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Makapu’u Tide Pools On Oahu, Hawaii: Complete Guide


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Marcile Upton



Welcome to the breathtaking beauty of Makapu’u Tide Pools on the mesmerizing island of Oahu, Hawaii. Nestled along the island’s southeastern coastline, these natural wonders offer a unique and unforgettable adventure for nature enthusiasts and thrill-seekers alike.


With its crystal-clear turquoise waters, dramatic cliffs, and abundant marine life, Makapu’u Tide Pools is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to escape the bustling city life and immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor from afar, the allure of these tide pools will captivate your senses and leave you awestruck.


As the tides ebb and flow, a natural phenomenon occurs, creating pockets of sunlit pools that are teeming with vibrant marine life. These tide pools form a natural aquarium, inviting snorkelers and swimmers to explore the underwater wonders that await beneath the surface.


Not only are the Makapu’u Tide Pools a marvel of natural beauty, but they also offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. From the rugged cliffs that tower above to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, every turn offers a postcard-worthy vista that will take your breath away.


Whether you’re looking to embark on an adventure, bask in the serenity of nature, or simply enjoy a day of fun in the sun, Makapu’u Tide Pools offers something for everyone. From families seeking a memorable outing to avid photographers capturing the beauty of the coast, these tide pools have it all.


So, grab your sunscreen, pack your snorkel gear, and get ready for an unforgettable experience at Makapu’u Tide Pools. In this complete guide, we’ll explore everything from how to get there to the best time to visit, ensuring you have all the information you need to make the most of your trip. Get ready to immerse yourself in the natural wonders that await at Makapu’u Tide Pools!


Location of Makapu’u Tide Pools

Makapu’u Tide Pools are located on the southeastern coast of Oahu, the most populous and vibrant island in Hawaii. Specifically, they are situated just off Kalanianaole Highway, approximately 20 miles east of Honolulu and a short distance from the popular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse.


The tide pools are nestled at the base of towering cliffs, which provide a stunning backdrop to the natural beauty of the area. As you make your way towards the coastline, you’ll be greeted by panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and miles of pristine sandy beaches.


One of the unique aspects of Makapu’u Tide Pools is their accessibility. Unlike some other tide pool locations, you don’t need to embark on a strenuous hike or traverse treacherous terrain to reach them. Instead, you can park your vehicle near the Kalanianaole Highway and take a short but scenic walk down to the shoreline.


It’s important to note that while the tide pools are known for their beauty, they are also located in a relatively rugged and undeveloped area. The coastline is characterized by volcanic rock formations, and the lack of facilities or infrastructure adds to the wild charm of the location.


As you explore the tide pools, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the powerful forces of nature at work. The waves crashing against the rocky shoreline offer a mesmerizing spectacle, while the geological formations provide a glimpse into the island’s volcanic past.


With its prime location on the southeastern coast of Oahu, Makapu’u Tide Pools offer visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, serenity, and adventure. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, the location of the tide pools makes them an ideal destination for all.


How to Get to Makapu’u Tide Pools

Getting to Makapu’u Tide Pools is relatively straightforward, and there are a few different options depending on your preferences and circumstances.


If you’re staying in the nearby town of Kailua or on the windward side of Oahu, the best way to reach the tide pools is by car. From Kailua, take the Kalanianaole Highway (also known as Highway 72) heading east. Follow the highway for approximately 10 miles until you reach the parking area near the Makapu’u Lookout. Park your vehicle here and proceed on foot to the tide pools.


If you’re staying in or around Honolulu, you can also drive to Makapu’u Tide Pools. Take the H1 Freeway eastbound, and then merge onto the Kalanianaole Highway as you approach the southeastern coast of the island. Follow the highway until you reach the parking area near the Makapu’u Lookout, where you can park your vehicle and begin your adventure.


It’s important to note that the parking area at the Makapu’u Lookout can be limited, especially during peak times. If the lot is full, you may need to find parking along the highway or in nearby designated parking areas. Please ensure that you park legally and safely, respecting any posted signs or regulations.


For those who prefer public transportation or are staying in Waikiki, there are also bus options available. The city’s public bus system, known as “TheBus,” has routes that pass by the tide pools area. Check the bus schedule and routes to find a suitable option for your visit. Keep in mind that the bus stop may be a short walk from the tide pool area, so make sure to plan your journey accordingly.


Once you’ve parked or arrived at the bus stop, make your way towards the coastline. There is a paved pathway that leads from the lookout down towards the tide pools. The path can be steep in some areas, so exercise caution and wear appropriate footwear.


