Hiking Oahu: Makapu’u Tidepool’s Adventurous Landscape

Hiking Oahu Tidepools

The Makapu’u Tidepool hike offers an adventurous landscape featuring an active blowhole and tidepools full of life alongside an ever changing ocean landscape.

Located on the east side of Oahu, the Makap’uu Tidepool hike is a favorite with local residents and visitors. The tidepools are tucked away from the main Makapu’u Lighthouse trail and is not an “official” trail making it a less trafficked trail. I’ll discuss everything that you need to know about hiking to the Makapu’u Tidepool’s below.

HIKING OAHU: MAKAPU’U TIDEPOOL… Getting there & Parking.

The trail is located about 30 minutes from Waikiki and about 45 minutes from downtown Honolulu. You’ll drive through the beautiful Ka Iwi (KA-EE-WEE) coastline as you make your way there. You will be parking at the “Makapu’u lighthouse trail”. The parking is free and is right off the main highway. Expect that on weekends or during the busy seasons the parking lot will be full. In those cases it’s recommended to go early or be willing to park on the shoulder lane of the highway.

What to pack and prepare for…

You’ll be hiking in full sun. The total hike and leisure time can be 2+ hours. There are no restrooms. The only trash can is located at the beginning of the trail. The tidepool trail is not for dogs because of the sun, hot terrain and sharp rocks, however, lots of people hike with their dogs on the paved lighthouse trail.

I would recommend packing:

  1. At least a two liter bottle of water per person.
  2. Sunscreen 35+ SPF.
  3. A towel if swimming.
  4. Snacks such as nuts or granola bars.
  5. Your cell phone for pictures.
  6. Any other valuables such as a wallet or purse.
  7. A bag to put everything in.

HIKING OAHU: MAKAPU’U TIDEPOOL… The Start & The Hike to the top.

This is the beginning of the trail and you’ll notice signs with safety information and a brief history of the area.

Hike Information Post

A warning about high theft in this area cannot be any truer. DO NOT leave any valuables in your car this includes your phone and wallet.

Hike Warning Post

At the very beginning of the trail you will notice that there is a fork out to the right.

There are actually three different trails that you can do.

  1. Makapu’u Lighthouse (easy 40 minute trail-paved)
  2. Makapu’u Tidepools (45+ minutes – more advanced – rocky & steep)
  3. Allan Davis/Pele’s Chair (easy 15 minute walk – basically a swimming bay with a small beach. Perfect for snorkeling)
Separate Trails

Continuing to the tidepools you will hike upwards with views of the ka iwi coastline.

HIKING OAHU: MAKAPU’U TIDEPOOL… The Top and Hiking down to the tidepools.

It’s a short 15 minutes until you reach this point. There will be a lookout point to stop at. To continue onto the tidepools you’ll need to take a right at the ocean warning signs. From here on you will be hiking down a very steep terrain. The rocks from here are volcanic and are not completely stable. If this is your first time hiking here I would strongly recommend taking your time.

Top of the hike

The trail is not paved and there are various ways to make your way down. I would suggest following the white graffiti arrows. They help to show you the way. Either way, it’s best to use your own judgement on the safest way to hike down.

A glimpse of the tidepools from half way down.

On this particular day the surf on the east side was around 10-15 feet. This causes swells into the pools. It’s very energetic but can also be dangerous. When the surf is this high DO NOT stand near the outer edges close to the ocean. On other days the ocean could be calm but there could be random surges as well. You’ll need to use common sense to avoid injuring yourself or being swept out to sea.

Makapu'u Tidepool hike adventurous

HIKING OAHU: MAKAPU’U TIDEPOOL… Views from the bottom.

When you’ve reached the bottom you will feel as if you’re in another environment. From the views of the cliffs, to the active blowhole and the charging ocean it’s all amazing to take in.

The blowhole is easy to spot at the left of the tidepools.

Makapu'u Tidepool hike adventurous

Here are various pools you can wade in.

Makapu'u Tidepool hike adventurous

Views from on the ground.

The ocean was charging on this day that I spent swimming in my favorite pool. (this pool is the deepest and located toward the right side)

You can see the Makapu’u lighthouse from the pools.

Makapu'u Tidepool hike adventurous

Hiking back to the top & other Tips.

The hike up can be considered easier than the hike down. Follow the white graffiti on the rocks and you’ll be able to head back to where you started. If you head a little off trail don’t worry it’s impossible to get lost. Take your time going up.

Please be sure to take your trash with you. Respect the ocean here because people have lost their lives in the past. The ocean is very unpredictable and while there are lifeguards at the nearby Sandy beach they are still far away for a rescue. With all that being said, there are people of all ages and abilities that are able to do this hike but remember that your safety is #1.

Thank you for reading so far and I hope this provided some insight on a place that I think is truly amazing. Please check my blog out for more hiking recommendations!

Official site of the Makapu’u lighthouse trail is here