Hawaii photograph

Upper Makua Cave

Posted: June 12, 2012

We hiked to Upper Makua Cave to see spectacular views of the Waiʻanae Coast from Makua Valley to Kaena Point.

About a year ago, Chenay Borja looked up the rocky mountains above Kaneana Cave, noticed a cave up in the cliffs, and found a way to reach it. When Chenay showed me her photos of Upper Makua Cave I was stunned and I could not wait to go there myself.

Anticipation filled the air when Chenay took me to the cave along with Ferdinand Buquing on the first visit, and with Josh Serrano, Laredo Muredo, Baron Yamamoto, Dave Concepcion, and Neal on the second visit.  We met in the parking area across from Kaneana Cave and went to look inside for a bit.

The entrance to Kaneana Cave — also known as Makua Cave — opens right on Farrington Highway.  The opening is an impressive 100 feet high and the cave goes back for 500 feet before the passage shrinks to a crawl space.

The cave was important to Hawaiians. In ancient times, Kaneana Cave was kapu — forbidden — and was home to a shark goddess.  The cave was also rumored to be an entrance into the subterranean underworld of Pohukaina.

Multiple passages wind their way in this giant lava tube that was once a sea cave when the ocean level was higher several thousand years ago.   The cave was said to be several miles deep and exited into another valley but when the highway was built in the 1930′s, the front of the cave was dynamited to seal it off.

After exiting Kaneana Cave, Chenay took us to the cave she found – Upper Makua Cave.  We headed west on Farrington Highway for a hundred yards and looked up.  She pointed out a cave on a ledge above the cliffs with a big kiawe tree at the entrance.

We hiked up the grassy gully to gain elevation and then contoured on the ledge to reach the cave.

We left the highway and hiked through tall grasses.  It did not take long for us to reach piles of large loose rocks covered with grasses, haole koa, and other shrubs.   The slope was unstable and the rocks shifted as we made our way up.

The slope increased as we gained elevation towards the head of the grassy gully.

When we reached the level of the cave, we contoured to the right and hiked up a grassy incline.

We contoured on goat trails in the grassy incline that rounded the corner to the cave.

Upper Makua Cave is actually a pair of caves.  The first cave is smaller about 10 feet wide, 10 feet high and 8 feet deep.  The larger cave is just beyond with an entrance about 35 feet wide, 15 feet high and 20 feet deep.  It took us about 30 minutes to reach the cave.

The cave is angled perfectly and frames a magnificent view of the front of Makua Valley, Makua Beach, and Kaʻena Point.

Thanks to Chenay’s sharp eyes, inquisitive nature, and adventurous spirit, we have a great new place to visit!

Click on photo to enlarge

Time went by quickly and soon it was time for me to leave.  So I bid farewell to the group who were staying for sunset, and hiked back down.  As I retraced my steps to return the way I had com, I marveled at the cave and hoped it remained like this forever.  What an awesome place!



Kaneana (Makua Cave), Sacred Destinations

Kaneana (Makua Cave), Waianae High School

Sites of Oahu, Elspeth P. Sterling and Catherine C. Summers, Great Kaneana Cave, Pgs 81-82, Bishop Museum Press

4 Responses to “Upper Makua Cave”

  1. Baron says:

    Hey Nate,

    Imagine if that cave was a sea cave in the past and what could be said about sea levels then….Just food for thought…

  2. Nathan Yuen says:

    Yep… but there was a time when sea levels were lower too — when Maui, Molokai and Lanai were a single island.

  3. Nathan Yuen says:

    It has come to my attention that rumors are being spread that contrary to what I reported in my blog, Chenay Borja did not find Upper Makua Cave on her own. The rumor alleges that someone else found and showed the cave to Chenay. Just to clarify – Chenay never claimed to be the first person to go the cave. What is being claimed is that she independently found the cave.

    It is not often that the hiking community has something new to visit and it is my blogging policy to give credit where credit is due – especially to a place as spectacular as Upper Makua Cave. In my blog I thanked Chenay for finding and sharing the cave.

    But someone finds this unsettling and started a rumor alleging that Chenay did not find the cave on her own. Since my credibility as a blogger is on the line I called those who were with Chenay at the time she found the cave. They corroborate Chenay’s story.

    In order to get to the truth, will the person who allegedly showed the cave to Chenay, step out of the shadows and tell me the facts behind your allegation. I will vet what you tell me and if your story is credible, will credit you for finding and sharing the cave with the hiking community. If not, please stop spreading the rumor.

  4. Punynari says:

    I went to these caves yesterday and had a great time. But, I wouldn’t have known about this special place without your article. Thank you

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