As you descend, you’ll be greeted by stunning panoramic views of the ocean and coastline. Take your time to enjoy the scenery and capture some memorable photos along the way.


Overall, there are several convenient options for reaching Makapu’u Tide Pools, whether you choose to drive or take public transportation. Just remember to plan your journey in advance, be mindful of parking regulations, and wear comfortable shoes for the short hike down to the tide pools.


Best Time to Visit

When it comes to visiting Makapu’u Tide Pools, timing is key. The best time to visit depends on various factors, such as the tide conditions, weather, and crowd levels. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:


Tide Conditions: The ideal time to explore the tide pools is during low tide. This is when the water level recedes, revealing more of the pools and making it easier to navigate and observe the marine life. It’s recommended to check the tide tables before your visit to ensure you’re there during the optimal time window.


Weather: Oahu experiences warm and pleasant weather throughout the year, but it’s worth noting that the southeastern coast can be slightly windier compared to other parts of the island. If you’re looking for calm seas and sunny skies, the summer months of June to September typically offer the best weather conditions. However, be prepared for more crowds and potentially higher temperatures during this time.


Crowd Levels: Makapu’u Tide Pools have gained popularity over the years, attracting both locals and tourists. If you prefer a quieter and more peaceful experience, consider visiting on weekdays or during non-peak hours. Early morning visits are often recommended to catch the beautiful sunrise and beat the crowds.


Seasonal Activities: Depending on the time of year, you may have the opportunity to witness special seasonal activities. For example, during the winter months from December to March, you can sometimes spot humpback whales breaching and playing in the waters off the coast. Keep an eye out for these majestic creatures during your visit.


Personal Preferences: Ultimately, the best time to visit Makapu’u Tide Pools may vary depending on your personal preferences. Some people enjoy the buzz and energy of a more crowded setting, while others prefer a quieter and more serene experience. Consider what type of atmosphere you prefer and plan your visit accordingly.


Remember to always prioritize safety and respect the fragile ecosystem of the tide pools. It’s important to stay aware of your surroundings, especially during high tide or rough sea conditions. If in doubt, consult with local authorities or lifeguards for up-to-date information on the current conditions.


By carefully considering these factors and planning your visit accordingly, you can maximize your enjoyment of the stunning Makapu’u Tide Pools and have a truly memorable experience.


Safety Tips for Visiting the Tide Pools

While Makapu’u Tide Pools offer a captivating and adventurous experience, it’s crucial to prioritize safety during your visit. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:


Know the Ocean Conditions: Always check the local weather and surf forecasts before heading to the tide pools. Large waves and strong currents can pose dangers, especially during high tide or storms. If the sea is rough or conditions are unfavorable, it’s best to visit another time for your safety.


Wear Appropriate Footwear: The tide pools are nestled amongst rocky terrain, so it’s essential to wear sturdy shoes with good grip. Avoid flip flops or sandals that may cause slips or injuries on the uneven surfaces. Protect your feet and ankles by wearing close-toed shoes that can handle the potentially sharp rocks.


Caution on the Rocks: Be cautious while traversing the rocks around the tide pools. They can be slippery and uneven, so take your time and watch your step to prevent any slips or falls. Use your hands to stabilize yourself as needed and be mindful of any loose rocks.


Respect the Wildlife: Makapu’u Tide Pools are home to a diverse array of marine life. Please observe the creatures from a distance and refrain from touching or disturbing them. Some marine organisms may be fragile or even dangerous, so it’s important to treat them with respect and let them thrive undisturbed.


Be Mindful of Tides: Pay close attention to the tide levels and plan your visit accordingly. When the tide is rising, the pools can become more challenging to access, and waves may crash over the rocks. Make sure you have enough time to explore the tide pools before the tide starts to come in.


Swim and Snorkel with Caution: If you choose to swim or snorkel in the tide pools, be aware of your abilities and limitations in the water. The pools do not have lifeguards, so it’s essential to swim within your comfort zone and take extra caution during high surf or strong currents. It’s also recommended to wear a snorkel vest or other flotation devices for added safety.


Stay Hydrated and Sun-Protected: Hawaii’s sun can be intense, and extended exposure can lead to sunburn and dehydration. Remember to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout your visit.


Leave No Trace: Help preserve the natural beauty of the tide pools by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Carry out any trash or belongings you bring with you and avoid leaving any marks on the rocks or disturbing the surrounding environment. Let’s all work together to ensure the sustainability and preservation of this incredible natural wonder.


