Makua - The West Coast of Oahu

Just one mountain pass to the North of where the Japanese Air Force charged in below the radar into history on the most infamous 7th of December in memory lies a beautiful valley near the furthest corner of Oahu known as Makua. The avid summertime fisherman should always consider this lush, green and sultry valley for an overnight adventure for a number of reasons; any of which alone justifies the trip, but when combined, it amounts to something of a mystery for anyone not visiting here.

Makua is the Hawaiian word for "parent" or "any relative of one’s parents such as an aunt or uncle." It also means "the provider or one who cares for another." It’s a place where the dolphins play in the morning and go fishing during the day. They return to Makua day after day because they know the valley will provide for them, and they know this is a place where they can care for each other.

makua2.jpg (152433 bytes)

Ahi.jpg (137559 bytes) During the summer and early fall when the tradewinds are light and the Western seas are flat, this mildly protected anchorage offers instant access to some of the best Ahi fishing anywhere: the famous Waianae Trolling Alley.  This pelagic species returns year after year in the summer along what seems to be a migration path of nearshore deep water. Although everyone in Hawaii loves the summertime for its Ahi production, especially the guys who host the famous Ahi Fever Tournament, the Waianae Boys like it the best because they are fishing for the big guns at daybreak and eating their harvest by noon. The water drops to a hundred fathoms only two miles offshore, and by the time you’re at FAD "Y" (see our FADS page for a discussion on the Fish Aggregation Devices in Hawaii) only 4 1/2 miles offshore, you are in water ranging from 300 to 600 fathoms. You’re also into some mighty large tuna.
Your trip begins at Kewalo Basin aboard one of the worthy Sportfishers at 6:00 am. The boat, heavy with fuel, provisions and adrenaline, embarks on a daybreak journey that either keeps you nearshore along the 40 fathom line in pursuit of Ono and Shibi (smaller Ahi), or straight out towards the offshore structures for bigger Ahi and Marlin. As you near FAD "BO" off the coast near Barber’s Point, you have trouble acknowledging that you are in full sight of the shore but there’s no reading from the depth sounder which gave up trying at 500 fathoms. You know the Marlin like deep water, but you just can’t imagine fishing in 6,000 feet of water while counting pineapple stocks up on the Wahiawa plains between the two mountain ranges.
In a little while, you’ll round the bend at Barber’s Point (named after Captain Barber who ran his ship aground in the 17th Century), and start working up the Waianae Coast. If it had been windy in Honolulu and out to this point, you’ll suddenly notice a drop in the breeze, calmer seas, and you’ll begin to study the clear blue water a bit more as hunger pains tickle your stomach for the first time. As the crew sends up a sandwich to the flying bridge that for some reason tastes fifty times better at sea, you’ll notice the sun’s rays shooting down into the water like lasers to the depths, and you’ll wonder just how far down it is that you can see. Take time at this point to look North and gaze at the unspoiled beauty of the Waianae mountains. The sight of these green, tree-covered mountains will make you ponder the plight of the ancient Polynesians who used these very landmarks, instead of a GPS, to calculate their positions and determine where the fish were. makua1.jpg (198809 bytes)

As you continue along up the coast, passing Maile point, Black Rock, keep looking into the valleys towards the Kole Kole Pass. Imagine the terror inflicted upon the Pearl Harbor fleet that fateful day in 1941, and consider just how fortunate you are to be there in a time of peace. You’ll again have trouble computing the serenity of fishing for tuna as thoughts of America’s entry into World War II leap to the forefront of your mind. Of course, when the reels go off and your buddies tell you to wake up, you’ll remember why you’re aboard, and the excitement of the fish will remind you just why it is you work hard; it’s for moments like these.

After spending the day fishing in these calm waters, you’ll take refuge in the knowledge that you don’t have to go back to civilization tonight. You have found a way to forget it all, a Nirvana of sorts, and as the day winds down into evening, you decide the skipper and crew have become your new best friends. While anchored in the peaceful setting, you’ll find yourself staring back into Makua as the setting sun drops below the Western sea lighting up the now-golden valley for one last time, and you’ll wait in anticipation of the next day’s fishing and wonder if the crew is pulling your leg about offering to swim with the dolphins in the morning.

The dark summer sky of the tropics is a sight to behold, and Makua is definitely a place to study the stars. Take a star chart if you think of it, or use the time to test your skipper’s knowledge of the night sky (The Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and Cassiopeia are some of the more recognizable constellations you’ll see). After a hot shower, a great meal, and an evening of conversation, you’ll retire to the berth and go to sleep feeling like one of the early voyagers who spent time in this very place, and what’s more, chances are you’ll be thinking about the very same things they were.

makua3.jpg (724350 bytes) Day breaks, and the look of Makua is different than what you saw the night before. The colors are deeper and greener, and the contours of the valley somehow seem different. Sure enough, as promised, the dolphins are there in the morning, frolicking near the beach by the handful of people who know they come every day and like to join in their play. There’s no noise of traffic, no buildings or concrete to look at, and most of the time, no other boats around to interrupt the magic of the moment. Just the smell of the coffee and eventual growl of the diesels that fires up a new day’s anticipation of Ahi.

You raise the anchor and set the fishing lines while still within a four-iron of the beach, and you again stand mystified that you’re trolling for giant pelagics only a mile from the shore. As the sun rises from the tips of the mountains, you think to yourself you have been here before. Later on at home, you watch a rerun of the classic 1965 James Michener movie "Hawaii" (the version with Julie Andrews, much of which was filmed here), and suddenly it all becomes as clear as the morning sky. You realize you’ve found heaven on earth, only thirty miles from Honolulu, in a place called Makua.

Going to Makua

Don’t plan on any kind of trip to this location if you are on a limited time schedule or are visiting in the winter or early spring months. While the Marlin fishing can be excellent year ‘round at the FADS and in the deeper waters within 10 - 15 miles from shore, the swells and conditions in the winter are just too unpredictable for a safe night’s stay in the bay on any given evening.

Pokai Bay is the nearest real refuge and has a breakwater (Makua is an open bight), but it can have a tremendous surge pumping in and out, and it may be difficult for your skipper to obtain berthing on short notice. Most of the charter boats won’t run to Makua in anything but the best weather, and August is probably the best month to go, followed by September, July, June, and October. Bottom fishing can also be done at night, but the bottom is sand where you’ll anchor, so the fish may not be all that abundant, colorful, or varied.

After your trip aboard, you’ll probably want to go back to the area by land and visit the caves, the cemetary, the beach, and just spend some time looking up into this enormous cavern of a valley. There are some amazing views and things to see up here, so pack a lunch and a few containers of water, and you’ll be one to go home with a great memory of fishing the Waianae Coast and a hike into the valley that made you feel as though you were cared for.


Return to Fishing Destinations