Elevation: 0 - 2,800 feet
Time: 4 - 7 hours
Is it worth the risk?
$1000 trespassing fines, security guards, broken handrails.. just some of the risks you might encounter on your trip to the top of Oahu via the 'Haiku Stairs' aka 'The Stairway to Heaven.' Those who know me, know that risks like these only increase my motivation to accomplish something. As a kid, my friends and I would constantly sneak into places we weren't supposed to be.. (skateboarding inside our middle-school comes to mind).. so this "security guard" and 'fence climbing' stuff made me that much more excited to take on this challenge.
History: The Haiku Stairs were built in 1942 to access the high point in the mountains and construct a 'Top Secret,' powerful transmitter tower/facility to communicate with Navy ships throughout the Pacific.
How to get to the Stairway to Heaven / The Haiku Stairs
Step 1: Transportation and Location
We used a rental car. Fast, simple, and where we need it when we want it. City buses go all over Oahu, so if you can't get your hands on a car, you could ride the bus.
You are trying to get to the neighborhood that's located 2000 feet to the Northeast of the Haiku Stairs. This is the address of a street in that neighborhood near the access points: Makena St Kaneohe, HI 96744
Park your car inconspicuously somewhere in this neighborhood and have your gear ready to go before you get there.
Step 2: Choose your Point of Entry
There is about 2000 feet of Hawaiian Jungle that lies between this neighborhood and the Haiku Stairs. This 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. There are several options for where you choose to climb the fence, get out of the neighborhood and breach the jungle. To the right I have plotted a few of the best access points marked (1, 2, 3).
- Access Point 1 is the most common, hop this fence and you can walk down a private government road that will eventually lead to the base of the stairs. If you choose this path, you will definitely be spotted by the guard/s and possibly some kind of official who might yell at you about something.
- Access Point 2 is a drainage ditch, water-flow canal thing 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.
- Access Point 3 is a path that leads to a water-tower thing and another private back road though the jungle.
*These are just options that I decided on while playing with google maps when I was planning our 'SEAL Team Six' style mission.
If you decide on AP 2 or 3, you need to make your way through the jungle heading Southwest 300-500 feet until you find a skinny private road. Then start heading West.
Step 3: The Bamboo Forest
As you're heading West, be on the lookout for a bunch of green bamboo trees on your left. Once you find the bamboo forest, squeeze yourself in between the trees and continue heading Southwest. You will know you're in the right place if the giant overpass highway system is somewhere above your head, more or less. Follow the random deer trails through the bamboo and then the jungle and eventually you will run into the bottom of the Haiku Stairs. If you look down a hundred feet to your right, you will also see a guard in a car waiting to snatch unsuspecting victims.
Step 4: Climb up to Heaven
Once you spot the stairs, hop on the first of 3,922 steps. Three to four hours up, one to two hours down. Once you get to the top you will discover why so many people don't refer to these steps as the Haiku Stairs, but rather, The Stairway to Heaven...
I went back this year and filmed a NEW video of the Haiku Stairs with my brother and my friend cody:
Stairway to Heaven FAQ
First, my two cents:
Okay, so you're probably not gonna get caught, and you probably aren't gonna get a fine, and the neighbors probably aren't gonna call the cops, but that doesn't mean you should just rudely, loudly and flamboyantly climb the fences, walk through yards and be disrespectful to the security guard and local residents. The more complaints and controversies there are over the Haiku Stairs and the local residents, the sooner the local government is going to be forced to remove them. There are already several threats related to the removal and dismantling of the stairs, so have some respect for the situation, and do your best to sneak in without anyone seeing you. And if the security guard confronts you, be polite when you tell him you are aware of the fines and illegality and that you wish to continue anyway. The longer we can keep the Haiku Stairs situation respectful and civil, the longer the Stairway to Heaven can be around for our future generations... and me to go back 🙂
- Is climbing the stairway to heaven / Haiku Stairs Illegal?
Yes, they claim there is a $1000 dollar trespassing fine if you get caught, but that threat seems to just be there as a deterrent. I haven't seen or heard anyone getting slapped with the fine, though, that isn't to say that it cannot happen. (Update: Several people have told me in my DM's that they got or saw someone get the $1000 dollar fine, so be careful!) (side note: follow my Instagram for the best adventure ideas @1Lifeonearth 🙂
- Did a storm render the Haiku Stairs impassable?
No, the "storm" only damaged about 10 feet of stairs, and you literally just walk around it... That article that claims they are impassable is clearly a publicity stunt to keep people off the trail...
- Is there a security guard at the Haiku stairs / stairway to heaven?
Yes, there is at least one (we saw one). There are ways to evade him if you don't wanna stop and chat with the guy.
- What Island is the stairway to heaven in Hawaii?
The Stairway to heaven, aka the Haiku stairs are located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
- How many stairs is the stairway to heaven?
- How long does it take to climb the stairway to heaven?
Me, Shay and Eric climbed the thing in 3 or 4 hours, but we were constantly stopping to hang out and enjoy ourselves. It's a lot faster coming down as well, took us like an hour to descend.
- Do you need gloves to climb the stairway to heaven?
Not really. I didn't want or need gloves going up, but I put some on when I came down which helped to slide down the railings really fast. Gloves are not necessary, but they are helpful.
- Do you need to be in shape to climb the Haiku Stairs?
Being in shape is going to help you out a lot. Strong leg muscles and a good heart is going to make this climb a lot easier, but if you're not in shape, and have a lot of motivation, you could do it as well.
- Do the local cops care about any of this?
I think the cops have been called so often for Haiku Stairs related issues that they don't really bother to show up anymore.
- Do you need to bring anything?
Definitely bring a lot of water, like 4 bottles. This hike will get you really sweaty and thirsty.
- Are the Haiku Stairs / Stairway to Heaven dangerous?
As long as you stay on the stairs, you will probably be fine. The stairs do get super steep at points, and turn more into a ladder, so if you were to lose your grip at this point, you could fall a few dozen feet and maybe tumble off the edge of a mountain. But if you hold your composure, you will be fine.
- Are the Haiku Stairs / Stairway to Heaven scary?
For me? no, because I am a hardened badass 🙂 But if you are not used to climbing things, and being really high up, the stairway to heaven has the potential to be pretty scary. If you are afraid of heights, these stairs are going to be a big challenge for you.
- Were the Haiku Stairs fun / worth the risk?
Yessss! I came to Oahu specifically to conquer these stairs, and I had a blast doing it with my friends. The "Stairway to Heaven" really lives up to its name!
- Do you have to pay the 'Troll Toll?'
No, thankfully we did not have to pay the Troll Toll.
- If you'd like a $35 credit on airbnb, use my coupon code if you want: www.airbnb.com/c/kevink151?s=8