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Stairway to Heaven – Koko Crater Trail, Oahu

Breathtaking views of Oahu are waiting...
Breathtaking views of Oahu are waiting...

Everyone hikes Diamond Head, but for those in the know, Koko Crater is the place to hike. The little-known Koko Crater Trail hike surpasses Diamond Head not only for the level of hiking but also for its amazing views.

Also referred to as Koko Head Crater Trail, Koko Crater Trail in Oahu is the hiking enthusiast’s dream – and the flabby, out-of-shape tourist’s nightmare. All joking aside, the hike is a must-do while in Oahu and can be accomplished by just about anyone, regardless of fitness level. (It just might take a little longer for the nimble children who dart from one railroad tie to the next like a game of hopscotch.)

The Koko Crater trail consists of 1,408 railroad ties, the last remnants of the cable car track used to transport military personnel, equipment and supplies during WWII to the now abandoned Air Force radar station at the summit, Pu’u Mai.

But before you reach the summit, you’ll need to earn the rewarding views on your ascent. The hike begins leisurely, with evenly spaced railroad ties and painted markers on the right side of the tracks indicating the number of railroad ties – 100, 200 and so forth. You may think to yourself that the hike’s pretty easy and wonder what the fuss is about until you reach the 500-step mark and the wooden trestle bridge suspended 20 feet from the ground. Here the railroad ties are a bit further apart; without solid ground underneath, they feel a bit flimsy.

Those afraid of heights or unnerved by the lack of solid support can continue up the side of the mountain in the brush along the trail.

The wooden trestle bridge isn’t the only hazard on the trail. The last part of the hike is as vertical as it gets with steps spaced about two feet high. If your legs aren’t already burning by this point, this last push to the top will ensure you’ll feel the burn. But the pain is worth the gain when you reach the summit.

View from the top: Hanauma Bay (left) and environs.

From 1,208 feet, you have unobstructed 360-degree views looking down on Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Makapuʻu Head, Hawaii Kai, Honolulu and the Koko Head Crater Botanical Garden.

Thankfully, hiking down Koko Crater Trail is much easier and faster.

Koko Crater Trail is located in Koko Head Regional Park at 423 Kaumakani Street, Honolulu, Hawaii. Parking is free. Public restrooms are located at the baseball field near the trailhead.

Be sure to use the facilities before you start your ascent; there's no privacy on the trail.

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Breathtaking views of Oahu are waiting...
Breathtaking views of Oahu are waiting...

Everyone hikes Diamond Head, but for those in the know, Koko Crater is the place to hike. The little-known Koko Crater Trail hike surpasses Diamond Head not only for the level of hiking but also for its amazing views.

Also referred to as Koko Head Crater Trail, Koko Crater Trail in Oahu is the hiking enthusiast’s dream – and the flabby, out-of-shape tourist’s nightmare. All joking aside, the hike is a must-do while in Oahu and can be accomplished by just about anyone, regardless of fitness level. (It just might take a little longer for the nimble children who dart from one railroad tie to the next like a game of hopscotch.)

The Koko Crater trail consists of 1,408 railroad ties, the last remnants of the cable car track used to transport military personnel, equipment and supplies during WWII to the now abandoned Air Force radar station at the summit, Pu’u Mai.

But before you reach the summit, you’ll need to earn the rewarding views on your ascent. The hike begins leisurely, with evenly spaced railroad ties and painted markers on the right side of the tracks indicating the number of railroad ties – 100, 200 and so forth. You may think to yourself that the hike’s pretty easy and wonder what the fuss is about until you reach the 500-step mark and the wooden trestle bridge suspended 20 feet from the ground. Here the railroad ties are a bit further apart; without solid ground underneath, they feel a bit flimsy.

Those afraid of heights or unnerved by the lack of solid support can continue up the side of the mountain in the brush along the trail.

The wooden trestle bridge isn’t the only hazard on the trail. The last part of the hike is as vertical as it gets with steps spaced about two feet high. If your legs aren’t already burning by this point, this last push to the top will ensure you’ll feel the burn. But the pain is worth the gain when you reach the summit.

View from the top: Hanauma Bay (left) and environs.

From 1,208 feet, you have unobstructed 360-degree views looking down on Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Makapuʻu Head, Hawaii Kai, Honolulu and the Koko Head Crater Botanical Garden.

Thankfully, hiking down Koko Crater Trail is much easier and faster.

Koko Crater Trail is located in Koko Head Regional Park at 423 Kaumakani Street, Honolulu, Hawaii. Parking is free. Public restrooms are located at the baseball field near the trailhead.

Be sure to use the facilities before you start your ascent; there's no privacy on the trail.

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