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Beautiful, but Illegal Places in Oahu (That People Visit Anyways)

There are an insane number of legal and still breathtaking hikes, waterfalls, and beaches in Oahu. This post is not about any of those things. Here are 7 completely illegal places that people still visit in Oahu. And for the record, we absolutely do not recommend attempting to visit any of them. If a place is illegal to visit in Oahu, it’s either unsafe, is on private property, or comes with a hefty fine if you’re caught.


Feel free to skip ahead…


 

Black Point Pool, a secret saltwater pool, in Oahu.

Black Point Pool


Black Point Pool is a secret pool in a private neighborhood. This might be one of the top 10 most Instagrammable spots in Oahu. It’s one of the only saltwater pools on the island and it has an incredible view of the ocean. The rumor is that a man built it for his daughter because she was too scared to swim in the ocean. During high tide, the ocean waves crash into the pool, keeping it full.


Why is it illegal?

It’s in a private community and only people who live there are allowed access. If you were to attempt to reach the Black Point Pool you’d have to pass SO many signs that tell you you’re trespassing and even that you’re on camera.


Is there a legal way to see it?

Make friends with a Black Point resident or a member of the Black Point Association. They’re the only ones with keys to legally access it.


 

A woman floating in the Makapu'u Tidepools in Oahu.

Makapu’u Tidepools


The Makapu’u Tidepools are crystal clear pools just at the edge of the ocean. When they reflect the clouds above, they become one of the most beautiful places on the island. There are also 2 blowholes nearby called the Devil’s Nostrils that shoot water into the air periodically. Some of the tidepools are shallow and people like to swim or float in them. Other’s are a little deeper and fun to explore and look for fish, sea stars, crabs, and coral.


Why is it illegal?

This area is off limits because there have been drownings here and the waves can be unpredictable and dangerous. Large swells have swept people out to sea and also injured them while swimming in the tidepools. There’s literally a sign that says “DON’T HIKE HERE” where the trail begins. The latest death was just reported in July 2021.


Safety Tips:

  • Absolutely do not attempt it unless it’s low tide. Strong currents can slam you against the rocks or pull you under the water or out to sea.

  • Before making your way down to the tidepools, take a look at them from above. If you see waves crashing over the pools, it’s too rough and too dangerous. If it looks like the ocean is flooding the pools and covering the whole area, don’t go in.

  • Storms can also bring swells and rough conditions that you should avoid.

  • Don’t stand on the edge, even on a calm day. People have been swept out to sea by unpredictable waves.

  • Don’t turn your back on the ocean (even to take a photo).

  • Don’t go by yourself.

This is definitely one of the coolest places on the island, but not a place to be careless.


The Makapu'u Tidepools are also on our list of Oahu’s Most Instagrammable Things to Do and See (along with some more legal options).


 

The Dead Man's Walk at the end of Kamehame Ridge Trail in Oahu.

Dead Man’s Catwalk


Dead Man’s Catwalk is a spot at the top of Kamehame Ridge Trail with one of the most jaw dropping views of endless ocean and coastline as you stand on the edge of a cliff. It was made famous when in 2012, someone spray painted “Dead Man’s Catwalk” on the concrete slab that leads up to the edge of the ridge. It became one of the coolest places to take unforgettable photos. In 2016, the concrete slab was removed to deter people from visiting, but visitors still come to see the insane view.


Why is it illegal?

This one actually has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with being on private property that’s never been open to the public. Since 2013, there have been No Trespassing signs and fences to try to keep people off the property, but it hasn’t worked. The land is owned by Kamehameha Schools and they say FAA antennas, propane tanks, and a telecommunications office on the property have been vandalized.


In 2015, they even sent letters to influencers and travel websites asking them to stop promoting the catwalk in hopes that it would stop people from trespassing. Finally, in 2016 they spent $48k to have the concrete slab removed.


 

The Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs) with a sunset in Oahu.

The Stairway to Heaven


The Stairway to Heaven (aka The Haiku Stairs) is probably THE most iconic and captivating (and definitely the most Instagram worthy) hike in Oahu. It also happens to be super illegal and comes with a $1000 fine if you’re caught. Sadly, in September 2021 a unanimous resolution was passed to remove the stairs. Honolulu has budgeted $1M to remove them, maybe as early as in 2022.


