Makapu'u Lighthouse

The Makapuu Lighthouse is located in Makapu’u on the east coast of Oahu. According to Hawaiian legend, Makapu’u was a supernatural being that came to Oahu from Tahiti. Makapu’u’s most defining feature were her eight bright eyes. Makapu’u is Hawaiian for bulging eye. On October 1, 1909 another bulging eye was seen on Makapu’u Point and that was when the giant lens in the Makapu’u Lighthouse was lit for the first time.

In 1888 an American ship the S-N-Castle had run aground in this area so sea captains and ship owners signed a petition to have a light put on this point. By 1901 plans for a lighthouse were enacted. In light of the U.S. Government taking over, the plans were set aside. In January 1906 a report stressing the importance of the lighthouse was presented to the 59th Congress. Congress was afraid of interrupting trade between Honolulu and the United States and voted to appropriate $60,000.00 for the construction of the Makapuu lighthouse. Two months after signing this appropriation, August 2006 a 2.5 million dollar luxury liner “The Manchurian” also ran aground off Makapu’u Point.

Makapu’u Point is composed of a number of lava flows. One of these lave flows was large enough to hold the Lighthouse. The spot for the lighthouse was blasted out of the lava and a trail linking the lighthouse to the nearest road was also carved out of the lava. The 35 foot Makapu’u Lighthouse was read for the delivery of the lens in 1908. The 12 foot tall lens was actually purchased in 1887 and exhibited at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893.

This hyper radiant lens contained 1,188 glass prisms which had to be unloaded, taken up to the lighthouse and rebuilt. This lens is the largest type of lens and the only one of it’s kind in any U.S. lighthouse. The light was fixed and the flashing was made by copper panels rotating around the light. This rotation weight had to be wound every 3.5 hours. The Makapuu Lighthouse operated on an oil vapor lamp with three 55mm mantles until April 9. 1925. On that date an accident occurred with the alcohol lighter and one lighthouse keeper was seriously injured and the other was burned to death. In 1927 the lighthouse was equipped with 500 watt electric lamps and a radio beacon. Makapu’u Lighthouse was automated on January 4. 1974 and in 1987 the land around the Makapuu lighthouse was declared surplus and put up for sale. In 2001 the State of Hawaii paid 12.8 million dollars for a large section of land around the Makapu’u Lighthouse to improve the parking situation and to keep the coastline from being developed.

Today this east Oahu lighthouse is one of Hawaii’s most familiar landmarks. There is a hiking trail to the lighthouse were you will get incredible views of the entire coastline. Molokai can also be seen from this point and in the winter months, it is the perfect spot to see migrating whales. The bright red roof of the Makapu’u Lighthouse against the blue pacific ocean is a perfect photo opportunity.


Take Kalakaua past Queen Kapiolani Park and turn right on Diamond Head Road. Follow signs to Kalanianaole Hwy. Go past Hanauma Bay and Sandy Beach Park to Hawaii Kai Golf Course. About ½ mile past the golf course is the gate to the Makapu’u trail.

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