If you have never heard of Haiku Stairs or Stairway to Heaven of Oahu, Google it. Right now.
Were you in awe of the breathtaking view? Ya, me too. Those pictures from a quick Google search were amazing! So, of course, it landed itself on our bucket list for things to do in Oahu.
There are 2 general ways up. One is by the “stairs” from the side of the highway. The other is through the trails from the backside.
The way by stairs is unfortunately illegal as the State had closed it down due to safety reasons. It has been reported that there are guards along the base of the stairs that will fine you if they catch you. We met a bunch of people that climbed the stairs when we made it to the top. It sounded like they went through quite an ordeal to actually get to the stairs. One girl said they were lost in the woods for an hour trying to avoid the guards. 🤷♀️
We had planned to lawfully hike through the Kuala’ahana trail up. We parked in the Moanalua Valley Neighbourhood Park. The park opens up around 7 am. So if you plan to start earlier, you can park on the streets nearby.
The first three miles (30 – 40 minutes) of Kamananui Valley Road was a fairly flat walk on a dirt road. In hindsight, it would have probably been better to start earlier, because it would be easier to cover more ground when it’s cool.
Once you enter the dense mangrove forest area, follow the pinkish orange ribbons.
You will eventually come to this Kulanaahana trail sign. Turn left and you will cross a stream bed. After a few meters, you will begin to climb up the ridge and out of the valley floor.
The next 30 minutes or so will be treading in between the trees. I was super thankful for the tree roots and branches as footholds or handholds. But be careful not to trip over them. This was our second attempt at Haiku Stairs actually. Our first attempt was May 2018 and it had rained for consecutive days before. It was wet conditions our entire way up even though we tried to pick our best day based on the forecast. The plants on the side don’t always offer that much grip when everything is slippy. We eventually decided to turn back two thirds of the way up as it just got too difficult. Looking back, I think we made the smart decision in turning back, because it would have been too dangerous with all the slippery muddy slopes up and down on top of our lack of proper gears (ie. spikes).
Anyways, back on track with our current May 2019 attempt. After emerging out of the wooded area, you will be ascending along the ridge line all the way to the top. The path can be quite narrow sometimes, as it steeply drops off on both sides. So pay attention to where you land your feet. When it gets windy, be sure to hold on to something or crouch. You can easily roll off when there’s not much vegetation to hang on to or shield you.
The view from here on was spectacular and it only gets better as you go. Unless if it was cloudy, then you won’t see too far.
If you turn around, you can see just how far you have trekked. The grand valley decorated by the shadows of the passing clouds and the beams of sun rays. Stunning!
There were quite a few segments with ropes as aids. Thank you to those who put them in place. Pro tip for handling the ropes – always test them first, because you never know if they’re still secure; and one person at a time, please. As you get higher up in elevation, with the clouds and humidity, the ropes can be slippery to hold, so this is where gloves will come in handy.
After countless peaks, 2.5 hours past the trailhead turn, we finally made it! You can see the silhouette of the radio tower.
Yay for making it and scratching it off our bucket list. We decided to wait it out for an hour on top, hoping the clouds would leave us a clear view.
It actually started showering, then raining quite heavily, so we just decided to scoot. I am glad we brought rain coats and wind breakers as those kept us somewhat warm. Also, the spikes were a godsend. Would have totally slid down the mountain to my demise without them.
After 2.5 hours, we made it down safely back to our car.
Although, we were slightly bummed about the obstructed view from the overcast, the experience was all about the journey. This was definitely an exhilarating and challenging hike that gives you a great sense of accomplishment at the top, view or no view.
- Don’t attempt this hike while it’s raining or have been heavily rained on. It gets very slippery.
- Start early, you can cover most of the flat trail before it gets too hot.
- Spikes will be your saviour and gloves would be helpful for muddy ropes
- Make sure to bring your headlamps if you intend to start before sunrise.
- Don’t wear anything you love, because you’ll be on your hands and knees at some point.
- Bring enough water and some food to replenish your energy at the top.
- Bring a rain jacket as it can get rainy, misty, or cool up at the top (although we met a few who did the hike shirtless, so whatever you prefer I guess)
- Leave a trash bag and some towels in your car – trash bag is for the dirty clothes and shoes, towels are to cover the car seats with (There is a washroom and rinsing station near the parking lot)
- Try to be somewhat fit (this was a strenuous hike for me, I am a minimally active person, but I did try to work out 2-3 times per week one month before this trip, lol)
- B’s pro-tip for best view, pick a day where the forecast is at least mostly sunny in Kailua because that’s where the clouds come from and hang in the mountains
Safe hiking! 😊