Why is it illegal?

The Haiku Stairs were officially closed in 1987, when they were deemed “unsafe because of disrepair.” But thousands of people continued to climb them each year. In 2003, the city of Honolulu spent almost a million dollars repairing the stairs but ultimately decided to keep them closed. The plan was to reopen them, but residents complained and there were safety concerns, so they remained closed.


What’s crazy about this hike being closed for safety reasons is that there have been no reported incidents of injuries on the trail. A nonprofit, called Friends of the Haiku Stairs, has been trying to block efforts to remove them since 1987. They argue that it’s actually one of the safest hikes in Hawaii, because, well… there are stairs.


The more likely reason is that residents who live near the trailhead weren’t happy about disrespectful hikers who sometimes ended up in their backyards or left trash in the neighborhoods.


Is there a legal way to see it?

What most people don’t know is that there’s another (legal) way to get to the top of the stairs. And that’s by hiking the Moanalua Valley Trail instead. It’s a 10 mile trek that ends at the top of the Haiku Stairs for the perfect photo op. As tempting as it is to climb up and down the stairs, just know that it’s still illegal, even if you’re at the top and just going down a few for a photo. If you’re caught on the stairs, you will be fined $1000. Do people still do it…..? Yes.


For more about the Haiku Stairs, check out our guide to the Moanalua Valley Trail.


 

Sacred Falls waterfall in Oahu.

Sacred Falls


Sacred Falls is an incredible 1100ft (which btw is insanely big. For reference, Manoa Falls is only 150ft) waterfall in Kaluanui State Park on the northeast side of Oahu. You used to be able to reach it by a trail that led to the swimming pool at the base. It was one of the most popular hikes in Oahu with about 70,000 people making their way to the waterfall each year.


Why is it illegal?

The park was closed in 1999 after a landslide killed 8 people and injured over 50 others on Mother’s Day. It’s no longer an official state park and there’s a security guard now stationed at the trail to hand out citations. People still attempt it, but If you’re caught trespassing you could end up paying a fine of up to $2500 for your 1st violation, $5000 for the 2nd one, and $10,000 for a third. Some say it’s still closed because they can’t do enough to ensure the safety of hikers. Others say it’s because they were sued by families of people who were killed in the landslide.


Is there a way to see it legally?

The only way to see it legally is by helicopter. The Waikiki Sunset Helicopter Tour flies past the Sacred Falls as it heads to the North Shore.


 

The Toilet Bowl Swimming Hole at Hanauma Bay in Oahu.

Toilet Bowl Swimming Hole


The Toilet Bowl Swimming Hole in Hanauma Bay used to be a popular place to swim. It’s a pool that was formed over centuries by waves crashing against the lava rocks. Waves fill the pool through a hole in the lava rock and then the water is sucked back out through the same hole making the water in the pool swirl like a flushing toilet.


Why is it illegal?

It was closed in the early 2000s. The Hanauma Bay State Park website says it was closed “due to safety concerns.” There have been injuries and deaths. It’s especially dangerous when the surf is big. The trail leading to the pool is also dangerous because it’s along coastline that’s unstable and rocky. Most people also think the fear of lawsuits is a big reason for the closure.


 

The Peace Sign Pillobx at the top of the Ehuakai Pillbox Hike on Oahu's North Shore with a view of Banzai Pipeline.

Peace Sign Pillbox on the Ehukai Pillbox Hike


The Ehukai Pillbox Hike is completely legal and comes with panoramic views of the Banzai Pipeline and graffitied WW2 bunkers at the top. But it’s also known as the Peace Hike because of the last bunker that has a peace sign painted on the top. People love to get pictures of themselves on top of the pillbox, with the huge peace sign below them and big waves in the distance.


Why is it illegal?

Ends up the Peace Sign Pillbox is on private property. It’s the 2nd pillbox on this hike and as you head towards it, you can’t miss the “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs just before you reach it. Can’t say we’ve heard of anyone being fined or anything for attempting it, but this is still a “go at your own risk” situation.


 

Check out our list of Oahu’s Most Instagrammable Things to Do and See for some beautiful (but legal) ideas of things to do.



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