The Haiku Stairs are found on O’ahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands. The steps lead from the foot of the Ko’olau Mountain Range starting at 160 meters above sea level to a summit of 800 meters where an old decommissioned naval radio station sits. The horizontal ground covered when climbing to the top is only 1.5km from step 1 to step 3,922 but the climb is pretty steep and ladder like in places. The views of the mountain and the surrounding island out to the ocean are amazing from the stairs, this is definitely one of the best hiking attractions this island has to offer.
There is but one catch, hiking the stairs is illegal, some of the reason proffered for this include the danger associated with the hike, complaining locals against the slew of tourists converging on their lawns, land usage right issues, the list goes on but whatever way you cut it the result is the same, you can’t legally hike it. While on the island for a week a group of us came across a guide through the hostel we were staying at who was charging thirty bucks a head to take people to the stairs and hike to the top using a so called ‘legit’ route, so a few of us set out at 1pm from Waikiki and made our way to the stairs, guide in hand, this was his second tour of the day to hike the stairs.
Wanna legally hike the stairs? Try the virtual video of the hike below, it’s nowhere near the real thing….BUT, its safer and keeps you out of trouble 🙂
I do not recommend anyone doing this hike (even though it’s awesome ;-)) as (a.) the authorities don’t approve of it and (b.) there are parts of it that are pretty dangerous even in the best of conditions, i.e. dry warm weather. The weather was perfect when we did it, the ground was bone dry, when wet some parts at the beginning would be treacherous. If you do decide to do the hike, try to find a local guide who knows what their doing to lead you up and down. If your not physically fit….get physically fit, it’s a tough slog up to the top! This post serves as a log of our experience and not as a ‘how to’ break the law, break it at your own risk….yeah, onwards and upwards!
Time Up (Car to Summit)…………….1hr 40mins
Time at Top……………………………….0hr 15mins
Time Down (Summit to Car)……….1hr 09mins
Number of Steps……………………….3,922 (less first 200 odd!)
Hike Date…………………………………..1st August 2015 @ 13:30
The map above shows the route the guide took us through starting at a neighbourhood close to the foot of the mountain right up to the Naval base situated at the top of the mountain. Some people start the route from the gated entrance at the base of the stairs after the security guard takes names and addresses, valid or not!
The trail begins at the base of the Ko’olau Mountain in a nearby neighbourhood, from this viewpoint you get a great view of the climb ahead viewed from beneath the John A. Burns freeway that wraps its way around the Ko’olau Range before disappearing into the base of the mountain on one side This looks pretty impressive from the top, the cars are just swallowed up as they hit the tunnel.
2. Trail Start
The trail start we took is found in the neighbourhood at the base of the mountain, access is via a fenced off storm drain, this route continues around to the left where it leads onto a tunnel. At this point we were only a few meters shy of being under the freeway.
When we got to the tunnel we had to climb through it exiting on the other side close to the service road that leads to the gated start of the stairs and the security guard.
4. Bamboo Forest
Once on the service road we entered the bamboo forest to make our way to the stairs uphill of the gated entrance. This part of the trail through the forest to the stairs is the most difficult and dangerous part of the hike, the ground soil is loose and steep in places without much to hold onto. There is somewhat of a path beaten due to the volume of people still attempting the hike every day.
From the stairs start looking downhill and we could see a car and a portaloo at the gated entrance to the stairs, this is where the guard hangs out.
6. Stairway Start
This is the unofficial stairway access point from the bamboo forest, it is roughly at the same level as the freeway a couple of hundred steps uphill from the gate at the base.
It took us slightly over an hour to climb to the top, there are two or three level platforms along the way to stop and take a break while appreciating the view, the climb up is tough enough and quite steep in places and at points we were concerned at how difficult it may be to descend the steeper sections on the way back down but the descent was much easier and quicker than anticipated. It would have been useful to wear gloves on the stairs to prevent blisters from continuous contact with the handrails. There were reports of storm damage in the Huffington Post to the stairs making the summit unaccessible but this was untrue, the damaged part is a level section along the stairway and it was still easily passable.
This hike was great, hopefully one day the local community will come to a compromise and reopen the hike to the general public in a controlled and safe way instead of ripping it up so nobody can do it anymore.