Makapuu Lighthouse Trail: A Breathtaking Hike to Catch the First Light of Day

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail sunrise

Are you looking for a scenic trail to watch the sunrise in Hawaii? Look no further than the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail! This trail is one of the most popular hikes on the island of Oahu, attracting visitors from all over the world to experience the stunning sunrise views from its peak. In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about hiking the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at sunrise, including what to expect, what to bring, and how to make the most of your experience.

Featured Image by Paulius Dragunas on Unsplash

What is the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail?

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a popular hiking trail located on the southeastern coast of Oahu, Hawaii. It’s a moderate-level hike that stretches for approximately two miles, round trip. The trail is well-maintained, making it accessible to hikers of all skill levels, and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Makapuu Beach, and the island’s lush greenery.

Why Hike Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at Sunrise?

Watching the sunrise from the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a bucket list experience for many hikers. The trail’s peak offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, making it the perfect spot to witness the first light of day. The hike itself is relatively easy and takes about 30-45 minutes to complete, so you won’t have to worry about being too tired to enjoy the sunrise once you reach the top.

What to Expect When Hiking Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at Sunrise

To make the most of your Makapuu Lighthouse Trail sunrise hike, you’ll want to plan ahead. The trail opens at 7:00 am, and sunrise times vary throughout the year. It’s a good idea to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunrise to allow enough time to reach the peak. The trail can get crowded during peak season, so arriving early also gives you a better chance of finding a good spot to watch the sunrise.

The hike itself is relatively easy, but there are a few steep sections that may require some extra effort. The trail is paved and wide, making it accessible for hikers of all skill levels. There are also several lookout points along the way, so you can stop and take in the views at your leisure.

What to Bring

To make the most of your Makapuu Lighthouse Trail sunrise hike, there are a few essential items you should bring with you:

  • Comfortable walking shoes: The trail can be rocky in some places, so you’ll want to wear sturdy shoes with good traction.
  • Water: It’s important to stay hydrated, especially during a morning hike.
  • Snacks: You may want to bring some light snacks to enjoy at the peak while you wait for the sunrise.
  • Sunscreen and a hat: Even though it’s early in the morning, the sun can still be intense in Hawaii, so it’s important to protect your skin.
  • Camera: Don’t forget to bring your camera or smartphone to capture the stunning sunrise views!

How to Get There

The park and trailhead can be found at the southernmost point of Oahu, just off the Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72). To get there from Honolulu, head east on the H1 freeway until it merges with Highway 72. Continue on this road past popular spots like Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, and Sandy Beach Park until you reach the park area adjacent to the highway. If you’re coming from the windward side, take the Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) heading southeast past Kailua, Waimanalo, and Makapu‘u Beach Park. As the road climbs towards Makapu‘u Head, keep your eyes peeled for the park on the left-hand side of the highway.

Best Time of Year to Hike Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at Sunrise

The best time of year to hike the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at sunrise is during the winter months, from November to February. During this time, the sun rises directly behind the lighthouse, creating a stunning view. However, it’s important to note that this is also peak tourist season, so the trail may be more crowded than usual.

If you’re looking for a quieter experience, you may want to consider hiking the trail during the offseason, from March to October. During this time, the trail is less crowded, and the weather is still pleasant enough to enjoy the hike.

Safety Tips

While the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a relatively easy to moderate hike, it’s still important to take safety precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay on the trail: The trail is well-marked, so it’s important to stay on the designated path to avoid any potential hazards.
  • Wear appropriate footwear: The trail can be rocky and steep in some areas, so it’s important to wear sturdy shoes with good traction.
  • Stay hydrated: Be sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated during the hike, especially if you’re hiking during the summer months.
  • Watch out for wildlife: The trail is home to several species of birds and wildlife, so be sure to give them plenty of space and avoid disturbing them.
  • Check the weather: Before you start your hike, be sure to check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. If there’s a chance of rain or high winds, it may be best to postpone your hike for another day.

Other Things to Do in the Area

If you’re planning a trip to the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at sunrise, there are several other things to see and do in the area. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit Makapuu Beach: This beautiful beach is located at the base of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail and offers stunning views of the ocean and nearby islands.
  • Explore Hanauma Bay: This world-famous snorkeling destination is located just a short drive from the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail and offers some of the best underwater views in Hawaii.
  • Visit the Koko Crater Botanical Garden: This beautiful garden features a variety of tropical plants and flowers, as well as stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Take a whale-watching tour: During the winter months, humpback whales migrate to Hawaii to mate and give birth. Taking a whale-watching tour is an unforgettable experience.


The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail sunrise hike is a must-do experience for anyone visiting Oahu. With its breathtaking views, easy-to-moderate hike, and stunning sunrise views, it’s no wonder that this trail has become one of the most popular hikes on the island. By planning ahead, bringing the right gear, and taking safety precautions, you can enjoy this unforgettable experience while staying safe and comfortable. So grab your camera and get ready to witness the first light of day from the top of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail!

Find more details about the trail here.

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