A Sunrise Hike to the Makapu’u Lighthouse Lookout

The Makapu’u Lighthouse trail offers some of the most breathtaking views that the island of Oahu has to offer. Located on the southern most part of the island, Makapu’u is home to the Makapu’u Lighthouse which was established in 1909. The paved trail is perfect for those looking for a quick not-to-strenuous hike and is especially well-suited for those with children. Having hiked Makapu’u multiple times in the past, I was looked to experience it in a different way. And what better way to enjoy Makapu’u than at sunrise?

I needed to wake up at around 3:00 am to give myself enough time to drive to Makapu’u and then complete the 30 minute hike up to the lighthouse lookout. Joel and I left at around 4:15 am and after a quick pit stop to pick up Marvin (he would split from us at Makapu’u and attempt a Makapu’u to Mount Olympus superhike) we set off towards Waimanalo. We reached Makapu’u at around 4:40 am and parked at the Makapu’u Lookout [1] and after preparing our flashlight, we bid farewell to Marvin as he set off on his superhike adventure.

With a single flashlight in hand, we walked the short distance on Kalanianaole Highway from the Lookout to the Makapu’u Lighthouse trailhead. I’m not going to lie, this experience was a bit creepy. It was pitch dark and there were hardly any cars on around (maybe three cars total passed us by as we walked on Kalanianaole Highway). And things did not improve once we were on the trail. Not only was it pitch dark but it was also devoid of any sound. All that could be heard were our footsteps and our breaths. I could not help but think about all of the people that have died at Makapu’u, including those who have taken their lives by jumping off the lookout and those who have been swept away by the tide pools. The experience made me feel uneasy and the entire hike up was chicken skin inducing. It was a good thing that I had someone walking alongside me.

Joel and I reached the top of the Makapu’u Lighthouse Lookout at around 5:20 am. I took a few moments to setup my tripod and GoPro. Once I had everything positioned, we both just sat there, talked story, ate our breakfast, and waited for the sun to rise. Eventually the sun did rise and it was awe-inspiring. Everything about this moment was beautiful [2]. I soaked it all in.

A panorama stitched on the fly using my iPhone 4 of the sunrising over Makapu’u. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The one thing you can always expect when watching the sunrise is pretty colors. Shot on an iPhone 4. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

To the left you can see the light house. To the right, you can see the sun starting to rise. Shot on an iPhone 4. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Joel Sabugo.


Get on H1 and head east bound toward Koko Head Crater. Eventually, H1 will turn into Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72). You will continue on Kalanianaole Highway past Hawaii Kai, Koko Head Crater, Hanauma Bay, and Sandy Beach until you reach a park on the right hand side with a sign indicating the Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline. Turn right into the park and park in the parking lot at the end. The Trailhead is just beyond the parking lot. If atemping to see the sunrise, the parking lot to Ka Iwi State Park will be closed until 7am, see [1] below.

1. The parking lot leading to the Makapu’u Lighthouse trailhead is chained off. The parking lot does not officially open until 7:00 am. We decided to park at the Makapu’u lookout point a few feet ahead. Park here at your own risk. Alternatively, many people simply park on the side of the road just after the gate leading to the trailhead.

2. The experience was only slightly ruined when 1. a man and his daughter came up to the lookout point blasting a portable radio just as the sun was rising, 2. a flock of tourists appeared and started yelling for no reason. To get away from these annoyances, I left my camera and tripod in place and climbed a large boulder far enough from these people and enjoyed the sunrise from there.

About Coty

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


  1. Great video! Just got back from Oahu last week. I did this hike, but it never crossed my mind to do it for a sunrise. Definitely will be doing that the next time I visit.

    • Hey Chris, I’m glad that you enjoyed the video! Yes, if you make it back then you must do Makapu’u at sunrise…it’s awesome. During February/March you’ll also get to see tons of whales. Another great place to visit for a sunrise hike would be Lanikai. It’s beautiful. I’ve also done a timelapse of that too that you might want to check out!

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