Rise and Shine: Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

I don’t have a real rhythm to writing these blogs I feel, even though I’m only a few posts in, so I thought I’d share a few more stories/tips on various spots on Oahu. I lived there for a decent time and had my routine of school, but when the weekend came it was game on!

Makapu’u Lighthouse. Sound familiar? It’s the most south-eastern tip of the island. You have quite a few choices on where you might like to begin your day of hiking and exploring. Makapu’u lighthouse trail, the tide pools, the beach around the bend (when your there you’ll understand), Pele’s chair, etc.

#1 Tip: GO EARLY

Makapu’u is a hot spot for whale watching during migration season, November to May. You need to get there early in the morning, around 8am, that’s the best time to catch all the action. It is a windy spot, however you’ll warm up along the hike, just remember to bring a light jacket or sweater. You can bring binoculars or a camera to zoom in, but the best method is with your own eyes. You’ll get so caught up in your devices trying to spot the pinky sized whales you lose this stunning moment. Put all that away and just soak in this magical moment you’re lucky to watch. Your memory is stronger than you think and a photo will only deteriorate those swelled up emotions your feeling from watching this magical animal from breaching, diving, spy-hopping, lob-tailing, or even spouting. Humpback whales are very active whales when they want to be, and you should never feel the need to peel your eyes away from that show. Tatianna* and I were fortunate to have the trail to ourselves one early morning and got a good 30 minutes of whale activity from this one pod, we were delirious calling them “our family” or plain old “ours” as if the pod knew we were watching and wanted to give us this private show. One of the best ways I could have started my morning.

The lighthouse
The lighthouse
Closed, thanks vandalism. hahaha
Closed, thanks vandalism. hahaha

#2 Tip: BRING A LOVELOCK

I’m not sure this is the most common knowledge piece of information, however; Hawaii has its own Paris Pont des Arts Bridge. At the “summit” of this hike there are some stairs that lead up to a man-made viewing area that’s fenced in. I’m not sure when it began on Oahu, but clearly this spot can be a romantic spot if the occasion calls for it. Just because honeymooners choose Hawaii instead of Paris doesn’t mean they can’t lock their love and throw away the keys for an eternity of happiness. All of them signed and dated, at that point I was fully saturated in girly mushy sighs. Ahhh

Bringing Paris love to Hawaii
Bringing Paris love to Hawaii

#3 Tip: PACK YOUR SWIMSUIT

What a better excuse to dip into the ocean but a nice hike upon an extinct volcano? You have a few options, so let’s talk.

First, Makapu’u beach, it’s just on the other side of the lighthouse hike, 10min walk along the highway (there is side space along the road) or a 2 min drive from the lighthouse trail parking area to the Makapu’u beach parking lot. The waves here make it perfect for body-boarding or boogie-boards. The beach is crescent shaped so there’s plenty of space to layout. This beach actually seemed more of a local spot rather than touristy to me, and my guess is because to drive/bus here you’ll be passing lots of other amazing spots you’ll want to stop at as well (I’ll tell you about them). Makapu’u being a former volcano and all means is lava rock is in abundance along this coastal area. The beach also has an area where you can walk on top of the lava rocks and look to see the kind of sea life that lives in these coral-like areas. Lot of baby urchins! 

Makapu'u Beach Park and Sea life park
Makapu’u Beach Park and Sea life park

Second, the Tide pools. If you want to waste no time to getting soaked from your hike instead of walking all the way down about mid-way you’ll see on ocean-side (of course) a bit of an off-beat rocky pathway down along the side of the cliff. If my memory serves me right near where the information boards about whale migration are located. Not an extreme 90 degree angle cliff just a steeper path than the one you took coming up the path, so there is a slight barrier just so your reminded of where your feet are going should the view distract you (kind of like the barriers on the inside lane of a track separating the first lane and the inner grass field). Be sure-footed during your decent, loose rocks will have you slip occasionally. Once you reach the bottom, again, its lava rock, so if you’re not comfortable barefoot on sharp rocks it’s easier to keep your shoes on until you get into the pool… I’m teasing…sort of. Anyways, these tide pools do have a strong currents so be prepared for the incoming and outgoing waves. Also on stand-by for a good photo shoot is a blow hole! I’ll insert a photo below so you’ll see what I’m talking about, it’s pretty amusing because as much as you prepare for the action photo you’ll initially will be spooked by the abruptness of the water shooting upwards so aggressively.

Careful! it's kinda steep
Careful! it’s kinda steep
Blow hole!!
Blow hole!!

Lastly, Alan Davis Beach & Pele’s Chair. The least stressful because of the natural barrier the rocks and coral have created means little to no waves. The sand in the water is nice and fine to waddle in, the water level is deep enough to attempt a few tricks if you feel brave and confident about your balance on the wood pole. I squealed like a piglet, and it’s not even that high from the water! I just scream easily. To reach this area, it just requires taking the alternative trail that’s offered at the beginning of the lighthouse trail to the left. Don’t worry about the trail forking off a couple times during your trekking; they all come back together every time. Easiest way for me was to just keep left on the path. The name for this area is pretty simple, there’s a rock formation that looks like a chair so why not let it be Pele’s? And Alan Davis use to own tons of land back in the day. 

Alan Davis Beach
Alan Davis Beach
Pele's Chair
Pele’s Chair

So hopefully any future travelers to Oahu have found this post intriguing enough for them to venture southeast of the island. It’s such an awesome place to spend a sunny day, pack a lunch or even stop in Hawaii Kai for an early dinner. This type of adventure is one you’ll remember!

Panoramic view of southeast coast
Panoramic view of southeast coast
Mānana aka Rabbit Island
Mānana aka Rabbit Island
Ariel must be around here somewhere... her wave crash scene is up!
Ariel must be around here somewhere… her wave crash scene is up!
Some locals enjoying a "spa treatment"
Some locals enjoying a “spa treatment”
a free ticket to the nature show

Fun Fact: This area of the island is actually not too dissimilar in vegetation as to desserts; abundance of cacti and succulents along the trail.

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