Saturday, December 24, 2011

Makapuu Tom-Tom

Makapuu Tom-Tom is an adventurous 4 mile ridge hike located on the eastern side of Oahu that starts at the Makapuu Lookout and ends in a little neighborhood in Waimanalo.  Makapuu tom-tom was named after Tom Mcguire and Tom Cadle, who rediscovered the old Hawaiian trail that connects Waimanalo to the Koolau Summit.  The views one will get of the stunning ocean colors along this trail are hard to beat. 

The Makapuu Tom-Tom trail starts at the Makapuu Lookout parking lot just past the parking lot where everyone parks for the Makapuu lighthouse hike.  You will need two cars for this hike because you will be exiting in Waimanalo via the tom-tom trail and will need a car stationed there to bring you back to your car at the makapuu lookout.  Our friends staged their car behind the 7-11 in Waimanalo (you can park in the neighborhood in Waiokeola, right where the trail ends also, but the residents over there tend to get a little testy) and then we drove them back to the makapuu lookout where the rest of our crew was waiting for us to begin the hike. We darted straight across the road at the lookout. Once on the other side of the street, a faint trail became clearly visible. If you can not see it just head towards the fenceline that hugs the cliffs edge to the right and follow the fenceline to the top of the hill. Immediately after reaching the top of the hill beautiful views of manana (rabbit) and kaohikaipu island and makapuu beach came into view. The colors of the ocean amazed us and yet they just got better and better as the hike went on. Once at the top of the hill we headed right and towards the cliffs edge and picked up a faint trail. The trail is kind of hard to find at points but as long as you remember to stay near the cliffs edge you shouldn't get lost and the trail should always come back into view.

This hike has a lot of ups and downs and is pretty long (four to seven hours, so bring plenty of water and food) but overall it is not all that taxing on the body. Not to long after we started following the ridgeline along the cliffs edge we arrived at a puka (hole in the rocks). A few of us climbed inside of it and took some pictures, but I would suggest being very careful if you do this, for if you fall it will certainly not be a good outcome. Views from the rocks above the puka and picture taking from this point are great. From the puka we followed the trail as it periodically narrowed to our right and began climbing up a rock face to the next peak that was visible. There are a few different routes that one can take and on this day we all seemed to be going our own way and climbing up the rock face at the same time from every which angle. The climbing is not very technical and is more fun than challenging. In Stuart ball's "The Hikers Guide to Oahu" he writes that the Makapuu tom-tom trail is for those that love to scramble. He could not have been more right.

After a little bit more climbing and scrambling we all finally arrived at a platform with green astroturf on it. This is the hang glider launching pad. The hang gliders will often come to this very spot and then jump off. Kind of crazy if you ask me, but they seem to enjoy it. It's awfully cool to see them gliding through the sky but there is no way you could get me to jump off that little platform. From the launching pad platform we walked down the concrete steps and were greeted by an access road. Once on the access road we walked towards the top of the road and when we saw a huge concrete slab (on our right side) we took a right and headed for the cliffs edge. Just after making the right there was a little fence that we all had to maneuver around to get back on to the trail. If you are affraid of heights you will absolutely hate this part. Everyone in our group but one of us managed this part with no trouble and then we slowly coaxed our other friend to the point where we were waiting for him at.

Once we had safely maneuvered around the gate we followed the easily identifiable trail and next we came to an old missile site that is now used as a cell phone tower site. We saw a set of stairs and headed up those stairs after playing at the missile site for a few minutes. All of the old, tall military structures make this part of the hike very interesting. The trail from here is easy to follow and the next part of the hike consisted of a steep climb down a rock face. There was a rope and cable in place here to aid us in our descent but it was not that hard of a climb and the ropes weren't really needed. For those in the group that were a little uncomfortable, we just had them slowly slide down on their butts while holding the rope. After making it past this section there was a narrow contour section that we had to follow to arrive back on the ridgeline, but the trail is alway apparent. We followed the now semi-narrow ridgeline along the cliffs edge and then after another short climb up a little rockface, we arrived in a shaded area with some ironwood trees and were greeted with an absolutely amazing view of Waimanalo and Olomana in front of us with Konahuanui in the background and the rest off the koolau summit just off to our left.

