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Koko Crater Tramway Trail, better known as “Koko Head Stairs”, is your StairMaster workout for the day, with a rewarding panoramic view at Koko Head Lookout. The hike will test your endurance and strength to stride over 1,000 steps up a steep mountain to reach the top.

December 2017

Oahu, Honolulu USA

2.9km (1-2 hours)

The walking track comprises abandoned railroad ties used by the military in World War II as part of an incline tram to transport supplies to a lookout post at the summit.

Today locals and holidaymakers use the trail for hiking, running, nature trips, and bird watching. The track is accessible year-round. As challenging as it sounds, hiking the Koko Head Stairs is a fun and popular hike on Oahu.

Do not forget to bring water and sunscreen!

How long does it take?

The Koko Crater Trail will take you 30 minutes to 1 hour to reach the top.  Give yourself time to relax up top before starting your descent.  You have earned it, so you might as well enjoy it!

The climb is exceptionally steep, and you are often catching your breath. I recommend you do not look up. I noticed many unfit holiday makers, 15 minutes from the top, admitting defeat and turning around to return to the bottom.

Once I made it to the top, head spinning and breathless, I moved away from the crowd as I feared I might puke. Maybe I rushed the ascent or did not drink enough water. For several minutes, the view was the least of my worries. In time nausea eased, and I made my way to the viewing platform.

Visiting near Christmas, it surprised me to find a Santa mailbox and decorations at the Koko Head Lookout adding festive spirit and good cheer to my achievement.

Merry Christmas 2017

And then I took in my well-earned view. Looking beneath me to my left, I saw a never-ending ocean spanning out from Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. This dedicated Marine Park is definitely worth a visit during your stay in Oahu.

Looking towards Hanauma Bay

In 1990 the City and County of Honolulu laid out a plan to restore Hanauma to a clean, healthy pristine marine eco system after years of neglect and abuse from three million annual visitors. They have now reduced visitor numbers and established an education program to safeguard the fragile marine life in the Bay. Simply book a specific time slot for a magical snorkelling experience.

Further westward on the leeward side, I see the suburb of Honolulu and famous Waikiki beach with its towering holiday apartments and hotels. To the north, the mountain ranges shrouded in cloud, and to the east more epic coastline.

Track Conditions

Once you walk on the tram tracks you need to be careful as many sections are in disrepair and you will find the rail sleepers widely spaced in sections.

You will reach a small section that is flat, but yet still comes with a challenge, as it acts as a bridge over a 12metre (40 ft) drop.  It is easy to cross but may be uncomfortable if you have a fear of heights.  Watch your footing and take your time crossing this section. There is a safe bypass around to the right side if you wish to avoid crossing the bridge.

You will need endurance after the halfway mark, as you take more breaks along the way.  Step aside and allow other hikers to pass by safely while you take a rest.

Getting there

This Oahu hike is easy to find by car with plenty of parking, easy to navigate but not so easy to climb!  After parking in the Koko Head District Park parking lot, you will find an easily identifiable trail that leads to the start of the climb up the mountain.

To get to Koko Head via public transport, get off at the bus stop in front of the Hanauma Bay sign. There are two bus stops that say “Hanauma Bay”. One says “Kalanianaole Highway + Hanauma Bay Road” and the other “Hanauma Bay Nature Park.” Get off at the first stop if you are coming from Waikiki.

A well earned Mai Tai this evening

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