The Makapu’u Puka Hike

Everyone knows about the Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike: an easy, paved path up to vista point overlooking the windward coast of the island… Awesome for whale watching in the winter… But did you know that Makapu’u also has a puka hike in the vicinity?

If you’ve read the Pali Puka blog already, you know that “puka” is the local word for hole. There are many puka hikes scattered around the island. The pukas form when lava tubes erode. Puka hikes are often very rewarding because they sit along the edge of a ridge framing a beautiful view – just like a window.

Love the puka hikes? Check out Pali Puka – it’s short and sweet!

Makapu’u Puka is a perfect sunrise hike. You could say that about almost any windward hike, but the puka makes it extra special. AND, if you’re lucky, you might get to see a paraglider jump from the Makapu’u lighthouse area and watch him hang out in the sky.

About the Trail

  • Location: Off of Kalaniana’ole Highway, just after Hawaii Kai going east at furthest southeast point of the island. It’s right across from the Makapu’u Lighthouse parking lot.
  • Length: 4 miles total
  • Fear Factor: Minimal – just don’t try to climb through the puka.

Starting the Hike

I did this hike in the early, early morning. I got up at 4 am and met others at the hike by 4:30/4:45 am. Sunrise was between 6:30-7 am. Our goal was to make it to the puka by sunrise.

WEAR PANTS because the thorns on this trail are evil. I had so many scratches by the end of the hike. When starting a hike in the dark, it’s hard to know which bushes will hurt. A phone flashlight helps a little… I guess…

When parking, don’t pull into the Makapu’u Lookout driveway which leads to it’s own parking lot. That is the lighthouse/beach trail. You can just park off the side of the road outside of the Lookout driveway because the hike starts on the hill across the street. You won’t get ticketed as long as your tires aren’t over the road line.

Got time to hand around Makapu’u? Go check out the Lighthouse Trail, which is just across the street. You can even dip in the ocean to cool off afterwards!

When you start hiking, go along the fence all the way to the top. There’s a pretty obvious trail going up, even if it’s dark.

A popular East Oahu trail is open, but its parking lot isn't ...
Park like this! 100% guarantee that It will not be this packed at 4-5 am.

Doing the Hike

The hike has various elevation changes, but nothing drastic. It remains along the coastline >50% of the time which provides some sick views.

Again, the freaking thorns. They disappear off the trail just long enough for you to forget about them, then they return just to shank you in the knee. Try to walk around the overgrowth, although some parts make it difficult to do that.

Stick to the coastline! Don’t get distracted by any deviating paths into the thickets on the left of your trail. Puka hikes are generally on ridges, so as long as you stay on the coastline, you’ll run into it.

The Puka

Unlike Pali Puka, this puka IS in an obvious place. The end of the trail has a pile of rocks which lays on the edge of the cliff. The puka is among those rocks. You can look through the puka OR you can sit on top – either way, you get these awesome views:

And it’ll make you this happy!

Definitely worth the early morning trek! Even if you go in the middle of the day, it’s a great hike with beautiful views. Remember – winter is the best time for Makapu’u hikes because of the whales!

Have you done this hike? Do you remember the terrible thorns?! Tell me about your experience below!

girl looking at steep hike ahead

Heading up to Kailua? You’ll probably run into the infamous Mt. Olomana (Three Peaks). The first peak has all the views, but the bragging rights are reserved for those who finish all three. Are you fit for the challenge?

One response to “The Makapu’u Puka Hike”

  1. […] There are plenty of hikes with clear parking, like Makapu’u Lighthouse or Makapu’u Puka. […]


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