From this spot the trail was wide and easy to follow but a junction came in on our right hand side (it should be ribboned) that we needed to follow. I was in front of the rest of the group and of course missed the junction and ended up heading down to the left into a wooded area with pine needles everywhere. I eventually realized that I was on the Kamiloiki trail and that I needed to backtrack. The rest of the group was looking for me at this point and was way ahead of me. Luckily a few of them backtracked and pointed out the junction to me. To prevent this from happening to you just remember that you need to get back on the cliffs edge after leaving the knoll area with the ironwood trees and just continue to stay on the Koolau Summit Trail. After taking the correct juntion, the trail once again stayed true to the cliffs edge. There was a few more rock climbing sections and ups and downs but nothing to crazy. We entered another wooded area at one point and went straight down only to come out of the wooded area and have to start our ascent back up once again. From this point, the end was in sight. We kept scrambling and climbing and we eventually reached a peak with an electrical pole on top of it. After going a little bit of a ways past the electrical pole we saw a trail on our right hand side (it had pink ribbons to mark the way) heading down into the valley.

We took this right and were officially on the tom-tom trail. I expected the trek down the tom-tom trail to be incredibly easy, but it wasn't as easy as I had originally anticipated. There are a few technical parts where you have to climb or negotiate steep and narrow sections. Everyone in the group made it down this ridge pretty quickly but one of my friends was having a tough time and was not enjoying the exposure and descent down, so I stayed behind with him and watched as he basically crawled down the entire ridge. This was fine by me and I told him just to make sure that he was comfortable and to be safe. I was starting to get a little worried about time and was hopeing that we wouldn't get stuck on the ridge after sunset since I mindlessly didn't bring any headlamps or flashlights (always have a headlamp or flashlight with you) with me. Luckily the ridge eventually leveled off and we entered a wooded area and the exposure was no more. We were almost home free. I told my friend that I was sorry and that he didn't have to hike with me anymore. I truly did not know that he was affraid of heights when we had started the hike. He seemed to be more upset with his girlfriend than me, since she pushed him to come. Now that he knew that he was in the clear, he relaxed a little bit and his anxiety started to go away. I thought that he was gonna kill me but he actually thanked me. He was so happy to have completed this trail and to have had this experience and to have accomplished something that to him, was a huge feat. I was incredibly inspired by him and and his determination to finish this trail. A few times during our descent he made comments about wanting to call rescue and I started to worry. I've never had to do that before and i'm glad this day was not the first time, because it would have been solely on my head and an embarassment that I would have never been able to let go of. Once we reached the wooded area we both talked and joked in within ten or fifteen minutes we had reached the neighborhood in Waimanalo where the rest of the group pulled up in the car to get us (having already walked to the car and driven the others to their cars back at makapuu - wow).

Hiking the tom-tom trail taught me that just because something is easy to one person doesn't mean that everyone will see it that same way. We all have different hiking levels and different things that hold each of us back and we need to be aware of these things when we hike with others. My friend stated to me that he had always wanted to hike in the mountains here before he left to move back to the mainland and that he was so happy that we helped him achieve this goal. All though I love hiking and I do it regularly, I realized that not everyone is as passionate about hiking as me and that not everyone indulges on the trails the way I do and that I need to be more aware in the future of who I am with and where we are going, for their safety and for my conscience. I learned many lessons on this trail that I will assuredly use on many hikes in the future. I was just glad that at the end of the day, we all got down safely and were able to laugh and high five while drinking a few slurpees outside of 7-eleven before heading to the comforts of our own homes.

Directions: Pretty simple.  Park one car at the makapuu lookout and one somewhere in Waimanalo (I suggest parking behind the 7-11 and when you finish the hike just walk to your car, but you can also park somewhere on Waiokeola street where the hike ends, but i've bad stories about people who leave their cars parked there).  To get to the Makapuu Lookout (from waikiki) take the H1 to Kalanianaole Hwy and continue past Hanauma bay and the halona blowhole and eventually you will pass the big parking lot where everyone parks for the Makapuu Lighthouse hike.  The Makapuu Lookout will be on your right side just after this. Park there.  To park your second car, continue straight on Kalanianaole Hwy until you reach Huli street.  Take a left on to Huli street and follow it until it connects with Waiokeola street.  Take a left on Waiokeola street and where the road dead ends is where you will exit from your hike via the tom-tom trail.  Park anywhere in this area that you feel comfortable.  To park in the back of the 7-11 where I parked, just continue past Huli street and the 7-11 is right off the highway just after Huli street.  If you do this, when coming off the tom-tom trail, proceed down Waiokeola street, take a right on to Huli street, a left on to Nakini street and then that will take you back to the hwy where you will take a left and the 7-11 and your car will be right there.


  1. What is the address for TomTom Trail?
    Please reply quickly because we will go tommorow

  2. Yes, it's a beautiful trail. It is also illegal/Kapu. Yesterday,4/17/15, a local woman fell 500' to her death by the Puka.