close to the Makapuupoint Trail? This looks like a scenic route for a half day out of Waikiki.

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