Kaena Point on Oahu’s North Shore

North Shore OahuA few weeks ago, it was the last week of summer vacation for my 8-year-old daughter (and it was her birthday week) so I took some time off and we made an awesome week of it.  We filled the days with boogie boarding in Kailua, shave ice on the North Shore, pizza, and doing crazy things she suggested like playing Yahtzee while we ate cereal for breakfast.

One of those great things we did was taking a long awaited hike to Kaena Point on the North Shore of Oahu. I hadn’t hiked to the point since 2008 when I did my 9-day walk around Oahu. I’d done it a few times since then – but not since I got back here in 2017. I’d been wanting to do the hike with her.

Kaena PointDrive to the North Shore of Oahu, make a left at Haleiwa and drive until you can’t drive any more. That will bring you to the westernmost point you can drive to on Oahu. That’s where we went. We parked the car, grabbed water bottles, and made sure we had on plenty of sun screen. You can reach the point from the Wai’anae Coast (West Side of Oahu) but we came from the North.

In Hawaiian, kaʻena means ‘the heat’. We were ready for the heat – but still – it was hot. The hike is about 7-miles round trip and except for a couple of off road vehicles that went by us – we didn’t see anyone else on our way out. The State of Hawaiʻi has designated the point as a Natural Area Reserve to protect nesting Laysan Albatrosses and wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Hawaiian monk seals, and the fragile (to vehicular traffic) native strand vegetation that has been restored there.

Kaena PointAlong the trail we passed plenty of naupaka kahakai, ilima, Hawaiian cotton plants, hinahina, and other endemic and native plants. The beautiful lava karsts and tide pools along the way are spectacular. I’ve heard that there is some amazing snorkeling in this area – but this wasn’t on our agenda. During the winter months – the massive surf that hits the north shore makes Kaena Point extremely dangerous – with waves that have been reported as big as 80-feet!! Part of the reason I wasn’t going to take my daughter snorkeling there is because the area is known for undertows, rips and other deadly ocean conditions – year round. There are no lifeguards there and you are on your own if something goes wrong.

Kaena PointWhen we got nearer the point – we found the massive predator proof fence that was put up in 2011. It is a bit of an eyesore but has helped the endangered bird populations quite a bit. It cost almost $300k to build. The lighthouse at the point is just a beacon and the old concrete one is more of a canvas for graffiti artists than anything else. We found a few people out at the point and encountered quite a few on the way back.

It’s a longer trek back than it is to the point – so make sure you don’t drink all your water.

Kaena Point

Oahu Hawaii’s Lighthouses – How many are there?

Diamond Head Lighthouse
How many lighthouses exist on Oahu? If you’re just here to find the answer quickly – there are six. If you want to go deeper than that though – read on.

Most people can only list one or two of the lighthouses on Oahu. Diamond Head Lighthouse is an obvious one and the one at Makapu’u Point is another that people will see if they are driving around the island. Both of them are special and beautiful.

The Lighthouse as Diamond Head is the home of the Coast Guard Admiral in charge of the Mid-Pacific Region. It is beloved by Oahu residents and has a beautiful old antique fresnel lense. It was built in 1899.

Makapu'u Lighthouse

Equally loved (but sometimes forgotten because out-of-sight means out-of-mind)is the lighthouse at Makapu’u Point. You won’t see it if you are driving from the south shore up to Waimanalo unless you look backwards as you are going past Sea Life Park – but if you are driving the other direction – you can’t miss it. It was built in 1909 and its hyper-radiant lens is visible for 28 miles – so, for those who are curious and have hiked the Makapu’u point trail and seen the island of Molokai off in the distance – it can be seen with the naked eye from there (22 miles).

Aloha Tower

Perhaps more loved than both is the Aloha Tower in Honolulu – which most people have no idea is even a lighthouse! It is the oldest lighthouse on Oahu and while it has a clock in it, it was actually built to help guide ships into Honolulu Harbor. It was not a vanity project! The grounds are mostly Hawaii Pacific University but there is a Gordon Bierch Brewery there – so you can grab a beer after you admire the lighthouse.

Oahu Lighthouse

The other lighthouses are less well known. There is the Kaena Point Lighthouse which is now a collapsed ruin on the westernmost point of Oahu – it has been replaced by a metal tower. The hike to get there is worth it – beautiful easy walk through bird preserves and isolated beaches.

Oahu Lighthouse

Pyramid Rock on the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe is the home for another lighthouse – it is not accessible to the public – just like the entire base. It’s too bad because this is one of the most beautiful areas on Oahu.

Oahu LighthouseFinally, there is the lighthouse at Barber’s Point. This lighthouse has a modern lense but an old body, it was built in 1888 and has saved many souls from smashing on the reefs of Oahu. It is an active lighthouse in beautiful surroundings – so beautiful that one of Hawaii’s most popular luau’s is set nearby. It’s off the radar for most visitor’s but is worth the trip if you have a car and some time.

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