Makapu‘u was a supernatural being who, after arriving from Tahiti, took up residence on the point now bearing her name.
This being’s defining feature was her set of eight bright eyes, which is reflected in her name Makapu‘u (meaning bulging eye.)
Makapu‘u Point is the extreme southeastern point of the island of Oahu. To the east of it is the Ka‘iwi Channel, which passes between the islands of Oʻahu and Molokaʻi.
For years, there was no light on the entire northern coast of the Hawaiian Islands to guide ships or warn them as they approach those islands.
The lack of such a light not only rendered navigation at times very dangerous, but in bad weather or at night often compelled them to slow down and await clear weather or daylight.
With the increasing importance of commerce between the United States and the Hawaiian Islands, and the commerce passing the Hawaiian Islands and stopping at Honolulu, the need was evident for this aid to navigation
Essentially, all the commerce from the west coast of North America bound to Honolulu passes Makapuʻu Lighthouse.
On October 1, 1909, the light from another bright, bulging eye was seen on the rocky point of Makapu‘u as the giant lens in the Makapu‘u lighthouse was illuminated for the first time.
Although the tower is only 46-feet high, the light is 420-feet above the sea.
Makapu‘u Lighthouse has the largest lens of any lighthouse of the US, known as a hyper-radiant lens. The inside diameter is 8’2”, sufficient for several people to stand in.
The 115,000-candlepower light can be seen for 28-miles. The effectiveness of this lighthouse has been greatly increased in recent years through the establishment of a radio beacon at the station; radio signals may be heard 200 and more miles at sea.
The lighthouse and about 5,000-square feet around it are owned by the Coast Guard and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The rest of the surrounding area – about 40 acres including a lookout – belongs to the State and is under the control of State Parks within DLNR, which maintains a public wayside park and trail to the vicinity of the Makapu‘u Lighthouse.
The Makapu‘u Point trail, within Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline, offers outstanding views of O‘ahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater.
From the trail’s destination at Makapu‘u Head, there are also magnificent views of the windward coast and offshore islets, as well as the historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse (the lighthouse itself is off-limits).
On a clear day, you may even see Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i.
The offshore islets (Mānana – Rabbit Island and Kāohikaipu – Flat Island) are wildlife sanctuaries for Hawaiian seabirds.
This trail is an excellent place to view migrating humpback whales in season (November-May). An interpretive sign and viewing scope along the trail help you view and identify the whales seen from this location.
This is a moderate 2-mile hike that is paved but is a bit steep in spots. There is no shade or restroom facilities along this trail (start before noon due to the heat, bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.) STAY ON THE TRAIL.
When I was at DLNR, we finally made necessary improvements to get hikers’ parked cars off Kalanianaole Highway and into parking lots (one at the Makapuʻu Beach overlook and a larger on at the head of the Makapuʻu Point trail.)
Nelia wanted to hike this past Mother’s Day, so we ventured, again, to Makapuʻu – it was too late for whales, but we had a great time, anyway.
I noticed padlocks on the fencing at the lookout at the end of the trail. These are called “Love Locks” – padlocks affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love – a phenomenon that apparently started in Europe in the early-2000s.
The image shows the Makapu‘u Lighthouse. In addition, I have included other images of this site and surrounding area in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook page.