While visiting Oahu last month, I figured a trek to Diamond Head would be just the thing. Especially since the big explorer was dying to see a real live volcano (albeit long ago inactive). And I’d heard the views from the top were one in a million.
Only problem was, we were turned away at the parking lot. Why? It was full. On an overcast Tuesday morning. In March. Ugh!
Temporarily flustered by this minor setback, I pulled out the list I’d made of “backup” hikes and decided we should check out the Makapu`u Point Lighthouse Trail instead.
Turned out to be well worth the visit.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR NATURE LOVERS
Two words: The views. Not only will you get to see Oahu’s southeastern coastline (including both Koko Head and Koko Crater), but from the lookout point at the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most stunning images ever: a historic red-roofed lighthouse set against the backdrop of the deep blue sea below.
From here, you’ll also enjoy magnificent views of the windward coast and a few smaller islands, which are wildlife sanctuaries for Hawaiian seabirds. And if you time it right, you might spot a humpback whale during migration season, which runs from November through May.
WHAT WE LIKED
To be perfectly honest, the hike didn't start off on the best foot. Both the big explorer and I were a little off our game, having just flown in from Los Angeles the previous afternoon. Add to that the big time wind and you might get a sense of how unappealing the trail seemed at first glance.
But just a few minutes up the trail and we were both feeling better. We noticed almost immediately that the terrain around us was very un-lush – at least by Hawaii standards. My son described the trail as “like a desert with a lot of water around it.” That’s what comes to my mind when I see cactus and other strange looking growths like this one.
The mile-long route continued at a fairly steady incline, and we found ourselves stopping often along the way to drink and take in the wonderful sights unfolding around every turn.
In addition to the new-to-us vegetation, we saw birds we don’t have back home, like this red-crested cardinal.
We also heard lots of new bird calls as well as the somewhat unsettling sound of kiawe wood trees squeaking every time the wind blew.
It took about an hour, but we finally caught our first glimpse of the lighthouse, so breathtaking that it almost made up for all the complaining I'd heard along the way.
In fact, the big explorer was so entranced by seeing his first lighthouse that he all but forgot how tired he was and how sore his legs seemed to be just minutes before. Funny how a little excitement can do that, huh?
The lighthouse isn't open to the public, so we made our way to the lookout point at the end of the trail and stood looking around at the incredible surroundings for what felt like forever. It was as if time stood still to give us a chance to take in the incredible surroundings nature had on display.
Our trek back down the trail featured fewer complaints and more play. Check out my post on embracing the wind for more on how silly we both were by the end.
- Open 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. daily
- Admission and parking are free
- Hike is 2 miles roundtrip and involves a steady uphill climb to a 500-foot elevation; takes about 2 hours to complete
- Lighthouse is not open for access, but can be viewed from the trail
- Trail is paved and stroller friendly
- Conditions are often hot, dry and windy
- No restrooms or picnic areas are available
- For directions to the trail head, click here
MY TIPS FOR A GREAT VISIT
- Prepare for the weather. This is a hot, dry and windy trail so apply sunscreen liberally, wear a hat and dress in layers. Bring along plenty of water and take breaks whenever the little ones need to rest.
- Pack a picnic. If you can brave the wind at the top of the trail, you’ll enjoy a meal with a wonderful view.
- Bring binoculars. Better to spot the humpbacks with, for sure. But binoculars also come in handy trying to see all the amazing Hawaiian birds that call this trail home.