Following these safety tips will help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience at Makapu’u Tide Pools. By being prepared and taking necessary precautions, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the tide pools while minimizing any potential risks.


Things to Do at Makapu’u Tide Pools

Makapu’u Tide Pools offer a plethora of activities to enjoy and explore. Immerse yourself in the natural wonders and unique experiences that await you:


Snorkeling: Take a plunge into the crystal-clear waters of the tide pools and witness the vibrant marine life below. Bring your snorkel gear and explore the colorful coral formations, tropical fish, and other fascinating sea creatures that call this area home. Remember to snorkel responsibly, respecting the marine environment.


Swimming: Cool off in the calm and refreshing waters of the tide pools. Take a leisurely swim and enjoy the unique perspective of the pool’s rocky surroundings. However, be mindful of the tides and currents, and only swim in safe conditions.


Tide Pool Exploration: Take the time to explore the fascinating tide pools themselves. Carefully navigate the volcanic rock formations, searching for hidden nooks and crannies that harbor diverse marine life. Observe starfish, sea urchins, and other creatures that thrive in this intertidal ecosystem.


Rock Jumping: For the adventurous souls, there are opportunities for rock jumping into the deeper sections of the tide pools. However, exercise extreme caution, assess the water depth, and only attempt this activity if you are a confident and experienced swimmer.


Basking in the Sun: Find a comfortable spot on the surrounding rocks or sandy areas and soak up the warm Hawaiian sun. Relax, read a book, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views and tranquility of the tidal landscape.


Photography: With its stunning coastal scenery and unique rock formations, Makapu’u Tide Pools provide ample opportunities for photography enthusiasts to capture breathtaking shots. Whether it’s the crashing waves, vibrant marine life, or panoramic views, there’s no shortage of subjects to photograph.


Hiking to Makapu’u Point Lighthouse: If you’re up for a bit of exercise and want to explore more of the area, consider hiking up to Makapu’u Point Lighthouse. The trailhead is located near the tide pools, and it offers panoramic views of the coastline as you make your way to the lighthouse. This moderate hike is approximately two miles round trip, and it rewards you with stunning vistas and a glimpse into the island’s maritime history.


Picnicking: Pack a picnic lunch or grab takeout from a local eatery and enjoy a scenic picnic near the tide pools. Take in the sights and sounds of the ocean while savoring a delicious meal in nature’s embrace.


Remember to always prioritize safety and respect the natural environment. Leave no trace, take only memories, and ensure that you do not disturb or harm the delicate ecosystem of the tide pools.


Makapu’u Tide Pools offer an array of activities for visitors to indulge in, catering to every interest and adventure level. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, exploration, or thrilling experiences, the tide pools provide the perfect setting for an unforgettable day on the southeastern coast of Oahu.


Marine Life at Makapu’u Tide Pools

Makapu’u Tide Pools are teeming with a diverse array of marine life, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and snorkelers. Here are some of the fascinating creatures you may encounter during your visit:


Tropical Fish: The tide pools are home to a vibrant display of tropical fish, with colors ranging from brilliant blues and yellows to vibrant oranges and purples. Look for species such as the Hawaiian Sergeant, Raccoon Butterflyfish, Yellow Tang, and many more darting among the coral and rocks.


Sea Turtles: Makapu’u Tide Pools are occasionally visited by Honu, the beloved Hawaiian green sea turtles. These gentle creatures can often be spotted swimming gracefully through the clear waters or resting on the rocks. Remember to maintain a respectful distance and observe them from afar.


Crustaceans: Keep an eye out for various crustaceans that scuttle along the rocks and hide among the crevices. You may spot colorful hermit crabs, shy rock crabs, or even the elusive Hawaiian slipper lobster, known locally as “kona crab.”


Octopus: The tide pools can sometimes be home to octopuses, although they are masters of disguise and may be challenging to spot. These intelligent and elusive creatures blend seamlessly into their surroundings, so keep a keen eye and observe carefully for any telltale signs of their presence.


Eels: Makapu’u Tide Pools are also inhabited by various types of eels, including the banded moray eel and the dragon moray eel. These serpentine creatures make for fascinating sightings as they slither through the water or peek out from their hiding places in the rocks.


Crabs and Shrimp: The tidal ecosystem is also home to numerous crab and shrimp species. From the tiny pistol shrimp, famous for its powerful claw snap, to the agile and colorful porcelain crabs, there is a wealth of interesting crustaceans to discover.


