Since 1933, when the first road on the east side of Oahu was completed, Makapuu Beach has been a favorite spot for bodysurfing and bodyboarding. Board surfing is not permitted at the beach. A prominent feature of this area, lying on the southeast tip of the island, is the Makapuu Point Oahu lighthouse, which can be reached by a two-mile hiking trail. There is a long history surrounding the point and the lighthouse. It begins with the legendary Makapuu, said to be a supernatural being originating from Tahiti whose most defining attribute was her extremely bright eyes. Makapuu lived on what is now known as Makapuu Point, which means the bulging eye, and is the Hawaiian legend behind Makapuu Head and beach.
Today, the multiple lookout points above Makapuu Beach offer sublime views of nearby Sea Life Park, Waimanalo Bay, and the long sandy beach. Makapuu Beach Park is due north of both Makapuu Point Oahu and the lighthouse. The beach rests at the bottom of a large sea cliff and is about 300 yards long and almost 50 yards wide. Rough waves make swimming one of the least-popular things to do here, but the many other activities available make up for it.
The summer brings a welcome calmness to the ocean water at Makapuu Point Oahu, and the gentle slope of the shoreline makes this area great for sunbathing and beachcombing. In the winter months, erosion from the extremely high surf reduces the beach to about half of its usual width and exposes an interesting geographical feature: a broad lava edge found at the water's periphery. The surf at Makapuu Beach Park runs very high, creating a thundering shore break and rapid shoreline currents that pound in the center and at either end of the beach, as well as into the coastal rocks. The strong riptides are a good reason to be very careful when spending time along the shore of Makapuu Point Oahu, though with lifeguards on duty daily, there are always professionals there to ask about swimming conditions.
Two picturesque islands can be seen from Makapuu Beach and are major attractions for sightseers. One is called Rabbit Island, or Manana, and the other is Kaohikaipu, meaning black rock. Rabbit Island used to be home to a large settlement of rabbits, but they are long gone. Both of the islands are now well-known seabird sanctuaries. There are great views of both islands from Makapuu Point, reached by the two-mile trail, which is paved and makes for an fairly easy hike. The smooth path is easily accessible for families with strollers, and the ending point is more than 200 yards up, on top of the seaside cliff.
Dual observation decks from the lighthouse above Makapuu Beach Park offer incredible panoramic views of the offshore islands and a sweeping view of Oahu's windward coast. If conditions are clear enough, the island of Molokai is also visible. Makapuu Beach Park has no restrooms, and there isn't any shade to take advantage of in the area. There are no services, drinking water, or dining possibilities at the park, so remember to take your own necessities along. The trail head leading to the lighthouse is situated between Makapuu Beach Park and Sandy Beach Park, and nearby attractions include Kaupo Beach and Koko Crater.