Shark’s Cove

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Part of the Pupukea Nature Preserve, Shark’s Cove is an amazing place to go snorkeling from April to September. The North Shore is better known for surfing in the fall and winter months, but in spring and summer, the waters are calm enough to visit with the turtles and fish.

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There is a paved parking lot above Shark’s Cove, and there are restrooms to change. There’s even a bit of a makeshift shower (outside) where you can rinse sand off your flippers and out of your hair.

The path down to the water is dirt, but it’s not too steep so it’s pretty easy to get down it. Everyone leaves their towels and car keys on the rocks, and the instance of theft is very low.

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The entry point is rocky, so you’ll want to have boots. The currents can be strong, so longer fins are advisable as well. There are some tide pools to play in, and those are great for kids. However, in the deeper water, you’ll find a rocky landscape full of caves.

If you dive, this is a great place to do some swim-throughs. Just make sure the passages you choose are wider than you and your gear!

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On the right-hand side (if standing in the parking lot facing the cove) there is a turtle cleaning station at the mouth of the cove. This is where surgeon fish come up and eat algae and parasites off sea turtles’ shells. That makes this an ideal place to see turtles.

Just remember: You’re not meant to get close to them. They are endangered, and you should never feed or touch one. However, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are magical to catch a glimpse of.

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Makapu’u Coastal Pools

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If you are already doing the Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike (which is amazing,) you might also want to take the dirt path from the parking lot over to the coast.

It’s a dry walk, and it was dusty in June. I recommend lots of water, and possibly a snack. On the upside, it’s not a hard walk because it’s completely flat.

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Sometimes the locals go there to fish, so beware of stray hooks and lines. Also, remember that the waves break on the rocks! Keep your distance. People are sometimes swept off the ledges, and the sea is very rough in this area so you could get seriously hurt.

It’s really more about sitting at a safe distance and watching the waves splash over the rocks. I went at low tide, so I managed to see a few fish and some crabs.

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That was fun, but I was very wary of not stepping on any wet rocks. If the rocks are wet, waves are probably breaking on them. So, steer clear of wet rocks.

Overall, it’s worth the walk if you’ve already done the lighthouse hike and you have some time leftover. However, I wouldn’t brave the crowded parking lot just for the coastal area, because there are prettier places on Oahu that are less crowded.

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Makapu’u Lighthouse

start of trail

When I heard about Makapu’u lighthouse, I thought it was just a trail with some ocean views and a lighthouse. I had no idea how spectacular it really is. The ocean views are amazing and varied, and it’s a big pay off for a very easy hike.

Let’s start at the beginning: The gate to the parking lot opens at 7:00am. That’s the best time to go, because otherwise you will have to wait for a spot or try parallel parking on a busy highway, and neither of those things are much fun. I recommend getting there right when the parking lot opens.

south coast view

This hike it always busy. As far as I know, it’s the only paved trail in Oahu so I can see why it’s crowded. It’s an easy hike, you don’t have to worry about mud or bugs, and it’s really a very short climb.

Once you park, walk to the trail head. You’ll see a dirt path going off to the right. It takes you to some rather unimpressive rocky beaches, but you may as well check it out if you have time. Bring lots of water, though. It’s hot and dry on that path.

the trail looks like

The paved road goes straight up, and that is the Makapu’u lighthouse trail. There are no bathrooms, so stop somewhere before you hike. There are trash cans though, so you have no excuse to litter. As you walk up, stop at each of the vantage points and read the signs that tell you about what you are looking at.

When you get to the top, you can look down on the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the trail to the actual lighthouse is closed to the public because it’s very dangerous. However, you can see it from the side as you climb the trail, and then from above when you reach the top of the trail. Hopefully that’s enough to satiate your desire for lighthouse views.

lighthouse from above

Personally, I think the vistas of the South coast and the East coast of Oahu are far more exciting that the lighthouse. They’re well worth the short climb.

Note: There is also a sketchy path along a dirt cliff that goes to tide pools (from the whale-watching lookout,) but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you are an advanced climber. Even then, in my opinion, the payoff of a few small tide pools isn’t worth the risk. You can see better tide pools at Ka’ena Point without putting yourself in any danger.

Anyway, definitely do the Makapu’u Lighthouse hike. It’s awesome.

better east coast view