Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Makapuu Tidepools to Pele's Chair

With not a whole lot of time to spare but a desire to fit a hike in, my wife and I decided to head towards Makapuu around 1pm and hike to the Makapuu Tide Pools.  We decided to take a route that we had done with my wife's dad in 2010.  Instead of heading all the way up to the Makapuu Lighthouse lookout, we would veer off from the popular paved trail where a huge plaque telling about whales was situated.  From there we would head down to the well known Makapuu Tide Pools and Dragons Nostrils Blowhole via a rocky and steep trail that is carved into the mountain and then we would proceed to the right, along the coastline to a cave and some little known tide pools before making it back to our starting point.  I would highly suggest doing this hike earlier in the day, for a couple of reasons.  For one, the "secret" tide pools are much more appeasing to swim in when the sun is still shinning on them and it's still warm in that area and the second reason being: if you start earlier you can give yourself some extra time to walk up to the lighthouse and lookout and still have a lot of time leftover to whale watch and swim at the tide pools and do all of this in a leisurely manner.

The first thing I should mention about the Makapuu Tide Pools, is safety.  This can be a very dangerous place and in fact, on the day we were there I captured on video, a group of five people who had been drinking, almost get swept out into the ocean by a huge wave.  Never turn your back to the ocean in this area and watch the ocean for quite some time to make sure it is safe before getting in the tide pools.  Many people have been killed or injured here by huge waves that sweep over the rock ledge and then sweep those in the pools out to sea.  Even when the pools and ocean looks calm, there is always a chance for a huge rogue wave, so always be aware of your surroundings.  This place can be truly dangerous, but it is also an absolutely magnificent and beautiful spot to spend the day.  The tide pools are crystal clear with some fish life in them and bringing a snorkel mask never hurts.  What else could you really ask for?  Well, in addition to a magnificent swimming spot backed by the ocean, you will also be greeted by a blowhole known as "The Dragons Nostrils".  It can be a little fickle but when it's going it's quite a sight to see and you don't even have to get out of the tide pools to see it.  In the distance you will also have the Makapuu Lighthouse as a backdrop as well.  If it's winter time you may also get to see breaching whales in the ocean, just beyond the tide pools.  This is a hot spot for whale watching during the winter season, and on our recent trip there were to many whales to even begin to count.  No matter how many times you see them, it never gets old and never ceases to amaze.  All in all, this is one of my favorite hikes to take people on and spend a relaxing day at.  Once again, be careful and stay vigiliant or a relaxing day could turn into a nightmare.  The ocean is very unforgiving and this place has unfortunately proven that statement true on way to many occasions.

After relaxing at the tide pools and doing some swimming and snorkeling, my wife and I set out for the "hidded" tide pools further down the coast.  In order to do this, you head in the opposite direction of where the lighthouse is.  Near the tide pools was a little trail that we followed.  Almost immediately we reached a section that looked impassable, but as we got closer it was obvious that it was indeed passable.  We were alot closer to the cliffs edge and the path was a lot narrower than I had remembered it being from the last time that we had done this, but this section is really short and not very dangerous.  There was a little scrambling and some very minor climbing and then we reached a good sized cave.  The cave is a nice spot to sit and relax at for a little bit and to take in the views of the ocean just in front of you.    After the cave we continued along the ocean line and before to long we reached the first "hidden" tide pool.  The water is so clear here and this spot is just amazing.  There's really no other way to describe it.  I jumped in and swam for a short time, before I got cold.  It was getting later in the day and the sun was no longer beaming down on this already, tpically shaded area.  At this point there were tons of whales in the ocean just beyond where we were.  We sat and watched as they occasionally breached and as we could continuously see water spouts. 

We grabbed our stuff and headed further down the coastline, knowing that we didn't have a whole lot of daylight left to work with.  The key to doing this hike, is to do it when the tide is not high and to be careful while walking along the shoreline, once again, never taking your eye off of the ocean.  I tried to enjoy this little hike but I found myself paranoid numerous of times by thunderous crashing of waves to our left and by the occasional massive wave bringing water up towards up.  Getting swept out into the ocean was definetly a fear of mine on this day.  We made an obvious point of staying as far from the ocean as possible, but at times it is impossible, and to gain further progress you have to get really close to the sometimes raging ocean.  Hopefully, if anyone reads this and attempts this hike, the ocean is in a better mood and a lot calmer than on the day we visited.  Regardless, one must always be careful along this stretch.  My wife and I came to a few more tide pools, taking pictures at each one.  The rock hopping and minor rock climbing and scrambling continued but we eventually reached an obvious trail heading up to a prominent rock face called "Pele's Chair".  We walked up to the rock face, took some pictures, and then admired the view below us of Alan Davis, where there use to be a pole that everyone would jump off of into the ocean, but it's sadly no longer there.  With not much daylight left, we promptly finished the last leg of the hike, as we could now see the parking lot from Pele's Chair.  After a few minutes we were back to our car.  While my wife and I were both a little worn out, the comfort of knowing that a slurpee break was so near in our future, really relaxed us.  Off to 7-eleven we went, with another amazing day in Hawaii in the rearview mirror.

Directions: There's two ways to do this hike.  One is from the makapuu Lookout and the other is from the parking lot before the Makapuu Lookout that takes you up via the popular paved road to the lighthouse.  From the Makapuu Lookout just jump over the railing and start heading up towards the bunkers that you can see on the ridge.  When you get to the top, you'll descend shortly and then the lighthouse and the lookout will be right in front of you, with great views almost the whole hike up.  I'll post this route and better directions at another time.  Easiest route is via the popular tourist route up the paved road off Kalanianaole Hwy, just past Sandy Beach Park.  From Waikiki, drive towards Hanauma Bay and then pass it.  Shortly after, you will reach a bunch of look out points on your right, where you can pull into and park to take some pictures.  Take the oppurtunity.  A short drive down the road along the coastline and past Sandy Beach and you will arrive at a huge parking lot on your right.  The parking is free.  Follow the paved road past a gate and up the paved walkway.  In about 20 minutes max, you should reach an ocean view with a sign telling you about whales.  Pass by the sign and go down a trail carved into the mountain and you will reach the tidepools within 15 minutes.  They should be visible nearly the whole trip down.  If waves are splashing over them, be smart and come back another day.


  1. So the trail to the tide pools starts behind the whale sign?

  2. Yes. If you are coming up the paved road the trail down to the tide pools will be just to the right of the whale sign and will head steeply down. The tidepools are visible from the whale sign.

  3. Is it hard to get to the hidden tidepools? Is it dangerous?

    1. It's easy to get there. The trail down is a little steep but it's not dangerous. If the ocean is rough and sweeping over the tidepools don't go. Always keep your eye on the ocean if you decide to go to the other tidepools. If you are smart about hiking this trail and don't go when the ocean is rough it is not a dangerous hike at all and is incredibly easy. Just use good judgement


  5. Tutto molto bello e suggestivo. meta irrinunciabile di viaggio!

  6. Tutto molto bello e suggestivo. meta irrinunciabile di viaggio!