Oʻahu Hike We Like: Koko Crater Trail
Brace yourself for the railway stairs that will take you about a mile straight up to a breathtaking 360-degree view of the East Side with a heavy 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.
Photos: Marisa Hartzell
TRAIL NAME: Koko Crater Trail
LENGTH: 1.4 miles round trip
WHERE: Koko Head District Park in Hawaiʻi 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.
Call it the Koko Crater Stairs or East Side’s grueling stairmaster, this heavily trafficked trail consists of 1,048 steps from an abandoned railroad track. Whether you’re looking to get your cardio in for the week or enjoy a great view of Waikīkī to Alan Davis, 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
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 recently 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.
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.
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 Kalanianaʻole Highway up to the beginning of the Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail. Snap a pic and take time to enjoy the view knowing you’ve just compled nature’s daunting stairmaster.
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.
History Behind the Stairs
Photo: Courtesy of Wray Taylor II Collection
Before the track of railway stairs was utilized 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
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.