Makua Beach is on the Leeward Side very close to Ka’ena Point. Parking is only available on the side of the road, but there is a fair amount to be had. We went snorkeling there because we’d heard that people often saw dolphins. Unfortunately, there were a lot of spear fishers when we were there, and they scare all the wildlife away.
The leeward side actually has a lot of spear fishmen. This can be very dangerous, so make sure you keep an eye out for them. They tend to swim with their spears in front of them, and they don’t always look where they are going. I have nearly been impaled, so I’m warning you because I have personal experience with the very real danger.
Another thing to remember is that sometimes there are incidents in Hawaii where a shark bites a human. This is most common for surfers (who look like seals from below) and spear fishers (who have bleeding fish on their belts.) Since sharks can make mistakes, it’s best to stay away from, the things that they like to bite.
One thing we found neat about swimming at Makua was the holes that occur naturally in the sea floor. They fill with rocks (which are thrown around during hurricanes) and then the rocks are worn into round balls by the waves.
In spite of the lack of sea life, it really is a very pretty beach. If you were going to just sit and listen to the waves somewhere, this might be a nice place to do it.
I’ve already written about Shark’s Cove, which is part of Pupukea Nature Preserve. The other side of this park is called Three Tables, due to three flat rock formations out in the water.
This is a great place to go snorkeling between April and September. I don’t recommend it in the fall or winter months because the surf is too high. If you’re not sure, you can always check Surfline Oahu for updates on how high the waves are.
You want to be careful not to get too close to the rocks in Three Tables. People sometimes get smacked into them by a wave, and this can be bad because there are sea urchins hiding inside all the cracks in the rocks. It hurts a lot more than you might expect to rub up against them.
However, if you keep your distance from the rocks, this is a nice place to snorkel because the turtles come eat algae off the rock formations. You can get a front-row seat to watching them munch; though it’s challenging to get a good picture because the water is so churned up.
This is also a great place to see schools of surgeon fish, and octopus. It’s fairly sandy at the entry point, so you don’t need boots. However, it’s not as deep as the Shark’s Cove side, so I don’t recommend it for divers.
The sand is round on this beach, which means you really sink into it. I’d keep your towel up in the trees or over on the rocks. You wouldn’t want it to be eaten up by the sand. Even if you’re not going in the water, this is a lovely beach to just sit on and relax. Pupukea is beautiful, and Three Tables is the best spot to enjoy it.
Kokohead Trail is really just a lot of stairs. I did Likeke Falls in the morning and I still had some energy, so I went and did Kokohead before heading home. It’s sort of rough unless you have long legs (because some of the stairs are quite big,) but it’s only 2.9 kilometers to the top.
You park in a paved lot and walk along a paved trail to the base of the mountain. Then you see the stairs, bracketed by railroad tracks on either side. It looks like a long way to the top, but it’s not as bad as it looks.
Fair warning: There is absolutely no shade, nor is there any good spot to rest. I recommend a hat, sunscreen, and a lot of water. Some people do it in the dark so they can be at the top for sunrise, and I hear that is pretty neat.
Kokohead trail is really just a set of railroad tracks that used to run munitions up to the top of the mountain during WWII. For the most part, it’s a fairly safe trail, but there is a spot where the tracks go out over a ravine, and that can be frightening if heights bother you.
People do bring their kids, but I don’t recommend it. First, the college students hike in very little clothes, so you’re going to have some awkward moments when your kids shouts out: “Why is that girl in her bra?” But second, the stairs really are tall and it’s easy for a child to slip on the loose sand and fall down the mountain. People do.
Anyway, the views from the top are amazing and it’s only about a two-hour hike, so it’s worth a look even if you’re only on Oahu for a vacation. Just remember water and snacks. It’s a hot, dry hike to the top.