Makapu’u Tide Pools aka. Dragon’s Breath

You may have seen my other post on this hike but I wanted to revisit it for several reasons.  It really is an epic hike with amazing views, tide pools for swimming and a double blow-hole.  The blow-hole give the hike its name “Dragon’s Breath” because it is 2 blowholes side by side and when they go off it looks like dragon nostrils with water instead of fire.  They also make a rumbling sound that sounds a lot like a dragon’s roar.  The last time I did this hike I didn’t get to get close to the blowhole or see it go off because we went at low tide and in the winter when the surf is low.


I reconnected with my old hiking buddy and we both agreed it had been too long since we have been out hiking.  I asked her if she had anything in mind and she mentioned she had not had a chance to do the Makapu’u Lighthouse yet.  So, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to revisit the tide pools.


Parking for the hike is at the Makapu’u lighthouse and Kaiwi coast state wayside.  It can be hard to find parking because it’s a popular spot not only for the lighthouse trail but for fishermen going to the Kaiwi Coast as well as being the starting point for the Pele’s Chair hike.  We decided to do this hike in the afternoon and found parking easily around 1pm.  I recommend bringing plenty of water and using sunscreen generously on this hike because there is no shade and the trail is paved followed by a hike over dark-colored lava rock.


Starting at the trail head the hike is uphill about 3/4 of the way to the lighthouse.  You will see a sign for the Humpback Whale Sanctuary and this is the start of the hike down to the tide pools.  From the top it looks like you will have to scale a wall to get down there but there is a pretty well-defined switchback path down to the water.  It’s important to note that the hike is rocky and probably not for young children.  Also there is a lot of loose rock and sand and one can slip if your footing isn’t just right.  There are several places where it’s necessary turn around to climb down the rocks because the step is just too large to take facing forward.  But these places are usually only a few steps followed by more trail that is easily traversed.


Once you reach the bottom of the trail the two blow holes are off to the left and the tide pools directly in front of you.  You may wish to bring a mask and snorkel for the tide pools since there are fish to see.  We even saw several Medusa Spaghetti Worms.  As I mentioned the blow holes are best viewed near high tide and with some surf coming in.  But these conditions also created a bit of a hazard for the tide pools so be careful.  When the surf and tide are up the waves can wash up and over into the tide pools and create a hazard of being swept out with the undertow.  There were some tide pools that I can remember swimming in the last time that were not safe this time because they were covered in white water frequently.  Know your limits on this hike.


The blow holes are absolutely amazing and I think that was the highlight of this hike for me.  Our total mileage was about 3 miles start to finish and I would say the lighthouse hike is very easy, because it’s paved, but the tide pool portion is an intermediate hike just because of the steep incline, risk of slipping on loose rock and the potential to be swept out to sea by a large wave.  Of course, the last easily avoided by being conscious of the ocean conditions and being ready to reevaluate the situation on and ongoing basis.  It’s also important to point out that the rocks around the tide pools are very slippery because of the algae that grows on them.  There is also another larger blowhole a little closer to the ocean  than the first 2 but, it doesn’t give the dramatic effect of the  first 2, presumably because it’s a much larger opening.  In fact, it’s large enough that one could fall into it.



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