Makapu‘u Beach

by Justin

The Makapuu Lighthouse marks the south-eastern most point of O‘ahu. This lighthouse is still in operation and houses one of the largest lenses in all of the United States of America. It is recommended to visit Makapuu Beach an hour before sunrise, because during this time the lighthouse will still be in operation and there will also be a little bit of light to provide the perfect lighting for your photograph. Be sure to check the weather report the night before, to safeguard against rainy weather and poor visibility. The sights at Makapuu Beach are best photographed on a clear day. The next section shares some of the photography opportunities available at this spot.

When photographing the lighthouse from the beach, you have two choices in your composition because of the far distance between you and your subject. First, use a telephoto lens to get greater detail in the lighthouse and the rugged mountain environment surrounding the lighthouse. The second option is to use a wide angle lens. This will create a dramatically different composition, where the lighthouse appears much smaller compared to the mountain. I find this composition visually pleasing and it works especially well when the viewer's eye is drawn to the light of the Makapuu Lighthouse, since it is much brighter than its surroundings. Also remember to include a foreground subject to draw your viewer's eye from the bottom of your photograph and up to the lighthouse.

Just offshore of Makapuu Beach are to islets called Manana (larger, aka Rabbit) Island and Kaohikaipu Island (smaller). These islets are protected bird sanctuaries. These islets can be used to accentuate your photographs or to serve as the subject of the photograph. Often times people take photographs of just the islets with the sky and ocean as the backdrop. This can be a decent snap shot, but in order to do more with your photographs it is recommended that you incorporate additional photography techniques.

The simplest thing you can do is to incorporate more color into your photograph. How do you do this? All you need to do is wake up early and get to the site before sunrise. The colors just before and after sunrise will give your photograph additional color and drama. Another technique is to include a foreground subject into the frame. Choose from the various ocean pools amongst the sharp rocks on the shore or move further back from the shore and use the greenery to contrast with the blue ocean and sky. Finally, look for leading lines in the various paths that lead from the parking lot to the ocean.

Best Time to Shoot

The best time to shoot is just before sunrise. It is recommended that you get to the spot an hour before the sunrise to scope out your composition. If you happen to get there after sunrise, you still may be able to take amazing photographs, because it is typically cloudy in this area. The clouds will help to lessen the intensity of the sun and lower the probability of your pictures becoming blown out. After sunrise, it is recommended to shift your lens away from the sun and focus on the subjects that are in the sun's rays. The angle of the sun, just after sunrise will create shadows on the mountain to give your photographs additional depth and character.

Local Tips

The parking lot is typically safe and I have not experienced any break-ins, but just to be safe please take your valuables with you and lock your vehicle. When walking on the rocks, be careful for loose, slippery and sharp rocks. Always be mindful of the power of the ocean and do not get swept in or knocked down. Also, the waves crash onto the rocks, creating a salt spray that can be harmful to your photography equipment. Get an idea for the winds and the distance the spray travels, before removing your lens cap.

How do I get there?

Parking Address: 41-95 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo, HI 96795

From the airport:

  • Head east on the H1 for 10 miles
  • Stay on the freeway, until it ends and turns into Kalaniana‘ole Highway (HI-72)
  • Stay on HI-72 for 11 miles along the scenic route around the south-eastern side of O‘ahu.
  • The road will go over a peak at the Makapu‘u Lookout. You can stop here and snap some pictures.
  • After the lookout you will go down a hill and you will make a right into the parking lot.
  • Park at the parking lot and head towards the ocean to begin taking photographs
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