O‘ahu Hike We Like: Koko Crater Trail

A new viewing platform awaits hikers who trek a mile up the railway stairs to a breathtaking view of the East Side and a legit cardio workout.


Editor’s Note: We love hiking! Fortunately, O‘ahu is full of great hikes. In this web series, we bring you our favorite O‘ahu trails. We updated this 2019 post before the 4th of July weekend because of a just-completed renovation.


Koko Crater Panoramic

Photo: Marisa Hartzell


TRAIL NAME: Koko Crater Trail
LENGTH: 1.4 miles round trip
FEE: Free
WHERE: Koko Head District Park in Hawai‘i Kai



Hiking can be dangerous, and not every trail is a good idea for every person. Keep your personal fitness and skill levels in mind, and always take proper precautions when venturing off road. Heed “no trespassing” and other warning signs.



What’s New at the Top of the Koko Crater Trail


Koko Crater Platform renovated June 2023

New Koko Crater viewing platform opens for July 4th long weekend. Photo: Courtesy of Honolulu Parks & Recreation


Just in time for the 4th of July long weekend, the city Parks & Recreation Department unveiled a brand-new viewing platform complete with railings. This replaces a larger but unstable metal grate that wasn’t designed to hold crowds of hikers. The $426,800 project was completed over several weeks in June 2023. The city congratulated SEY Engineers and Kaikor Construction Co. for the quick work.


Koko Crater Platform Construction

The top of the Koko Crater trail under construction to renovate the viewing platform. Photo by Kokonut Koalition


Keep It Calm and Clean

The city once again consulted with members of the nonprofit volunteer group Kokonut Koalition, which refurbished the tramway trail in 2021. Koalition president Lena Haapala offers a couple friendly reminders for visiting the refurbished trail: “It’s a much smaller space, so please be courteous to others who want to take photos on the platform. Always be respectful and be sure to take your trash down.”


Koko Crater Stairs new view in June 2023

Here’s a look from the new viewing platform at Koko Crater stairs taken by members of the volunteer group that helps care for the trail. Photo: Courtesy of Kokonut Koalition



The Experience


Koko Crater Stairs

Photo: Marisa Hartzell


Call it the Koko Crater Stairs or East Side’s grueling stairmaster, this heavily trafficked trail consists of 1,048 steps from an abandoned tramway track. Whether you’re looking to get your cardio in for the week or enjoy a great view of Waikīkī to Alan Davis beach, you’ll definitely have a chance to experience both as you ascend to a 1,200-foot elevation at the top.


SEE ALSO: 24 O‘ahu Hikes We Really Like


Koko Crater Ascent

Photo: Marisa Hartzell


The first half of the trail starts off with a moderate incline, lined with wild flowers and electric poles, evenly spaced to serve as good markers (and motivation) for hikers. The degrading railway steps have been renovated and repaired by community members for a safer ascent to the top. Toward the middle of the trail, the ground underneath the steps drops away—you can either brave the levitating steps or veer right for a safer dirt path.


Koko Crater Levitating Stairs

Photo: Marisa Hartzell


The last half offers an unforgiving set of steep steps where the high-level cardio kicks in. Enjoy the increasingly wider view of Hanauma Bay all the way to the back of Diamond Head as you take water breaks.


SEE ALSO: Horsing Around on O‘ahu’s North Shore with Happy Trails Hawai‘i


The Payoff


Koko Crater Payoff

Photo: Marisa Hartzell


At the top, climb up to the right and enjoy gentle winds that cool you off and a sprawling ocean view behind the crater. Watch the waves form and break at Sandy’s and follow Kalaniana‘ole Highway up to the beginning of the Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail. Snap a pic and take time to enjoy the view knowing you’ve just completed nature’s daunting stairmaster.


Koko Crater Shaka

Photo: Marisa Hartzell




  • Thoroughly lather yourself with sunscreen and wear a hat and protective clothing. Take your sun protection a step further and start the hike in the early morning or evening, or pick a day with some cloud cover.
  • Be cautious or avoid the trail after/during the rain to avoid a dangerous slip.
  • Pack your trash and bring any other trash down the stairs. There are no trash cans at the top.
  • On the way down, pace yourself and go slow. Be mindful of people trying to pass.


SEE ALSO: 7 Eco-Friendly Cups, Flasks and Bottles You Can Buy on O‘ahu


The History Behind the Stairs


Wray Taylor Collection

Photo: Courtesy of Wray Taylor II Collection

Before the track of railway stairs became known as a hiking trail, it was used by the National Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force to carry personnel and supplies up and down to the military bunkers at the summit of Koko Crater during World War II. The facility and surrounding land was given to the city of Honolulu in 1966 and renamed Koko Head Regional Park.


Fun fact: Koko Crater and Koko Head are two different mountains. Koko Crater was formerly known as Kohelepelepe and is home to the Koko Crater Botanical Garden and Koko Crater Stables. Koko Head is across Kalaniana‘ole Highway and overlooks Hanauma Bay.






Map & Directions


Koko Crater Parking lot

Photo: Marisa Hartzell


Turn into the Koko Head Regional Park and park at the lot nearest the end of the road. Walk toward the end of the road and turn left at the fork (turning right will take you to the highway), onto a dirt trail that is about 100 yards long, until you reach the foot of the stairs.