Makapu'u Beach Park
East Oahu Beach Park
Ready to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for some adventure? Take a getaway to Makapu'u Beach Park, a secluded beach on the southeast point of windward Oahu that sits just minutes away from Sea Life Park and near Ku Heiau.
Semi-circled by sheer black cliffs, the whole surrounding Makapu'u Point offers dramatic and powerful scenery, especially for such a remote destination. You will enjoy this piece of paradise.
Overview of Makapu'u Beach Park
According to the Hawaiian language, Makapu'u means 'bulging eye,' referring to a Hawaiian legend. The legend of Makapu'u tells the story of a Tahitian goddess who had eight bulging eyes and lived in a cave in the area. Despite her looks, the people of Waimanalo liked the goddess as much as she did them. As such, she left them a statue of herself to remember her. The people loved it so much that they named the beach after her. Today, a modern 'bright eye' still roams Makapu'u -the cliff here forms the eastern tip of Hawaii, where the prominent lighthouse bulges from it.
As you drive along the highway to the beach, you will see Makapu'u Point towering over the azure blue bay. Makapu'u Point embodies Hawaii's power and history. Explore its ancient volcanic peak as a spectacular remnant, which rises 647 feet above the azure blue sea. The point has breathtaking views that many consider among Hawaii's best.
People enjoy Makapu'u Beach for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, and relaxing. It is also a great place to visit with its breathtaking scenery of cliffs, islands, and more.
Directions to Makapu'u Beach Park
Those interested in visiting Makapu'u can take the approximately 1.2-mile drive from Waimanalo Beach on the Kalanianaole Highway (Route 72). Or, if traveling from Honolulu, travel east of the city, past Sandy Beach Park.
Overall, we recommend the drive to Makapu'u as it takes you along one of Oahu's most scenic stretches of highway. For instance, the road snakes along the Koko Head Crater, a black lava-rock mountain. As you continue driving towards Makapu'u from Kaneohe, the scenery changes significantly when the Ko'olau mountain range meets the ocean. The greenery on the windward side gives way to rocky terrain as you get closer to Makapu'u.
Amenities and Facilities at Makapu'u Beach
- A few trees that offer some shade
- Lifeguard on duty
- Free Parking Lot
- Picnic area with tables and benches
- Public BBQ grill
- Public restrooms and showers
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2023 Oahu Visitor Guides
If you're visiting Oahu soon, be sure to download your copy of one of our updated 2023 Oahu Visitor Guides. We've updated both travel guides with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and those who've been a time or two as well).
Enjoy the Many Fun Activities on Makapu'u Beach
Some people bodysurf, surf, swim, and have fun in the waves. Yet, we recommend taking great precautions on this beach. The water levels usually fall around an adult's chest level. Often, the currents can get strong, and its shore breaks are intense. Occasional large waves make swimming difficult for anyone less than a strong swimmer, especially with coral reefs and rocks on this beachside. Ask the lifeguards on duty whether it's safe enough to go into the waters, especially with children. They'll inform you about dangerous tides and powerful shore breaks.
Besides water activities, you can go whale-watching, hike, fish, and picnic with your family.
Makapu'u Bay Beach Activities and Attractions
Swimming: We only recommend swimming at Makapu'u Beach for powerful swimmers. Be prepared to fight some strong waves to stay afloat.
Visit the Makapu'u Tidepools: Waves cover these tidepools (rough lava holes) during the high tides. Yet, the low tide reveals the smooth lava surfaces, making for excellent exploring opportunities. Discover the various fish like jumping fish, crabs, periwinkles (opihi), and other sea creatures roaming in these pools. Make sure to pack sports sandals or sports shoes to explore this area safely.
Whale-watching: Makapu'u is a popular spot in Hawaii for humpback whales to come and spawn before heading north to have their offspring. The best time to see them swimming by the shoreline is from December through March.
Body Surfing: Bodyboarders and surfers congregate here for the killer waves. Go to the furthest side of the beach, where the shore breaks are ideal for riding.
Hang Gliding: Makapu'u is one of the premier hang-gliding sites in Hawaii. Hang gliders like to launch from Makapu'u because the site offers cliffs from the ironwood trees to the lighthouse at Makapu'u Point.
Sunrise gazing: Sunrise at Makapu'u Beach Park is a great way to start your day in Oahu. Usually, the beach is pretty private from sunrise until mid-morning.
Discover the sacred Ku Heiau: Ku Heiau to the left of the parking lot at Makapu'u Beach Park. It is an area sacred to Hawaiian people and looks as if it may have been hidden by overgrowth until recent years, like many of the sacred sites of Hawaii. The heiau is now being beautifully preserved and cared for by local people.
Hike to Makapu'u Lighthouse: The 1¾ mile hike to the Makapu'u Lighthouse starts from the beach's parking lot. The sight affords more expansive panoramic views of Manana Island (better known as Rabbit Island), Black Rock (also known as Kaohikaipu Island), and the eastern shore of Oahu. On a clear day, you can see the islands of Molokai and Lanai. Additionally, humpback whales come to Hawaii each winter and are pretty cool to see from here. On your way down, you can sometimes see the blowhole on clear days.
Makapu'u Point Lookout: Located just off Kalanianaole Highway on Oahu's southeastern tip, the lookout point overlooks the sea cliffs, Makapu'u Beach Park, Rabbit Island (also known as Manana Island), and Kaohikaipu Island. The lookout point sits within the 38-acre Makapu'u Point State Wayside Park. It's a beautiful place!
WWII Bunkers: At Makpu'u Lookout Point, history buffs will enjoy sites of WWII bunkers present here. Oahu has many hidden military bunkers that are remnants of the past on its coastal hills. The people built these bunkers to guard against battleship attacks. Sea Life Park: If you want a thrilling and educational experience, head to Sea Life Park! With plenty of exciting marine exhibits, this Oahu attraction can offer your family hours of fun. Spend 20-30 minutes in a 300,000-gallon tank with trained professionals who will teach you about their animals and lead the way through a unique interactive experience. Sea Life Park sits across from Makapu'u Beach Park.
Neighborhood Sights and Activities
Waimanalo Bay: If you're looking for gentler waves, drive an extra 15 minutes up the road to one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu! Waimanalo Bay's waves are far more accommodating than those in Makapuu; however, they still provide lots of fun play opportunities.
Lifeguards patrol the beach – always check for conditions before entering the water, and obey all signs and warnings. Some amenities include picnic areas, BBQ grills, restrooms, and showers.