The epic Haiku Stairs (or also called “The Stairway to heaven”) are on top of the To-Do list of most O’ahu visitors which love adventurous hikes! And justifiably so. Officially the trail is closed but each day several hikers climb up the stairs anyway to enjoy the insane views over the island.
After posting several pictures from our hike on Instagram my inbox has been full of questions about the security guard, the gear, how to find the Haiku Stairs and if they are dangerous!
In this post I’m answering everything you need to know before hiking up the Haiku Stairs in Hawaii!
Before you start…
What do you need to pack for the hike?
- sturdy shoes
- Enough water! The way to reach the stairs is already quite exhausting & the Haiku Stairs themselves are a sweaty hike!
- Light snacks
- Gloves – This might sound strange BUT they really help while walking down and holding on to the railings without hurting your hands
- Stamina – You don’t need to be a top athlete but please only do this hike if you feel fit and aren’t afraid of heights
- Mosquito repellent – Especially on the way to the stairs and back there are millions of mosquitos in the bushes
- A smartphone – The cell phone reception and GPS signal are available throughout the whole hike and are very useful in case of an emergency
Where do the Haiku Stairs begin?
The way to the entrance of the Haiku Stairs begins in a small village called Haiku. The inhabitants aren’t really happy that their little village is attracting tourists on a daily basis. They are especially annoyed by the hikers who trespass private properties to find the starting point of the stairs – which is very much understandable! But if you act respectful and quiet then probably nobody will complain.
The best time to start your hike is early in the morning which has two benefits: Firstly cause the temperatures are still low and secondly cause most villagers are still asleep during this time (but be aware that many of them have guard dogs)!
You can either take an Uber to the Preschool in Haiku or drive with your own car. But make sure you’re not parking right in front of a post box or fire hydrant to not get towed off. Walk around the school and after a few houses you will see a big wire mesh fence which you’ll have to pass. In case it’s closed you need to climb around it, through a bush and over a little hill. But no worries – you can’t miss the spot!
How do you find the entrance to the Haiku Stairs?
Behind the fence is a pathway which leads through the forest. Colorful bands on the trees are marking the right way though the bushes. Always watch the floor while walking cause sometimes there are holes in the ground or glass shards on the floor (maybe from the villagers?). For that reason I wouldn’t recommend to do the hike at night to watch the sunrise from the top. In my opinion the way is too dangerous to walk it in the total darkness.
After a while you will pass a bamboo forest and another fence. This one has huge holes in it so it’s easy to climb through it. The gravel road behind it leads directly to the stairs… but also to the guard who’s watching the entrance!
Is the Guard allowed to stop me?
No – the guard only fulfills the purpose to scare off hikers and to have an idea of how many people are currently on the trail. BUT the police is allowed to stop you and will most likely give you a ticket too! A police car is passing the entrance point of the Haiku Stairs in random intervals to check the situation.
That’s why you should not walk along the mentioned gravel road and only pass it to walk into the bamboo forest on the other side of the street. From here you have to climb up and walk all the way to the right to walk round the guard. Marker bands at the trees will help you to find the way. After a few meters you will walk below a highway bridge and the way leads downhill. From the top you can already spot the car of the guard and two fences – behind these the Haiku Stairs finally begin!
3922 stairs to the top..
Are the Haiku Stairs in Hawaii dangerous?
If the weather conditions are dry and you’re wearing proper shoes than you’ll have a good grip on the stairs and the hike is absolutely doable! But of course you’re putting yourself in some risk doing this trail. At some points the railways are loose or even broke off and some steps are unstable. Additionally the stairs are quite narrow which means that you have to give way to the people coming from the other direction.
I wouldn’t suggest this hike to anyone who’s afraid of heights cause at some points the stairs have a slope of 90% and rather reminds of a ladder with a big drop behind you! If you turn around you’ll see nothing but the deep green forest several hundred meters underneath you!
How much time should I plan for the hike?
Depending on your fitness level and on how many breaks you’re doing on the way up you will need around 2-3 hours to walk up the 3922 stairs and approximately 1-1.5 hours down. We made several breaks on all platforms along the way, spend one hour at the top and the hike took us 5.5 hours. We would probably have been faster without getting lost in the forest on the way back! 😀
Do I have to take the same cumbersome way back?
Yes & No. The last stage around the guard can in abstract be skipped and you can actually pass him directly. From other hikers we heard that he’s actually quite relaxed and friendly. But you would also risk meeting the police…
That’s why we decided to take the exact same way back: through the bamboo forest, below the highway bridge and through the forest. to the big wire mesh fence and back to the car.
My Résumé after hiking up the Haiku Stairs in Hawaii
Is it really worth the risk?
For me it’s a 100% YES! It’s been one of the most adventurous hikes we’ve ever done and the views along the way are absolutely breathtaking. Of course everyone has to answer this question for themselves but the hike is really doable and if you follow my directions than the risk of meeting the police is almost zero!
Back at the car we couldn’t have been happier and more proud of ourselves that we did this legendary hike! Haiku Stairs in Hawaii ✓ CHECK!