Kid Friendly Hiking: Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

If you’re anything like me, you probably had no idea that Hawaii has a really decent whale watching season from mid-December through April. When my girlfriend hit me up and asked if I wanted to take a stab at trying to spot some whales, the only answer was yes! We decided if we were going to see whales we might as well go full out majestic and catch a Hawaiian sunrise too. There are obviously tons of beautiful places to hike and see the sunrise, but since we had both of my kids in tow we decided it was best to go with hiking Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.

The out and back style with gradual incline makes hiking Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail easier than most trails on the southeast tip of the island. Two other factors make this trail easy. It is paved and the round trip distance is only two miles. This is ideal for a super early morning, cranky toddler type of hike.

Hiking Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

Hiking Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail

Arriving At Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

We arrived while it was still dark so we had to park on the side of the road because the gate had not opened yet. There is plenty of room to park here, but make sure to carry lots of flashlights like these. There is not much streetlight to highlight kids jumping out of the car. It was a bit of a challenge to get my stroller up and over the gate, but nevertheless we succeeded. I managed to push it up the hillside relatively easily courtesy of the frequent rest stops.

At The Top

We were not able to go all the way to the very top because there are stairs and I didn’t want to leave my stroller behind (I am a runner so my BOB is my third child). However, there is a great landing area right before those stairs. Here you will still get spectacular view of the ocean and lighthouse. We arrived before the sun crested the horizon so we decided to take a breather. It was the perfect spot to eat some breakfast while we waited for the magic to happen.

Hiking Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail(Yes, that is goldfish and dry cheerios. Mom of the year?)

I know its super cheesy to say “wait for the magic to happen”. If you’ve ever seen a Hawaiian sunrise over the ocean, you know it is an actual work of magic. This particular sunrise started out with light pastel colors. It evolved into deep yellows and oranges before the clouds cleared and we were left with a beautiful vibrant sun. Sunrises happen somewhat quickly, so make sure you have your camera ready as soon as you start to see the first of hints of the sun peaking through.

Hiking Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail

(Do you see the magic?!)

Time For Whale Watching

Once the awe of the sunrise passed, it was time to get serious about whale watching. One thing I wish I had thought of beforehand was to bring a pair of binoculars like these. When you’re staring into a wide open ocean from 500 feet up, those giant mammals quickly turn into tiny specks. There are built in view finders, however they were all broken at the time so they offered zero help.

Close up view or not, when that first whale blow and tail broke the surface I squealed a bit. Okay, okay, I squealed all 5 times we saw it happen. But seriously, it was so exciting to set out for a whale watching adventure and actually see whales. We were not lucky enough to catch one breach the water, but there is still time left in whale season. I’m not giving up hope yet!

Hiking Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail


Whether you are going for the sunrise, whales, or just to get out in nature, hiking Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is an excellent family friendly adventure on O’ahu. It’s a very sunny, uncovered trail with somewhat limited parking so keep that in mind if you plan on going during the middle of day.

If you do go to seek out the “magical sunrise”, remember to pack flashlights and possibly jackets as it get windy toward the top. Bring water, suncreen, and plenty of snacks to keep the kids happy. If you are headed here sans kids, there are a few, more advanced trails that branch off along the coast line so that could be a fun adventure!

Let me know if you have ever been whale watching before and seen a whale breach the surface (I want to live vicariously through your experiences) or if you have tried hiking Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail before. I would also love to hear any stories about the surrounding trails I mentioned. Don’t forget to follow me on social media and to hit the subscribe button if you want to stay up to date on my families crazy adventures aka Our Happy Place 🙂

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