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.
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 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.
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.