Makapu'u Trail

Makapu`u Trail

On a weekend in winter or early spring, be sure to climb up the Makapuʻu trail on Oahu’s east side. While this easy paved trail is scenic at all times of the year, it’s especially popular with hikers of all abilities from November through April, whale-watching season! The islands of Moloka`i and Lana`i may be seen across the Kaiwi Channel, and on a particularly clear day, Maui is also visible.

The hike is a little less than 2 miles to the top, and the huge expanse of open ocean offers a panorama like no other. You won’t even notice the effort it takes to climb it because you’ll be distracted by the turquoise blue of the shallower waters in close on out to the dark navy of the expanse of ocean to the horizon. It’s absolutely breathtaking. And you won’t want to miss the thrill of possibly seeing a humpback jump high out of the water.

Known as the Kaiwi Coast, this wild and wonderful area is protected from development and offers us city folks a chance to get back to nature. It’s spectacularly picturesque at all times of the year, but it’s even more special during whale watching season. Today it’s a little on the voggy side, and the tradewinds are nonexistent so it’s a little sticky, but no matter, press onward and upward! Your neighbors are up here too, along with their aunties, uncles, keiki, and of course, the attendant pooches. Everyone has an eagle eye pointing oceanward to note the spouts and splashes that can only hint at the huge whales’ underwater size.

Humpbacks breed, calve and nurse here in these warm waters prior to their return to polar areas to feed. At 45 feet long and weighing 40 tons, the adult whales are terrifically acrobatic. You might see a tail slap, a pec slap, or the most miraculous of all, the breach, where the entire body rises out of the water. And the babies learn by mimicking their parents—equally phenomenal activities, although with slightly less splash. And it’s kind of unbelievable that the parents don’t eat the whole time they’re here!

Makapuʻu Point is located about a mile east of Waimanalo Beach on Kalanianaole Highway (or, if you’re coming from the other direction, about a mile past the Hawaii Kai Golf Course). It’s the easternmost tip of O`ahu and is the location of Makapu`u Point Lighthouse. The 46-foot-tall US Coast Guard lighthouse is inaccessible to hikers, and although unmanned, it is still active. The steamship Manchuria ran aground on the reef off Waimanalo in 1906, which prompted the construction of the lighthouse, completed in 1909. The lighthouse was automated in 1974, and contains a 12-foot-tall hyper-radial lens, the largest in use in the U.S. The lens can magnify and intensify the illumination of a single electrical 1,000-watt, 120-volt light bulb. It was once damaged by a bullet, but remains in service.

The beauty and wildlife of this protected area, along with its history, are interesting facets of our home in the islands. Take a couple of hours to explore and check out Makapu`u--you’ll be glad you did.

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