The story of our climb up the Koko Head Crater Trail in Oahu, Hawaii. It was tough, but worth it!
This hike is definitely for the more adventurous, thrill seekers. If you're up for a bit of a challenge while you explore Oahu, this is a great place to start.
Koko Head Crater is an ancient volcanic crater, rising almost 200 meters above sea level. During WWII, bunkers were built at the summit of the crater. A railway was constructed in order to quickly bring crews and equipment up to the top. The railway has since been used as a stairway leading to epic scenery overlooking Waikiki and Waimanalo. At the top of the old railroad, you'll be able to see and climb old military bunkers, and get a birds eye view of Honolulu and Waikiki.
After a long flight we finally arrived at our tropical destination, Honolulu. The plane ride itself isn’t horrible. Travelling from Toronto, after spending a night in the airport led to a very long and tiring flight for us. Trust us, as soon as you touch down and smell the fresh jungle air you'll know that it's all worth it.
1: The buses in Oahu, although efficient for locals, are not incredibly tourist friendly. If you plan on going to Oahu and don’t want to rent a car, you can easily get around on bus, just keep in mind that it does take a very long time to get anywhere via public transport. The buses will take you to some popular places, but be sure to set aside extra time to get around. The drivers expressed great conviviality, and will certainly answer any questions you have, and help you get from place to place.
We took a city bus to the Waikiki Beach House hostel, we checked in, dropped off our bags and hopped on another bus to get to the famous “Koko-Head Crater Stairs”. The bus ride to get to the stairs was at least another hour. At the very end of the bus ride we got off in a suburban area and had to make our way to the stairs, we could see them from the bus stop.
You shouldn’t be surprised to find out that we wandered off the proper path. Eventually we saw a man outside his house doing some yard work and asked him for directions. Instead of simply telling us where to go, he offered us a ride - okay, fine, I’ll admit it, we walked completely in the WRONG direction.
Now, I’m not overly lazy or anything, but after a 14 hour plane ride, 2 hour-long bus rides and an overwhelming feeling of jet lag, of course I'm going to take a risk and jump into a strange, topless, surfer-dude's minivan when he offers me a ride.
He was so nice (like all of the locals in Hawaii)! He was actually a tour guide for Oahu Spot Tours! We lucked out! I was so grateful for the drive because it easily would have taken an extra half-hour if we decided to continue along on foot.
Stairs, finally the STAIRS. Way more stairs than the pictures led us to believe. Okay, we got this, we start climbing. We quickly discovered that a lot of locals come to this trail to workout. There were people running past us with headphones in, as if this was just a casual jog through the park. By the 10th stair - literally the 10th stair - I’m already regretting my decision to wear flip-flops. Sort of an oversight on my part, but my 2 choices of footwear were; incredibly uncomfortable, not broken in hiking boots, or some casual flip-flops. I picked the flip-flops.
Climbing up the stairs was fun, terrifying and hard all at once. There were periods where the stairs are elevated above ground level, maybe 6 meters in some places, one misplaced foot and you could fall right through.
Faint, with sore legs we finally got to the top, the sun was just starting to set. I’m wasn't about to go back down just yet, I wanted to explore the top of this crater! It is worth checking out, gorgeous, not so crowded and littered with some cool army bunkers that are perfect for exploring. Oh did I mention the incredible views! Ocean, city, craters, you can see it all from up here!
2: Bring a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated. It will take you longer to climb than you might be led to believe. Plus, it's Hawaii, so it's HOT you'll most definitely get your sweat on.
Now to get back down. I’m not joking when I say that going down was worse than climbing up. For a majority of the steep, elevated parts I actually bum shuffled my way from stair to stair. By the time we got to the bottom it was dark.
I would explore Koko Head again, but with better footwear (and maybe some snacks). If you go there, unless you’re an ultra-marathoner or someone who is a cross-fit junkie, then don’t try to beat anyone’s 10 minute goal to get to the top. We hike, run and workout all of the time and the stairs were still challenging for us. Plan to spend at least an hour total, take your time and have fun.