Sea Anemones and Coral: Look closely at the rocks and tide pools, and you’ll find clusters of vibrant sea anemones and patches of coral. These intricate organisms provide a habitat for a diverse range of marine life and present a mesmerizing sight with their delicate structures and stunning colors.


Remember, while observing the marine life, it is essential to maintain a respectful distance and avoid touching or disturbing any creatures or their habitats. The tide pools are a fragile ecosystem, and it’s crucial to protect and preserve the delicate balance of this underwater world for future generations to enjoy.


Whether you’re snorkeling or simply observing from the rock pools, the abundance of marine life at Makapu’u Tide Pools is sure to leave you in awe. Take your time, be patient, and appreciate the incredible diversity that thrives in these coastal waters.


Beaches near Makapu’u Tide Pools

Makapu’u Tide Pools are situated along the southeastern coast of Oahu, which means you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to nearby beaches. Here are some stunning beaches that you can visit either before or after exploring the tide pools:


Waimanalo Beach: Just a short drive from Makapu’u Tide Pools lies the picturesque Waimanalo Beach. Known for its long stretch of powdery white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, Waimanalo Beach offers a peaceful and uncrowded atmosphere. Spend a relaxing day sunbathing, swimming, or strolling along the shoreline, taking in the breathtaking views of the Ko’olau Mountains in the backdrop.


Kailua Beach Park: Located a bit farther north from Makapu’u Tide Pools, Kailua Beach Park is renowned for its pristine beauty and calm waters. This beach is ideal for families, as the gently sloping shoreline provides safe and enjoyable swimming conditions. Additionally, Kailua Beach is a popular spot for water sports such as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and windsurfing, offering opportunities for adventurous activities.


Lanikai Beach: Considered one of the most picturesque beaches in Hawaii, Lanikai Beach is a short drive from Makapu’u Tide Pools and offers a stunning backdrop of turquoise waters, powdery white sand, and the nearby Mokulua Islands. This beach is perfect for beachcombing, sunbathing, and enjoying the tranquil atmosphere. The calm waters also make it an excellent location for snorkeling and kayaking.


Sandy Beach: If you’re seeking a beach with a vibrant atmosphere and thrilling waves, head to Sandy Beach. Located just a short distance from Makapu’u Tide Pools, Sandy Beach is famous for its powerful shore break, attracting experienced bodyboarders and surfers. While the waves may not be suitable for swimming or snorkeling, it offers a great spot for watching the action or enjoying a beachside picnic.


Alan Davis Beach: Situated near the Makapu’u Lookout, Alan Davis Beach is a hidden gem known for its rugged beauty and dramatic rock formations. With its clear waters and abundant marine life, it offers excellent snorkeling opportunities. The beach is also a popular spot for cliff jumping, with a designated platform for those seeking a thrilling leap into the deep ocean.


As with any beach visit, it’s important to check the current weather and surf conditions before plunging into the water. Be mindful of any posted warnings or advisories and always prioritize your safety.


Each of these beaches near Makapu’u Tide Pools offers a unique experience and breathtaking scenery. Whether you prefer a peaceful sunbathing session or are looking for a thrilling water adventure, these nearby beaches are sure to make your visit to the area even more memorable.


Facilities and Amenities

When visiting Makapu’u Tide Pools, it’s important to note that the area is relatively undeveloped, and facilities are limited. Here are the key facilities and amenities available:


Parking: There is a small parking lot near the Makapu’u Lookout where you can park your vehicle. However, the parking lot can fill up quickly, especially during peak times. If the lot is full, you may need to find alternate parking along the highway or in nearby designated areas. Ensure that you park legally and safely, following any posted regulations.


Restrooms: There are no public restrooms available directly at the tide pools. The closest restrooms are located at the nearby Makapu’u Beach Park, which is just a short drive away. It’s advisable to make a restroom stop before heading down to the tide pools.


Picnic Areas: While there are no designated picnic areas at the tide pools themselves, you can enjoy a picnic on the surrounding rocks or at nearby beach parks. Pack a blanket or beach chairs along with your picnic supplies and find a comfortable spot to savor your meal while taking in the breathtaking views.


Shade and Seating: The rocks surrounding the tide pools offer some natural shade in certain areas. However, it’s always a good idea to bring sunscreen and hats to protect yourself from the sun. Additionally, you may want to bring portable chairs or beach mats if you prefer sitting on the rocks for an extended period.


