6 Makai Outdoor Adventures on O‘ahu

Surfing, sure, sunbathing, yes. Once you’ve checked off the obvious beach excursions, what other fun does the ocean have to offer?
Off the Makapuu Lookout trail.
Tip: For tide info, check hawaiitides.com to avoid being stranded some place you don’t want to be. For more details, go to tides4fishing.com/us/hawaii/honolulu.
Photo: Arik Pulsifer


1. Pooling Around

You’ve trekked to the Makapu‘u Lookout and imagined checking out the tidepools far below. But if you got discouraged at the thought of climbing all the way down that rocky path, peering into some pools, only to have to pick your way back up the same hill, there’s an easier way: the round-about option. Hike down the hill, cruise the pools and then return by walking up the hill closer to the lighthouse. Wear appropriate shoes, bring water and sunscreen (there’s no shade to hide in) and enjoy the journey.

Off the Makapuu Lookout trail.


Waimea Bay Jump Rock: This one is Oahu’s best-known jumping spot, with good reason. It’s possible to leap from as high as 40 feet, but make sure it’s not low tide if you’re going for a record.
Photo: David Chatsuthiphan


2. Might as well…

There’s nothing like a rock ledge and some inviting blue water to bring out the daredevil in someone. Here are our favorite spots to jump for joy.


Waimea Bay Jump Rock: This one is Oahu’s best-known jumping spot, with good reason. It’s possible to leap from as high as 40 feet, but make sure it’s not low tide if you’re going for a record.

Alan Davis: Beams of wood sticking out of the rocks at this Makapuu beach make it super easy to work on your backflip styles.

China Walls: The real trick at this Portlock spot isn’t the jump, it’s the climb back up the sheer walls, so don’t chance it if the ocean’s rough. And if your rock-climbing skills fail you, it’s always possible to swim along the coast a bit for an easier egress. Cromwell’s:  Barriers recently went up along the edge of this mini cove just outside of the Doris Duke Estate, a response to two paralyzing accidents in the past 20 years. Jump enthusiasts wailed about the end of an era, but let’s just say that, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The Mokulua Cove: Most Mokulua visitors lounge on the Lanikai-facing white-sand beach of the left-hand island, but trek around (counterclockwise) to the makai side, and you’ll find a little, protected cove that’s perfect for leaping into. Bring rubber slippers; the path is lined with sharp rocks.


Photo: Lee Yamamoto


3. Hold on to Your Hat

You’ve probably stared out at Chinaman’s Hat, but have you ever ventured out to it? Also known as Mokolii, or little lizard, it takes just 15 to 20 minutes to reach the island from shore. Rent kayaks or stand-up paddle boards to aid in your trip. If it is low tide, put on some reef shoes and walk the 500 yards. We recommend packing a lunch and hiking ten minutes to the top. You’ll feel like you’re standing at the edge of the world, or rather, the tip of a lizard tail.

Kualoa Regional Park, 49-479 Kamehameha Highway, Kahaluu.


4. Small Kine Interisland Travel

Sometimes you just want to get off the island, but not too far. Forget paying big bucks to fly to a Neighbor Island; on Oahu, we’re fortunate to be able to reach several smaller islands simply by swimming or paddling or even walking at low tide. Sure, it seems like every fourth Hawaii travel photo shows a couple kayaking to the Mokuluas, but that’s just one option available to us lucky locals. You can also put on a pair of fins and swim to Flat Island in Kailua Bay. Or head to the sandbar in Kaneohe Bay by kayak, sailboat or motorboat. (The vibe is less drunk-divey since the state enacted a no-alcohol policy on three-day weekends.) Or start at Malaekahana and make the 500-yard trek to Goat Island at low tide. Just steer clear of native birds, plants and other delicate things that live there.


5. Come Sail Away

Skippers at Honolulu’s yacht clubs are sometimes looking for crew members to join them on recreational sails. Often they prefer seasoned sailors, but sometimes novices are welcome. To include your name on Hawaii Yacht Club’s crew list, visit hawaiiyachtclub.org. Kaneohe Yacht Club holds a race on Thursday evenings. Show up by 5 p.m. and inquire about availability. If luck of the draw is not your thing, here’s another way to take a three-hour tour: Charter a private yacht. Yacht charters can run you up to $500 for three hours on the water.

Visit Tradewind Charters, tradewindcharters.com or Honolulu Sailing Co., honsail.com for more information.


6. It’s Electric!

In Hawaii, natural wonders are a dime a dozen. How about some slightly unnatural beauty for a change? If you’ve got snorkeling gear and feel confident swimming 100 yards off shore, check out Kahe Point, known as Electric Beach for its location directly makai of the West Side electric plant. The plant uses seawater as a coolant and then exhausts warm water back into the ocean via two large pipes, which are reachable via an easy swim. Floating in a heated ocean bathtub is a singular experience, and you’ll be surrounded by swarms of colorful fish and honu that have also been attracted to the warm waters. Who knew an industrial byproduct could be so enjoyable?             


Want more outdoor adventure ideas? Check out our full list of 23 Outdoor Adventures to Enjoy Now.