The journey of 1,048 steps begins at the base of Koko Crater near the baseball field at Koko Head District Park. For those who climb it, the reward is breathtaking panoramic views of the Ka Iwi Coast on the southeast side of Oahu.
If you’re thinking about hiking Koko Crater Trail but aren’t sure if you should, keep reading. If you are already committed to hiking Koko Head, you should also keep reading. I recently hiked it again, and I’ve got everything you need to know in this post.
For years, I had absolutely no interest in a hiking trail that consisted solely of stairs. But my curiosity, and, let’s be honest, the desire to be able to say I did it got the better of me. Last year, I decided to finally give it a try.
I survived, and I even have gone back a few times since then.
Koke Head is a 1,208-foot-high volcanic tuff cone that was created by volcanic explosions. The military used the top of Koko Head as a pillbox during World War II. The railway tracks were created to bring supplies to the top. Those tracks created the stairs that we use today to get to the top.
Getting There and What to Bring
Finding the trail is not hard to find since it is right in Koko Head District Park.
As you enter into the parking lot, you will see a bathroom on your left side with a small parking lot. I always get out here and use the restroom. This is the only restroom available to you. But then I get back in my car and park in the next parking lot, which is closer to the trail.
Do not attempt this hike in the middle of the day because there is absolutely no shade. I always go either early in the morning, or right before sunset.
Last week, I went 3 hours before sunset. It gets crowded right at sunset, and I have no desire to go down those stairs in the dark. So, I opted for a middle ground of three hours before sunset. It was getting cooler, but I could still see where I was going.
I highly recommend that you only attempt this trail if you are in good physical shape and that you bring plenty of water, a light snack, and a hat.
It can be hard to balance on the stairs at certain points, so wearing a backpack helps you keep your balance. When I am holding something in my hand while attempting to balance, it’s much harder.
Climbing the steps
Finding Koko Head might not be hard, but the trail sure is. The beginning of the trail is misleading because it quickly gets harder than it seems. Take your time going up the stairs and take as many breaks as you need.
I took breaks every 50-100 steps to catch my breath and drink some water. There are markers telling you how far you have gone, so you can see your progress. I took a few minutes at each break.
After you go past the halfway point, things start to get harder.
About 2/3 of the way up the trail, there is a section of railroad slats with no dirt it. It’s more of a bridge than a set of stairs. Other hikers have made a sort of trail off to the right that goes around this part. You can find this trail, or you can walk over them. If you choose to walk over them, be sure to go slowly and deliberately. I usually choose to go around because it gives me a break from the stairs.
From here, the incline gets higher. At one point, I was on my hands and knees climbing up to the top.
Just when I started to question whether or not I could finish, I could see the top of Koko Head. The last two hundred steps or so were the most difficult because they were more vertical and because I was so tired. After many more breaks, I finally made it to the top.
View from the top
When I got to the top, after drinking lots of water, I sat down and looked around at the panoramic views. There was an incredible view of Hanauma Bay and the coastline. No matter how many times I have seen this view, it takes my breath away. Literally, since I am out of breath from the stairs!
We hung out on one of the pillboxes, at our granola bars, and enjoyed the view. With the wind up there, it started to get a bit chilly, so we decided to head back down.
Going back down
In some ways, going down was harder than going up. There were many times where I sat on my but and scooted down the trickier parts. I highly recommend taking your time, being very careful, and wearing hiking boots to complete this trail. Don’t attempt this hike in flip flops.
The entire journey from start to finish took us about 3 hours.
If you are interested in hiking in Hawaii, check out our posts about Diamond Head, The Pillbox Trail, Waimea Falls, and Lulumahu Falls. If you’re not sure which hike is right for you, give us a call and speak to one of our travel agents. We can help you design the trip that is right for you.