Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail and Pillbox

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail has to be one of O’ahu’s most commonly hiked trails. It’s easy, families can do it, parking is simple, and the views are awesome!

Not only do you have Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, you also have a few other hikes in the vicinity:

  • Makapu’u Puka Hike
  • Makapu’u Pillboxes
  • Makapu’u Beach
  • Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike

Makapu’u Puka Hike is slightly more time consuming, but Makapu’u Pillboxes and Beach are practically off the same trail and can be done all in one sweep!

Did I mention that you can see whales galore in the winter from this spot? Humpback whales love the Ka’iwi Channel (the stretch of water between eastern O’ahu and Molokai, the neighboring island).

About the Trail

Location: Off of Kalaniana’ole Highway, just after Hawaii Kai going east at furthest southeast point of the island.

Length: ~2 miles total

Fear Factor: None

Starting the Hike

You can literally do this hike at any time of the day and have a great experience. I’ve done it both for sunrise and nearing sunset. You can start this hike at any time.

Parking is easy, as there is a parking lot and plenty of street parking. Just make sure you park inside the lines or you’ll risk a ticket.

SUNRISE: Start about an hour before to comfortably stroll up the hill and scope out the best spot to watch the sun rise over the horizon. What’s super awesome about sunrise at Makapu’u is that you get to watch it rise over Molokai, Lanai, and Maui in the distance. How freaking cool is that.

SUNSET: You might now want to go for actual sunset, because the sun sets over the Ko’olau Mountain Range before it sets on the west side, making the east side one big shadow. Go 2 hours before, take your time, and watch the sun rays blast over the Ko’olaus. You’ll probably get some colors in the sky, too!

ANY OTHER TIME: The water is super blue, the Ko’olaus are within view, and you can get a booty workout in.

The trail head is extremely obvious with signs galore. Just follow everyone else, because you’re never alone hiking Makapu’u Lighthouse.

You will notice a dirt trail that forks off to the right from the paved trail early on. That trail goes to the tide pools. Scroll down to read more about the tide pools.

Doing the Hike

The hike is paved the entire way up to the lookout and the lighthouse. It’s so easy to follow, but it is straight uphill.

Because the hike is paved, it’s easy to keep a narrow focus on the trail miss all the trails that jut out into the brush. There are informational stop-offs, but there are also mini-trails that go toward the cliff for some awesome views. Check it out!

The Lookout and the Lighthouse

At the top of Makapu’u, you will see two trails: a dirt trail that heads along the cliffside around the lookout, and the remaining paved trail to the lookout itself.

The lookout features sick views of windward O’ahu and a few of the small islands off the coast. Totally worth the climb. Bonus points if you can see spot Three Peaks/Mt. Olomana!


The dirt trail heads to the lighthouse. You cannot actually get to the lighthouse, but you can get pretty close to it. The lighthouse is guarded by a wire fence around 50 feet from its entrance, so you cannot physically visit it. It is worth taking the dirt trail to the lighthouse just to say you’ve been there.

The Pillbox

There is a third option, the dirt trail to the left of the paved hike, that takes you up the hill to the cement forts up above. Those are pillboxes – old military lookouts made specifically for great vantage points on the island (obviously for different purposes, though). Where there is a pillbox, there is an insane view.

A short quarter-mile hike can get you to the pillbox for these views:

The Beach

The other part of Makapu’u is its beach. You can take that dirt path from the beginning of the trail towards the ocean. It only takes 10-15 minutes to walk there, then you get to sit oceanside with all the sealife in the pools.

The tide pool trail, as seen from the paved lighthouse trail.

If you loved Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, but you want something more adventurous… Try reading about Makapu’u Puka Hike!

Any tips on Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, or any of the trails that branch off the beaten path? Comment below!

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