Hiking the Koko Head stairs was something I had been looking forward to for a while now, so when our friend Gina invited us to tag along with her friend Emily for a sunset hike up the stairs….I was excited until I was up about 100 steps. I’m just going to lay this out there right now that this hike is not for the faint of heart! If you’re afraid of heights or experience vertigo you may want to scratch this off your list. However, if you’re a hard-core athlete say….a marathon runner, boxer, cross-fitter, or you just love a good ol’ stairmaster…..then this hike is right up your alley!
Over 1,048 fatiguing stairs is what separates you and some of O’ahu’s most breathtaking panoramic views of Hawai’i Kai, Hanauma Bay, Makapu’u Light house trail. This hike is popular among athletes and locals because it’s such a great workout with gorgeous views to reward at the top. People who hike this regularly like Emily, time themselves. Emily has climbed up in less than 20 minutes! I believe the fastest time I’ve seen posted was a little under 13 minutes! I will not be posting any of my times soon!
About half way up the stairs, you will encounter a bridge in which the ground just disappears right from under you. This is where some of you may encounter feeling dizzy. The railway ties are closer together in this section making it a little easier to climb across, but still be advised to step slowly and carefully since there are no guard rails to keep you steady. If you are someone who is afraid of heights, there is an alternate detour through the bushes off to the side of the trail.
After the exhilarating bridge section the climb up gets steeper. On the plus side, for the shorter people out there, this is where the stairs begin to get shorter. When you start getting closer to the top you will soon get a preview of what you’ll see from the top. Turning around, you will see the beautiful blue water of Hanauma Bay and an overview of Hawai’i Kai. This is right around the hike where you’ll witness other hikers offer words of encouragement to excite those who may think of giving up missing the breathtaking views that await at the top.
Once you’ve made it to the top you will see what remains of what se to be military bunkers from World War II. The military built several bunkers at the summit of Koko Head crater. They also constructed the Koko Head Railway (now know as the Koko Head stairs) to move personnel and military equipment up and down. You will also discover several other areas that are perfect spots for your photo-op after you have caught your breath. The big metal platform at the top is an epic place to take photos for your social media accounts! From here, I was able to get some gorgeous sunset shots with my camera as well as launch out my drone to film the sunset.
So now you’ve cooled down and have taken those photos to prove that you’ve made it to the top and now it’s time to make your way back down. If you thought the climb up was a little slippery, the climb down makes it a little worse, so pay attention to your steps and don’t be afraid to take it a little slower than normal. If you are doing this hike in the early morning or late evening, it is best to pack a flash light so you can illuminate your steps as you climb up and down. It is also best that you do this hike with a good pair of shoes that offer plenty of ankle support and ground grip. Don’t forget to put on plenty of sunscreen and bring plenty of drinking water! Hats and sunglasses can be lifesavers as the sun can quite harsh.
Once you’ve made it to the bottom you will feel exhilarated and also want to fall into the ground because your legs will definitely feel like jello! I am so proud to say that I can mark this hike off my Hawai’i bucket list! Now on to the next adventure!