Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail

Most of us who live in Hawaii or have an interest in the islands are familiar with the TV shows Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-O. Remember scenes from a high vantage point with Rabbit Island and the Waimanalo coast in the background? If you were wondering, those scenes were filmed at the Makapuu Lighthouse overlook, a site accessible via a 45 minute walk from Kalanianaole Highway.
After years of driving from Honolulu to my windward side home in Kaneohe, I finally decided in the summer of 1994 to check out what lay beyond that gated roadway at the bottom of the long hill on the Hawaii Kai Golf Course side. What had taken a lifelong Oahu resident so long to explore this place? Probably like many others, I had a notion that access to the road beyond the gate was not allowed. Even though more times than not I saw cars parked along the roadway fronting the gate indicating that people were tramping around up there, I categorized these folks as trespassers who'd placed themselves at the mercy of the law, car thieves, or both.

I'm not sure if overhearing a conversation about the hike prompted me to venture forth; however, one midsummer morning I was on the road to Waimanalo and after a 20 minute drive from Kaneohe was parking at the Hawaii Kai Golf Course (I was more leery of car thieves than the law). By the way, you need not park at the golf course to do the hike. Parking along the fairly wide shoulder along Kalanianaole is fine.

Plan on a 15 minute walk to the gate if you park at the golf course. From there, simply follow the paved road that contours along the ridge in the direction opposite of your ultimate destination. The climb is gradual and soon enough you'll find yourself rounding the corner of the ridge where you'll have your first magnificent view of the azure Pacific from atop steep and rugged sea cliffs. However, the hike does not end there.

Continue up the road, this time heading in the direction of Rabbit Island. In some spots, the road skirts perilously close to the side of the steep pali. While walking along these places, I had visions of some olden day lighthouse keeper teaching his son or daughter to drive--certainly not a place to err.,p.
The ultimate reward of the hike is at the end of the road at a windswept lookout point high above Makapuu Beach and Rabbit Island. While I stood there and gazed seaward, visions of Tom Selleck, Jack Lord and television cameras and lights popped into my mind. In retrospect, I even recall episodes of Bodies in Motion, the aerobics show featuring Gil Janklowitz, being shot there. In fact, Makapuu point has been occupied or visited by many others before me: a couple generations of lighthouse keepers and their families, a group of Hawaiians who claimed family rights to the aina (land) there, scores of local fisherman who venture down the steep cliffs to take advantage of fruitful fishing grounds, armies of teens armed with beer and spray paint (graffiti abounds), and many others.

Along with Lord, Selleck, Janklowitz and a miscellany of siteseers, vagabonds and just plain folk, Dayle Turner can be counted among the many who have traveled up the Makapuu Lighthouse road.

I should mention that it is possible to hike from the road to the ocean. While walking up the road from the highway, look for the place where the concrete pillars begin (this is on the section of the road that overlooks the ocean and is heading in the direction of the lighthouse). Right at the first pillar, a trail descends the steep, rocky slope. The trail is readily apparent and if you think you have drifted off the path, look back upslope for arrows spraypainted onto the rocks.The descent to the ocean takes 10-15 minutes and at the bottom are some nice tide pools and a blowhole that puffs geysers of ocean water to the rhythm of incoming swells.

Once at the oceanside, it is possible to head right along the shoreline (toward Sandy Beach) to get to a cave and beyond. I've never gone beyond the cave, but others have told me it is possible to hike along the rocky shelf to reach Pele's Chair, the rock formation by the ocean in the Allan Davis area that is part of the Makapuu Shoreline Loop. Monitor the wave action if you decide to do this. Getting swept into the ocean in this area could mean curtains.