Food and Water: There are no food vendors or water fountains directly at the tide pools, so it’s advisable to bring your own food and beverages. Pack a cooler with snacks and plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout your visit. Remember to follow the principle of “Leave No Trace” and clean up after yourself, disposing of any trash appropriately.


Safety Information: Look for informational signage about the tide pools and any safety advisories posted in the area. These signs may provide helpful guidance regarding tidal conditions, local wildlife, and regulations to ensure your safety and the preservation of the ecosystem.


Accessibility: The tide pools are situated at the base of a rugged coastline and involve traversing rocky terrains. While the path is relatively short, it can be steep and uneven at times. It’s essential to wear appropriate footwear with good grip and exercise caution during the descent to ensure your safety.


Despite the limited facilities, the natural beauty and adventure offered by Makapu’u Tide Pools more than make up for it. Just be sure to come prepared with your own provisions and amenities to enhance your experience while respecting the natural environment of the area.


Nearby Attractions

Makapu’u Tide Pools is situated in a stunning part of Oahu, offering not only the beauty of the tide pools themselves but also easy access to several other noteworthy attractions. Here are some nearby attractions to explore:


Makapu’u Point Lighthouse: Just a short distance from the tide pools, Makapu’u Point Lighthouse is a must-visit landmark. This iconic red and white lighthouse stands tall on a volcanic rock promontory and offers breathtaking views of the coastline. Take a leisurely hike up to the lighthouse, enjoying panoramic vistas along the way. This scenic trail is approximately two miles round-trip and provides opportunities for wildlife spotting and birdwatching.


Koko Crater Botanical Garden: A short drive from Makapu’u Tide Pools is the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, a unique garden nestled within the Koko Crater volcanic tuff cone. Enjoy a peaceful stroll through a variety of plant collections, including cacti, succulents, and indigenous Hawaiian species. The garden offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and is a great spot for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.


Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: Located a short distance southeast of Makapu’u Tide Pools, Hanauma Bay is a renowned snorkeling destination. This natural preserve is home to a diverse array of marine life and vibrant coral reefs. Spend a day snorkeling in the calm, clear waters, observing colorful fish and other underwater creatures. Hanauma Bay also provides educational resources to help visitors learn more about marine conservation and ecosystem preservation.


Sea Life Park: For a family-friendly adventure, consider visiting Sea Life Park, a marine mammal park and aquarium located just a short drive from the tide pools. The park offers a variety of interactive experiences, including swimming with dolphins, watching captivating sea lion shows, and exploring exhibits featuring marine life from the Hawaiian Islands and beyond.


Lanai Lookout: A scenic viewpoint located between Makapu’u Tide Pools and Hanauma Bay, Lanai Lookout offers stunning views of the southeastern coastline. Take a moment to appreciate the rugged cliffs, crashing waves, and expansive ocean vista. On a clear day, you may even catch a glimpse of the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai on the horizon.


These nearby attractions offer a diverse range of experiences to complement your visit to Makapu’u Tide Pools. Whether you’re seeking natural beauty, cultural landmarks, or educational adventures, these attractions allow you to further immerse yourself in the wonders of Oahu’s southeastern coast.



Makapu’u Tide Pools on the southeastern coast of Oahu, Hawaii, is an enchanting destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty and adventure. With its captivating marine life, stunning coastal vistas, and accessibility, it’s no wonder that visitors from near and far are drawn to this idyllic spot.


From snorkeling and swimming in the clear turquoise waters to exploring the rocky pools teeming with colorful marine life, there is something to suit every interest and adventure level at Makapu’u Tide Pools. The surrounding beaches, such as Waimanalo Beach and Lanikai Beach, offer additional opportunities for relaxation and water activities.


While limited in amenities, the natural allure of the tide pools, coupled with the nearby attractions of Makapu’u Point Lighthouse, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Hanauma Bay, Sea Life Park, and Lanai Lookout, ensure that a visit to this area will be unforgettable.


As you plan your trip to Makapu’u Tide Pools, remember to prioritize safety by checking the tide conditions, being cautious on the rocks, and respecting the marine life. Prepare accordingly with appropriate footwear, sun protection, and plenty of water.


While immersing yourself in the beauty of this natural wonder, it’s crucial to maintain the principles of Leave No Trace and preserve the delicate ecosystem for future generations to enjoy. Be mindful of your impact on the environment and treat the area with respect.


Embrace the adventure, soak in the stunning vistas, and create lasting memories at Makapu’u Tide Pools. Let the magic of this serene and captivating destination leave you in awe as you connect with the beauty of the Hawaiian coast.