How To Hike The Haiku Stairs (Stairway To Heaven)

how to hike the haiku stairs

Hiking the Haiku Stairs (or the Stairway To Heaven more appropriately) was the number 1 hike on my bucket list.

The Background

The Haiku Stairs are located in Oahu, Hawaii and hiking the Haiku Stairs is technically illegal.

After doing some research on Alltrails, I realized that although hiking the Haiku Stairs is illegal, plenty of people still complete the hike every day. The historic metal staircase was installed during World War II and was officially declared off limits in the 1980s. Since then, security guards have been placed at the base of the stairs to discourage hikers. The Haiku Stairs became more dangerous in 2015 after a storm tore apart part of the stairway.  The truth is however, that this damaged part of the stairway is a small part in the very beginning of the hike,  and the Haiku Stairs are still very doable, despite a few obstacles.  Other than the security guards, people in the neighborhood are strongly against strangers sneaking up in their yards to reach the hike. Because of these neighbors, and the guard, it is recommended to start the hike around 2-3am in the morning. The hike is a 2.2 mile out and back trail.. from the base of the stairs that is.

hiking the haiku stairs

hiking the haiku stairs

This is how I did it

The hardest part of the Haiku Stairs is trying to find where to begin. I found a great article that explained a route, but when it came time to do the same route in the dark, I couldn’t tell where I was going at all. So, this is what I did:

  1. Drove myself to the Haiku Village (found this out after emailing someone from AllTrails). Parked in this neighborhood. Make sure to be quiet, and to not block anyone’s driveway or fire hydrants.
  2. Got out of the car, at this point you will probably see other people walking around in the dark. These people are most likely trying to attempt the hike as well. I think it’s harder to do the Haiku Stairs in a group (because of the noise) so avoid being a part of a big group.
  3. There are multiple routes. You will have to end up going through someone’s yard, and going through a bamboo forest. In basic terms, you want to head in the direction of the tall mountain and you will need to go under the John A. Burns freeway you will see wrapping around the mountain.

hiking the haiku stairs

Here are three routes you can try:

a.) The Entrance By Kuneki Street: At the end of the street (see map below), there is a fence you can go around by entering a bamboo forest. However, during our first attempt, one of the neighbors was standing outside with a video camera. Personally, I didn’t care if I was captured on camera, but I didn’t want him calling the cops, so I resorted to another entrance. Yes, this guy was outside with a video camera at 3 am.

If he isn’t up and you can go this way, go around the gate until you find a fork in the road. Make a left at the fork. At the second fork, make a right. Walk for about 10 minutes and then find an opening in the woods on the left side. Follow this trail until you come to a second concrete road.  Go left and walk down until you see the security guard’s car. Some people walked by the security guard and nothing happened, but I did read that sometimes they will stop you or fine you, so I went through the woods at this part.  The base of the Haiku Stairs will be in the woods in front of the car.

 

hiking the haiku stairs

hiking the haiku stairs

b.) What I did: Off of Haiku and Kahuhipa Street (on the other side of the preschool), I ended up jumping over a fence and walking down a long dirt road behind several houses. I went through the last yard and entered a bamboo forest. At this point, you will start to see trails through whatever bamboo forest you end up in. There are foot paths everywhere from the amount of people that try to sneak past the guard. There are also fences with openings, so you can tell your going the right way. I ended up catapulting myself over a barbed wire fence and crossing a paved road (at this point I saw the guards car), and going up a steep hill. This is where things got pretty bad, where I was hiking through mud and thick brush up a very steep mountain…. in the rain. If you end up doing this you’ve gone too far. I pulled up my Google Maps at this point and realized the base of the Haiku Stairs was just to the right of us.  Finally, at about 6am, we found the base of the stairs. Although this was hell at the time, it was actually quite fun.

c.) Follow This Guys Instructions (which is what I tried to do and failed) The reason that I failed was that I couldn’t figure where the storm drain was located. But, lucky for you, I actually did end up finding it on Google. It’s located on Kuneki Street and looks like this:

hiking the haiku stairs

From The Base Of The Haiku Stairs

At the base of the stairs, there is one more fence, but it’s pretty easy to get around. Then, just head up! However, be careful. The rails will be slippery from the morning rain. I recommend bringing gloves with some sort of grip. I wouldn’t recommend doing a heavy leg workout days before this, because this hike is like being on the stairmaster for two hours. My legs were literally shaking coming down. You’ll reach several  platforms where you can rest and take a break. If you plan it right, you can hike up to be at the top of the Haiku Stairs at sunrise.

 

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I Highly Recommend Bringing to The Haiku Stairs

A waterproof jacket: it will rain and you will get cold

Hiking Shoes: It is really muddy when you are going through the bamboo forest. I can’t imagine doing this hike in anything other than hiking shoes with a good grip. These are the ones I used. 

Gloves: Pick gloves with a grip so you can hold onto the slippery rails

Headlamp: Wear a headlamp so you can see wear you are going in the dark (you can get this one on Amazon for 7 bucks).

Backpack with food and water: You don’t know how long this hike is going to take you, come prepared.

