Oahu is truly one of my favorite places in the world. It’s the scene of so many of my happiest memories, and a place I haven’t even come close to exploring completely.
Well, even though it was a short trip, it was easily one of the most memorable ones for a very important reason- my best friend’s graduation from med school 🙂 She’s officially a Doctor and I’m so proud to have her as a best friend. We’ve been through so much together ever since we met on the golf team our junior year of college, and to this day she never ceases to amaze me. I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to make it to her graduation, but I’m glad I did because it was the best weekend filled with so many laughs and happy tears.
What made the already perfect weekend even better, was being able to fit in some of my favorite Hawaiian eats and an adventure that has been on my bucket list forever- Stairway to Heaven.
Stairway to Heaven
The Stairway to Heaven is a steel staircase ascending up a ridge from the Haiku Valley near Kaneohe, and up to the stunning 2,480 ft. high Pu’ukeahiakahoe summit. It was originally built in 1942 during World War II so that the US military could access a radio station antennae 2000 ft. up and communicate with Navy ships throughout the Pacific. It remained open to the public even after the military left, but in 1987, vandalism caused several portions of the stairs to fall down the mountain, and the trail was closed to the public. It’s been more than 30 years since it was deemed an illegal hike and trespassing, and yet over 150 people a week climb the stairs and risk fines up to $1000 per person.
If you’ve seen pictures of this hike before, it’s easy to see why this is such a big bucket list item for people all around the world. So, if you’re not afraid of heights, and are willing to risk getting caught, there are a few different ways you can experience the hike for yourself.
- Start the hike in the middle of the night and plan on finishing the hike before the security guard arrives
- Start the hike in the morning and pray you get a cool security guard that gives you a brief warning then lets you proceed
We went with option 2 and got really, really lucky. There are a few different security guards and I’ve heard that they’re usually strict about fining every hiker that trespasses. We also went during the week and it was far less crowded than a Saturday or Sunday would have been.
Whether you go with Option 1 or Option 2, here’s a step by step guide and a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s about 30 minutes from downtown so plan accordingly
- You are trying to get to the neighborhood that’s located in the Haiku Valley so set your Google maps for this address- Makena St. Kaneohe, HI 96744
- Keep in mind that this location is in a neighborhood, and the residents hate trespassers! Park your car on a street somewhere inconspicuous, and make sure you’re ready to go when you arrive.
- You’re going to have to trek through quite a bit of Hawaiian Jungle between the neighborhood and the start of the stairs. The jungle is closed off by fences and warning signs that span the entirety of the suburb, so this is where you have to get creative:
- Access Point 1 is the most common, hop the fence and walk down a private government road that will eventually lead to the base of the stairs. If you decide to do this hike in the middle of the night, choose this path. You can choose this option if you start in the morning, but you will definitely be spotted by the guard/s and possibly some kind of official who might fine you.
- Access Point 2 is a drainage ditch that goes between a bunch of houses and leads into the jungle. This route is more fun, and it is easier to avoid any officials. However, if you don’t know where you’re going, you could get lost. We chose this route since it was easy to spot the drainage ditch in the neighborhood. If you’re doing this hike at night, this may be too difficult to find.
- Once you’ve made it into the jungle, look for the bamboo forest and stay to the left. This will lead you to the start of the stairs.
- Once you’re at the stairs, take a deep breath, a big swig of water, and start the climb!
Some things to keep in mind:
- The start of the hike is extremely muddy depending on what time of year you go. Bring the right shoes and clothes and leave your brand new yeezy’s at home.
- It will take between 3 and 4 hours up to the top, and 1 to 2 hours down.
- The stairs are not maintained so check each step and take a test step if you need to.
- It’s windy! Even on a perfect day, it will be windy. Make sure everything is secure and tied down (hats, sunglasses, etc.) This shouldn’t be a surprise considering you’re hiking up 2,380 ft., but I’m mentioning it again just in case.
- The first stretch was by far the most tiring since there wasn’t a good place to stop until we got to the first landing. It was also the most crowded since people were slower to ascend and descend in that first part.
- Don’t get discouraged once you get to the first landing! The next 2/3 of the hike are much easier and I promise you it’s worth it (unless you’re afraid of heights). We almost turned around but I was determined to get to the top. Spend some time at the first landing before starting your trek up the last 2/3 of the hike.
- The only thing keeping you from falling is the railing, so hold on tight 🙂
- It gets increasingly foggier at the top (which I lovedd) but keep that in mind if you’re the type that loves a colorful picture.
And finally, it’s absolutely worth it. We went in thinking we would probably get fined, but we still wanted to at least try. It was an adventure from start to finish, and I’m so glad I got to cross this one off my bucket list before they take the stairs down for good. Feel free to email me any questions you have about this hike!