Kaʻena Point State Park: The Complete Guide

Arial view of Ka'ena Point State Park on Oahu
Warren Ishii / 500px / Getty Images
Map card placeholder graphic

Kaʻena Point State Park

Address
Waialua, HI 96791, USA

Located at the westernmost tip of Oahu island, Kaʻena Point State Park is a magically isolated stretch of land that few tourists visit. In fact, Kaʻena Point is considered a wahi pana, or, a "sacred and legendary landmark" in Hawaiian; the ancient Hawaiians believed the point to be a place where souls leapt off into the spirit world. These days, the jagged, lava rock-filled shoreline is home to some of the island’s more vibrant wildlife, including endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea birds, humpback whales, and dolphins.

While Kaʻena Point tends to attract more local residents than tourists, there is plenty to do and see for anyone willing to travel off-the-beaten path. The park can be accessed through both the west (the Keawa’ula Section) and north (the Mokuleia Section) sides of the island. A hike to the actual tip of Kaʻena Point will lead you to a nesting seabird sanctuary, part of the 59-acre Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve,

Two endangered Hawaiian monk seals at Ka'ena Point
LanaCanada / Getty Images

Things to Do

Although the vast majority of visitors come to Kaʻena solely to hike the coastal Kaʻena Point Trail, the park offers opportunities for biking, expert-level surfing and snorkeling, and fishing (no special license required).

Even if you’re not planning anything outside of wildlife viewing, the unique species of plants and animals at the park will keep you occupied for hours. The hike itself features hidden tide pools to explore, monk seal lounging areas, and a favorite westside oasis for pods of spinner dolphins in the early morning hours.

Nesting Laysan albatross at Ka'ena Point State Park
Manuel ROMARIS / Getty Images

Hiking to Kaʻena Point

The Ka'ena Point Trail has two entrances; both routes are about 2.5 miles one way and take anywhere from one to three hours to complete, depending on your pace. From the west side (the Ka‘ena Point Keawa’ula Section), the hike begins where Farrington Highway ends, past the towns of Makaha and Waianae. You’ll want to park in the designated lot at the end of Yokohama Bay and proceed on foot to reach the point. This side boasts more switchbacks, rocky shorelines, wide coves, and natural blowholes spouting seawater.

Like the Keawa’ula Section, the Mokuleia Section on the north shore of Oahu begins where the road ends; while the highway here is also called Farrington Highway, there is no way to drive from one section to the other. This side tends to be more maintained and less strenuous than the west side; though it has less of the iconic black volcanic rocks, it has more spans of sandy beach.

Although the two routes offer completely unique settings, they lead to the same place: the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve. The sanctuary is one of the state’s largest seabird colonies, accommodating nesting albatross, shearwater, and tropicbirds, among others. Migratory shorebirds, Hawaiian monk seals, and a variety of native coastal plants also call this reserve home. While inside, follow the marked trail and enjoy the incredible views.

Read more about hiking on Oahu with our guide to the best hikes on the island.

Surfing & Swimming

The currents here are unpredictable, so only very experienced surfers and swimmers should get into the water, even at pristine Yokohama Bay (also known as Keawa’ula Bay) near the parking lot on the west side. On the north side, the landscape is much less rocky, and features a lot of sand dunes and more beachy areas. Be sure to check out Mokulē‘ia Beach—it's generally known for calmer conditions in the summer months. 

Where to Camp

There’s no camping allowed inside the state park and refuge itself, although Yokohama Bay is a popular overnight camping site and barbecue spot. Alternatively, you could stay at Camp Mokulēʻia, a lodge-style campground just outside the north end of the park.

Where to Stay Nearby

Considering Ka‘ena Point State Park’s more remote location, your choice of accommodations are limited. For the closest options, look into booking a private rental through Airbnb or VRBO either in Waialua or Mahaka. Another option is to stay in Haleiwa town (20 minutes from the trailhead) or Turtle Bay Resort in Pupukea (about 40 minutes away), which will keep you closer to more amenities and some of the best beaches and surf spots on Oahu. The popular resort area of Ko Olina is just a 30-minute drive from the west side of the park.

Learn more about where to stay on Oahu.

Accessibility

For those who can’t make it to the tip of the point on foot, you’ll need a permit to take your car beyond the paved road and parking lot; these permits are free and can be requested on the state parks website. The area isn’t meant for off-roading (it is extremely rough), so it should only be used for responsible access to fishing, sightseeing, and to the point itself. There are basic beach restrooms and fresh water showers near Yokohama Bay, but no facilities along either trails.

How to Get There

If using the Wai‘anae route from Waikiki or elsewhere in Honolulu, take the H1 freeway west, which will eventually become Farrington Highway (also known as route 93). The highway turns into a two-way road that ends completely at the entrance to Ka‘ena Point State Park. To enter through the Mokulēʻia section, take the H2 through the middle of the island to Kaukonahua Road (or route 803) to Farrington Highway before stopping where the paved road ends at the parking lot.

Discover the rules of the road and more with our guide to driving on Oahu.

Tips for Your Visit

  • In the late 1980s, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources eliminated vehicle access into the Natural Area Reserve to allow the wildlife to recover from overuse, so entry past the paved road and designated parking lot is restricted to foot or bicycle.
  • There are no animals allowed in the state park or on the trails, and especially not within the natural area reserve.
  • Remember to stay on the designated trail to help keep the local flora and fauna protected.
  • The weather here is almost always sunny, hot, and dry, and there is very little shade along the trail. Bring plenty of sun protection and water (no drinking water is available here).
  • Stay away from the rocky coastline unless you are extremely familiar with hazardous ocean conditions. There are no lifeguards.
Was this page helpful?
Back to Article

Kaʻena Point State Park: The Complete Guide