Makapuu is located on the windward side of Oahu, about twenty-five minutes from Waikiki, depending on traffic. The drive to Makapuu Beach Park from Honolulu will take you around the breathtaking twists and turns of the Kalanianaole Highway, past the iconic Diamond Head and Koko Head craters, and past multiple scenic overlooks that top the cliffs along the island’s southeastern coast.
Just before the turn-off to the beach parking lot, you’ll also pass the trailhead for the Makapuu Lighthouse Hiking Trail, a fairly easy paved path that winds up to the top of the cliff near the lighthouse to spectacular views of the windward side of the island. Another pull-off before the beach park leads to a scenic overlook that doesn’t require a hike; from here you can observe the beach park down below. It’s a great stop to get an idea of the waves and weather conditions before heading down to the beach itself.
Makapuu’s biggest asset is the scenery. A covelike beach, Makapuu Beach Park is a gorgeous sandy escape tucked between the cliffs to the right and smatterings of lava rock to the left. When facing the water, to the right you’ll see an imposing lava rock cliff with a hundred-year-old lighthouse perched on the edge.
Turn your back to the water, and you’ll see the emerald-carved ridges of the Ko’Olau mountains stretching north and south along the center of the island. Beneath your feet, feel the silky, fine white sand that windward Oahu is known for, along with the sapphire-blue water and crashing waves.
Waves at Makapuu peak during the summer months, but you’ll find waves suitable for bodyboarding or skimboarding practically all year. Among locals, Makapuu is known for its shore break. If you’re into bodyboarding or body surfing, this might turn out to be your favorite stop on the island. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a serene beach to relax with the kiddos, you might want to go further up the coast.
Makapuu Beach Park offers open showers to rinse off, a set of bathrooms (cleanliness is luck of the draw), and benches to sit on the dunes above the water. There is typically a lifeguard posted at Makapuu, and it’s smart to talk to them about any potential hazards before you dive in; a sometimes-gnarly shore break and strong currents have swept unwary swimmers off their feet more than once here. When in doubt, enjoy the sights from the sand.
How To Get There:
Located off Kalanianaole Highway, Makapuu Beach Park can be found by typing “Makapuu Beach Park” into your GPS. There are a couple of public parking lots nearby, the closest one being with this latitude and longitude: 21.316094703309183, -157.66448581272738.
-Keep in mind that weather can be unpredictable, and prepare accordingly. It’s not unusual for the most sunshiny day on the windward side of Oahu to yield a short rainshower that seems to come from nowhere.
-If you’re here for the waves, observe for a bit before you jump in, and observe reasonable surf etiquette before catching a wave. This is particularly important if there’s a crowded lineup.
-If the time change has you waking up at 4 am, consider grabbing a coffee and heading to Makapuu Beach Park (or the lighthouse trail above it) to catch a sunrise you’ll never forget.