Makapu’u Tide Pools, a small hidden gem located on the eastern shore of Oahu, is one of the best places to watch sunrise on Oahu and quite simply, it’s magical. The sun’s colors reflected off the calm tide pool waters, while large ocean waves crashed onto the jagged coastal shore creating a light ocean mist that rained on down from above. I’ve never experienced a better sunrise.
The best part, is that it is easily accessible throughout the whole day. It’s only a quick 30 minute drive from Waikiki or Kailua and then a brief 30 minute hike down to the spot. You can go at any point during the day, but I recommend avoiding the midday heat, since it becomes very hot on this part of the island.
To get to the correct Makapu’u Tidepools, you’ll want to head to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail on Google Maps. There’s another Makapu’u Tidepools on Google Maps, but this is the incorrect location for the hike that you want. The hike starts on a large paved path.
As a side note, if you are gunning for sunrise, the gates won’t open for this trail until 7:00am each morning so you’ll have to leave your car outside the yellow gates – just a little uphill. Anytime later in the day, you can park within the lot along the Makapu’u Lighthouse Road, as seen on the map above.
From the parking lot, you will walk the paved Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail to this set of binoculars, which should be about 15 minutes from the starting point of the trail. Use a flashlight to guide your way, if it’s still dark in the morning. You can then take the path just to the left of the wall. The path down rocky and steep, but take your time and follow the easiest way. You should be able to find your way down based on most well-worn trail down.
Sunrise at the Tidepools:
The first view of the Tidepools is one to remember. In the morning it is glassy – almost like a mirror. The ripples only comes from the random crab or fish swimming in the water. You’ll likely have the place to yourself or will share it with a few other early morning risers. And then you can wait for the sunrise magic to happen.
There’s a small window period for good sunrise photos, but as soon as the light comes to the tidepools, you’ll see the incredible scenery around you. The old Makapu’u Lighthouse. The rising cliffs out of the ocean that you just climbed down. The lighting changing from reds and oranges, switching to golden yellows and blues. You’ll also begin to see all the life within these pools.
It’s worth noting all the wild life underneath the water. This Department of Land and Natural Resources pamphlet notes all the major species you’re likely to see within these pools. Be sure to tread as lightly as you can on the ground, and if possible stay off of it completely.
As a final note, it’s important to bring enough water and snacks for the day. Pack some shoes for the climb back up. And I recommend bringing a snorkel or goggles so you can experience the tidepools viewing it underwater. This was the highlight of the day, but I don’t have photos from below the water. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself.