Off the Map: Makapu’u Tide Pools

The Makapu’u tide pools is one of Oahu’s secret hikes. However, since I’ve heard of at least a couple secret hiking spots in just the three months I’ve been here, I am no longer sure if anything in this island is actually a secret. Secret or not, the tide pools is a destination that locals still somewhat keep to themselves for fear of a tourist swarm. The fact that there is no official trail leading to it makes the job easier, but in spite of that people still find it fairly easily.

What you’ll experience

This is the photo my friend Diandra took when four of us went recently on a semi cloudy day:

Makapu'u Tide Pools

We had a great time swimming in the pools with this amazing backdrop and catching sight of some curious fish. Eventually though, the clouds crept in and it drizzled while we headed back. As you can see, not many people were there when we went, but on a sunny day especially on the weekends, this spot can get crowded. I’ll most likely go back again soon when the rain subsides to catch more lovely sights such as this:

Makapu'u Tide Pools

On getting there

There are two different ways to get to the tide pools, but I only know of the one that descends from the easy and paved Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. The point at which you veer off is about halfway up to the lighthouse, at the whale watching lookout point with an information board about humpback whales and tips on how to spot one (probably the biggest tip of them all that I don’t recall reading on the board is to have binoculars). Behind the board, there is a rocky area that is the start of the journey down to the tide pools. Though it’s hard to discern a trail in the rocky area due to the mountainside’s steepness, the sight of the tide pools (and often people swimming there) accompanied by the loud sound from the blowholes should be confirmation enough to know that there is a way down. If you’re like me and you don’t know what a blowhole is until Hawai’i, it’s kind of like a geyser.


Apply sunblock, but that’s basically a given anytime you’re outside in Hawai’i!

Throughout the trail, in both directions, there will be white spray painted arrows and dots that will guide you. The way down is a bit challenging if you’re not used to traversing through a rocky path at a decent decline. Like any other hiking trail on the island, it gets muddy and slippery during the rainy season. However, locals go down with just swimming suits and flip flops all year long, so despite all the precautions you’ll read, at the end of the day it’s still very much a doable hike that little children regularly go on. Just be ready on the way up to work out your thighs a little.

When you’re at the tide pools enjoying a nice swim, remember to never turn your back against the ocean because you will want to know when a big wave is coming. Sometimes it’s so powerful that it takes over the tide pools and can be extremely dangerous. Also, always be alert of changing tides because the tide pools is not where you want to be when it’s high tide.

Have you been to other awesome tide pools near where you live? Please share!

Photo by HikeOneHikeAll Hawaii.

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline
Kalanianaole Hwy
Honolulu, HI 96825


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