Tap to Read ➤

Hiking the Koko Head Stairs in Hawaii

Raksha Kulkarni
The Koko Head Hike, also known as “Koko Crater Trail”, “Stairs of Doom”, or “Nature’s Stairmaster”; is a short hike but definitely not an easy one! This famous hike in Oahu ends with the most stunning views of the Hanauma Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Here’s a guide on planning a trip there.

History of the Koko Head Trail

During World War II, there was a lookout built on the Koko Head crater. For sending supplies up and down on a regular basis; the Koko Head Railway was built. These rail tracks are steps that are now called the Koko Head Stairs.

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 video.

The Koko Head Mountain

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 video.

Located at Hawaii Kai in east Honolulu. It is a short drive from Diamond Head and Waikiki. The round trip comes to a distance of 1.8 miles from the parking lot. The distance might seem very short but the steep steps can give you a hard time! Start walking past the baseball fields and you can see the stairs.
It takes around 40 minutes to an hour to reach the top. When you reach the summit, you’ll be at an elevation of 1208 ft above the sea level.
The trail can be accessed at any time of the day. You can even see people with headlamps, starting before sunrise.

The Koko Head Stairs

Starting the Trek

Follow the footpath from the parking lot to the base of the trail. There are 1,048 steps till the end of the trail and a few more to get to the lookout points.
The main struggle is that the steps are not even and might get slippery sometimes. Also, the steps are not of the average size but quite tall.
As you reach halfway, you’ll see a railway bridge which has 40 ft drop covered in foliage. The railway ties are very close and are quite safe to cover such a small distance. If you are scared of heights, you can take a side route amidst the bushes. After the bridge, the steps become short but steeper. The views of the ocean and Hanauma Bay do make it easier!

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 video.

At the top, take some time to catch your breath and cool off. But this isn’t the end. Move ahead and go to the viewpoints. One of them is a metal platform which boasts of breathtaking views of the Hawaii Kai, Makapu’u Ligt House Trail, and the Hanauma Bay.

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 video.

The Breathtaking View

If you think that going up is a huge task, let me tell you that you’re wrong! Getting down is just as difficult because it can get very slippery in some areas. Do go slow and step carefully.

You can hike for free but you can also opt for paid guided tours. They provide pick up/drop from your hotel and assist you with transport, food, and guide along the way.
While getting down, there is an alternate route that takes you to the Koko Crater Arch. This route goes along the ridge and has picturesque views of the ocean and some rock formations. But, you’ll have to hire another vehicle from the base to go back to the Koko Head parking lot.

Points to Remember

It’s a hike, so don’t forget to put on your best hiking shoes. Also, understand that this is a challenging trek so it would be better if you have a habit of exercising regularly.

Wear light clothes and don’t forget your water bottle, sunglasses, and your sunscreen. Carry light food with you as restaurants are a short drive away.
Carry a cap or hat with you as there is no shade along the way. Also, start as early as possible to avoid the harsh sun. If you wish to see the sunrise from the top, carry a headlamp or flashlight with you. Last but not the least; you’ll need your camera to capture the beauty and to record those memories.

The Sad Truth

Koko Head trail has been used by thousands of people till now and has worn out a little. There are a few steps missing and soil eroding as it has not been maintained properly. Numerous hikers have formed groups to raise funds for repairs that have to be done. Let's hope that the officials wouldn't have to shut it down!

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 video.

Sight-Seeing Around the Trek

1. Hanauma Bay – You can go to the bay and relax after a tiresome trek. You can also snorkel to enjoy the tropical marine life.
2. Halona Blowhole – It’s a natural wonder where the large ocean waves are sprayed into the air through a hole in a lava rock. It can be viewed from the parking lot of Halona Beach Cove.
3. Makapu’u Beach – This stunning beach is definitely one of Oahu’s prized possessions. You can also try the spectacular Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.

4. Don’t forget to treat yourself with the famous shave ice delicacy.