The Legend of the Shapeshifting Shark-Man of Makua Cave

The Legend of the Shapeshifting Shark-Man of Makua Cave is the first post of a series that we call Exploration: Hawaii Chicken Skin Legends, Locations, and Stories. These posts will explore some of the chicken skin (hair-raising goosbumbs for you mainlanders) inducing locations and stories that Hawaii has to offer. Since it’s October and Halloween is right around the corner, you can expect to see a couple of these posts throughout the month. And remember, you should always respect Hawaiian legends, spirits, and stories as spiritual Hawaiiana is something that should be respected and taken seriously.


During a recent trip to Kaena Point, we made a stop along the way to Makua Cave. Located just past mile marker 17 and Keeau Beach Park, this mysterious cave is full of Hawaiian legend. Nicknamed Makua Cave, this cave on the northwestern shore of Oahu is officially known as Kaneana (there’s even a sign across the street etched with this name). Kaneana is translated to mean Cave of the Kane (kane means man in Hawaiian).

Legend goes that within Makua Cave lives a shapeshifting Shark-Man that transforms into human form to lure people into the cave. It is because of this that during the ancient Hawaiian times, people were forbidden from entering Makua Cave, fearful that they would be attacked or eaten by the Shark-Man. With this in mind, Marvin, Joel, and I hesitantly entered the cave.

I was impressed by the sheer height of the mouth of the cave. As we walked further into the cave, though, the ceiling became shorter and shorter. There came a point where I needed to bend down to go deeper into the cave. We eventually stopped at a point that would have forced us to crawl on our stomachs in order to continue. There was no way that I would do that. And although we did not see the Shark-Man, we did have an encounter with some unexpected visitors [1].

The mouth of Makua Cave. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

Coty and Joel look for the Shark-Man in Makua Cave. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

According to Durupan & Chan, Makua Cave is approximately 150,000 years old and more than 450 feet deep. They also note that Makua Cave used to be underwater and was carved out of the sea.

Durupan & Chan also mention that the little tunnels at the end of the cave (remember, the ones that I refused to crawl into) will lead to the inner end of the cave. They also note that there used to a rope at the end that you could use to climb down and at the end you would find a happy face. Would I attempt this? Hell no.

Directions: From Honolulu you will drive west bound on H1 Freeway towards Ewa/Waianae. Follow H1 past Ewa, eventually it will become Farrington Highway and you pass Nanakuli, Makaha, and Waianae. Just past mile-marker 17 will be Makua Cave on your right hand side. Park across the street on your left in the dirt road parking lot. In the parking lot you will see a sign indicating that you are at Kaneana Park.

[mappress]

If you see this Kaneana sign then Makua Cave is right across the street. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The view from the inside of Makua Cave looking out. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Joel Being Swallowed in by Makua Cave. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Taking a peak at a tunnel at the end of Makua Cave. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Leaving Makua Cave. Photo by Coty Gonzales.


1. Two people from Climb Aloha stopped by to also check out Makua Cave a few minutes after we got there. They were pretty cool and I even asked them if they were scouting some new climbing routes. They said “no way!”

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.

10 comments

  1. I’m disappointed that Marvin did not try and find the “happy face”. That would have been legendary.

    • Hey Will, I actually think that they blew the hole up and now it’s impossible to descend down. But it would be be pretty trippy if you could still get down there. Though, the Shark-Man would like get pissed off like Uncle Butchie! I kid…I kid…

  2. I do not mean Nanaue as an individual i just mean in general any type of skin walker that could become a shark.

  3. My dad use to tell me some pretty scary stories about Makua Cave. He also said, that at one time, many, many years ago, you use to be able to go all the way through the tunnels and there is a cold water pond somewhere on the other side. There is also a spirit of a young girl who was murdered and taken to the caves? One of my son’s and his friends went cruising there one time, late at night and I always told him to respect the cave
    because it is very sacred. Well, he and his friends did not listen and I had to take him into emergency cause after they drove away from the cave, he was thrown from the back of his friends truck and almost severed his arm. They were fooling around in the cave with the truck half way in there…drinking and partying….also, my Ohana’s aumakua is the “hammerhead” shark. I don’t live in Waianae anymore, but whenever I did visit the cave, I always pray before entering. I get an eerie feeling and can feel things when I am in there. I actually get lured or compelled to go in against my will, so I stay away from there. I am half Hawaiian and have always been curious about the unknown and yet the other half of me knows to use common sense and be smart. Sometimes it’s better not to know, through past experiences I have encountered.

  4. In response to Veronica. In 1994 I went in on a “first date” with a local boy who was 1/3 Hawaiian. Upon entering I heard a voice, soft like a child, talking in a different language. About half way in another voice began “responding” a little louder, still a child. My date asked me if I heard that I said, quite trying to scare me, it’s someone outside. We got to the back of the cave, the voices were quit audible. We started to walk out, the voices were softer, than towards the entrance again the one, soft, barely audible. We get out, no one near us. He said “See I told you, and no one has ever believed me, you are the first who heard it too”. I’m a believer and I’ve never gone back. I’ve had many other “spiritual” experiences on Oahu, Maui and The Big Island. I respect the aina and it’s traditions.

Comments are closed.