Lightweight longsleeve shirt and pants: You will be hot from hiking through the bamboo forest, but there are some vicious bugs. If you don’t want bugbites everywhere, wear long sleeves. Wear a tank underneath in case you get hot when hiking the stairs

A camera (of course): You don’t want to miss out on the awesome sights of Oahu.

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Beforehand

Before you chose a day for the hike, I recommend checking the weather. As you can see in my pictures, it was really cloudy. If it wasn’t I would have gotten a lot of better photos. But this only means I have to go again!

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The Future of The Haiku Stairs

There are rumors that the neighbors want to open it up again but make hikers pay $100 each. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it’s better off to do it now while it’s cheaper and less crowded. Not to mention, illegal things are always a little more fun.

 

 

Do you have any questions about hiking the Haiku Stairs? Feel free to comment below!

 

 

27 Comments

  • Starr says:

    So you can follow the storm drain ?

  • Jessica says:

    Just did this hike two days ago and used the link you posted for following the storm drain. Was able to completely avoid the security guard thanks to this. If anyone decides to take this route: follow the storm drain to the end where you’ll see an obvious trail into the woods. This will bring you to the drain that you need to walk/crawl through. The purpose of going through the drain is to get through the fence that runs along the road that you’re going under. Once on the other side of the tunnel, just turn around and climb up to the road. Follow the road until you reach the bamboo forest and you’ll see a pretty obvious opening to a trail. Even in complete darkness with a tiny flashlight I was able to find it. Follow the trail until you get to the other side of the highway overpass and then follow along the highway (along the stream). After what will seem like forever, you’ll eventually find a rope that you need to use to pull yourself up the steep incline to reach the stairs. There’s no other way to climb up without using the rope, so if you’re not comfortable pulling your body weight up the this isn’t the route for you.

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for leaving this tip, really helpful! I’m glad my post was able to assist you and I hope your comments help others find their way.

      Marteen

    • Chad says:

      Hello,
      Thanks guys so much for the information.
      I did this hike a few days ago using the storm drain route. The trails were not that easy to find at night, and I never found the tunnel, but instead I followed along a fence and came to another fence with a hole, which on the other side is a small abandoned house and the paved way leading to the bamboo forest.
      The forest was quite hard to follow as well, but I managed to find the ropes and followed it to the stairs.
      Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day and we didn’t get a view at all.
      By luck, I chose this route because on the way down, there were at least 2 cops waiting at the bottom. A bunch of hikers were just sitting on the stairs waiting for the cops to go. Luckily, since I knew this route, we were able to lead a bunch of them to bypass the guard and cops at the gate.
      During the day, the trails are much easier to find and follow.
      As I got to the bamboo forest, the cop car passed us. We had to hurry and run the paved trail to get back over the fence to escape the cops.
      That was an adventure! Thankfully I read through this blog, or else a bunch of us would have gotten cited for sure!
      Thanks guys!

      • Chad says:

        BTW, the address where the tunnel starts is:
        46 Kuneki Pl
        Kaneohe, Hawaii

      • Hi Chad,

        So happy that this post helped you in your trek. The most difficult part of the whole hike (at least for me) was finding the base of the stairs. I’m glad we all have a space to share tips! It was cloudy when I went too, but the clouds give it a more mysterious feel so I didn’t mind. I plan to do this hike again sometime, but I hear security is getting much tighter 🙁 This was definitely one of the most adventurous hikes I’ve ever done, I ended up covered in mud, sweat and bug bites from all that time in the bamboo!

        Thanks for reading!

        XO
        Marteen

  • JIve says:

    As careful as you are going up, is there anything to be aware of when coming back down so you don’t get caught?

    • Hi Jive,

      Good question. On my way back down, the guard was in his car and I was able to walk quickly by. My best advice would be to keep your eyes on the road where the car is parked on the way down. If the guards are outside of their car, maybe try to exit to the side of the stairway and into the forest instead of directly to the road. I don’t think these guards are the type to chase after you, but I do think that security is a bit tighter after the video of the swing incident.

      Good Luck!
      Marteen

  • Reina says:

    What month did you hike the stairs in?

  • Reina Hernandez says:

    Thank You!

  • Moana says:

    Do u know what time the guard leaves??

  • Hannah says:

    You say that it is recommended to around 2-3am, but will you be able to see anything in the dark?

    • Hi Hannah,

      I wore a headlamp on my way up which I highly recommend. You can watch the sunrise on the stairs (or at the top depending on your pace) and then you will be able to see everything on the way down.

      Thanks for commenting and good luck!
      Marteen

  • steven coe says:

    Anyone down to do this in the next 3 days???

  • Cameron says:

    I plan on going tomorrow morning if anyone wants to go!

  • Cameron says:

    I plan on going again tomorrow morning if anyone wants to go!

    • Jen says:

      Anyone going this Sunday? 3/26/17

    • Mitch says:

      Hey Cameron, how did your hike go??? I’m planning on hiking this Saturday (25th) so would be awesome to know how you found things and any tips to add or updates on the drain route that Marteen posted. Cheers!

  • I have used your trail but have lost in forest :))) Finally made it after 2 hrs. Really worth a try
    Check out my video:

  • Kiran says:

    Does anyone have an address to the storm drain entrance? (Or A2) Entrance? I have always wanted to do this but want to limit my risks

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