Oahu Hikes That Give the Haiku Stairs A Run for The Money
Here are the facts: the Haiku Stairs, commonly referred to as “The Stairway To Heaven“, hike is closed. You’re no longer allowed to enter Stairway to Heaven near John Burn Freeway via the government access road. It’s illegal and hikers who attempt to do it are regularly cited and fined. Of course, there is a legal route if you really want to see the stairs, but it’s a difficult trek. Fortunately, there are other legal Oahu hikes with views just as stunning.
We know, not being able to do the Stairway to Heaven hike is a total bummer.
But don’t fret! If you still want an adventurous hike such as the Stairway To Heaven, Oahu has plenty to offer! Check out any of these tours a perfect suplment to either the Shaka Guide East Oahu Shoreline or Cirlce Island tours.
There are plenty of Stairway to Heaven hikes in Oahu that will knock your socks off!
So What Are The Best Oahu Hikes Besides The Stairway To Heaven?
Since you can’t the hike Stairway to Heaven, Shaka Guide has gathered a list of the best alternatives. For this article, we prioritized adventurous hikes with unbelievable views that are also legally accessed.
Be warned: some of these hikes are not for the faint of heart!
Olomana (Three Peaks) — Our Favorite Haiku Stairs Alternative
Difficulty rating: Difficult.
Location/Address: 770 Auloa Rd, Kailua, Oahu, HI 96734-4648
Shaka Guide Tour: East Oahu Shoreline Tour
Best Times To Visit: Weekdays, best to avoid peak hours such as sunny weekends.
How long will you spend here? Some people might take several hours to do the first peak, some lunatics run the whole thing in forty-five minutes.
The Olomana Hike, also called Three Peaks is a favorite Oahu hike by locals and tourists.
Olomana is our absolute favorite Stairway to Heaven alternative and one of our favorite Oahu hikes in general. It has many of the same things to offer as the Haiku Stairs including a raging feeling of adventure and jaw-dropping views.
This hike relatively safe for most people and plenty of people do it, but you should know that even highly experienced hikers have been seriously injured on this adventure.
So be safe, and know your limits.
You can decide exactly how far to go, but to make it to the top of the first peak you’ll need to be comfortable with steep inclines, heights, and climbing.
There are ropes available for most of the hike’s steepest uphills. At the top, you’ll climb a 10-15 foot straight verticle ledge of rocks by rope and then another 7ish-foot ledge free hand.
While this sounds intense, most people that give themselves enough time don’t have a problem with the climbs.
Aaand you made it!
On the first peak, there’s a nice green patch after this final climb where people usually stop and sit a while.
Although this is a safe location, you should know that three sides of the peak are unguarded cliffs.
So be careful.
In addition, this location can get packed during peak hours so you may find yourself sweating on the edge of a cliff as tourists try to climb around you. This is why Shaka Guide highly recommends you begin this adventure early or on a weekday.
You don’t want to go any farther than the first peak if you don’t have spikes and ample experience or if conditions aren’t perfect.
The ridges to the second and third peaks are very thin without rails or ropes. Several experienced hikers have fallen while descending the second peak and, unfortunately, several have died.
Dole Street-Wa’ahila Ridge Multi-Hike
Difficulty rating: Medium difficulty
Location/Address: There’s an unmarked trailhead between the Natural Marrian Fisheries and Wa’ahila Faculty Apartments on Dole Street.
Best Times To Visit: Anytime! Never crowded.
How long will you spend here? As long as you want! This is a great place to hike up a few minutes and watch the sunset or backpack round trip to the Pali Notches–your call! You can get a nice adventure buzz going with about two hours.
The Wa’ahila Ridge Hike is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu without having to drive too far!
The Dole Street to Wa’ahila Ridge hike is an amazing unofficial, but legal hike, that provides some seriously awesome views. You’ll feel like a Lord of the Rings character trekking across all the different landscapes of this ambitious build-your-own hike.
You can access the Wa’ahila Ridge at multiple points, but our favorite is on Dole Street, just off the University of Hawaii Campus. It’s a super convenient location for students, plus there’s a bus stop right by the “trailhead.”
But, don’t let the humble beginnings of this hike fool you.
This adventure gets surreal fast.
You’ll get a nice view of the University of Hawaii campus and Waikiki all the way to the ocean on your way up the initial ascent from Dole Street. Then you’ll pass through a bamboo forest before arriving at Wa’ahila State Park.
Next, hike across the park to the Wa’ahila Ridge trailhead. The park and initial portion of the hike are a beautiful pine forest. The trail then becomes a dense jungle before opening up to views of the island–much like what you would see at certain points of the Haiku Stairs.
Continue with caution.
If you continue beyond these lookouts, the ridge becomes extremely thin. The heights can be a little nerve-racking and the views don’t change much after the first few lookouts. If you’re ready, these lookouts are great places to turn around.
You can keep on the Wa’ahila Ridge path for a long time, but we highly recommend doing your research before changing trails. It can be easy to get turned around up there, and you might end up coming out nowhere near your transportation!
Difficulty rating: Intermediate–intense uphills.
Location/Address: 7602, 7604 Koko Head Park Rd, Honolulu, HI 96825
Best Times To Visit: We highly recommend visiting on a cooler day as the intense uphill and direct sun have caused many, many cases of heat exhaustion.
How long will you spend there? One to two hours
The similar combination of manmade structures and natural beauty make the Koko Head trail a great alternative to the Haiku Stairs if you happen to be someone who doesn’t like $1,000 fines.
It doesn’t take long to make it to the top of Koko Head, with most visitors finishing the accent in 30 minutes to an hour. However, the hike is all uphill and requires a decent level of fitness.
As always, be cautious.
Tons of people become dehydrated and overheated, so don’t be afraid to stop for breaks even if you are feeling okay.
Your balance will also be tested as you step from beam to beam on your way up the old World War 2 railway. At the top, you’ll find the military bunker which boasts some truly amazing views!
This hike is conviently located on near Honaunau Bay which we visit on the East Oahu Shoreline Driving Tour.
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail (An Easier Stairway To Heaven Alternative)
Difficulty rating: Easy
Location/Address: Near Makapuu beach. Makapuu Lighthouse Rd, Honolulu, HI 96825.
Best Times To Visit: Whale watching season January – March
How long will you spend here? 1.5 hours.
The Makaupu Lighthouse hike is the perfect complement to the Shaka Guide East Oahu Shoreline Driving Tour.
If you’re on the Shaka Guide East Oahu Shoreline Driving Tour and want a short and sweet side excursion check out this hike. Especially if you’re looking for views of the ocean! The Makapuu Lighthouse trail is the adventure for you.
Between the electric blue water and the stunning view of Rabbit Island, this hike is sure to impress. The clear view of the ocean also makes this trail one of Oahu’s best whale watching spots.
During whale watching season in the winter months, you’ll want to give yourself more time to navigate the larger crowds. Parking also becomes extremely limited during whale watching months.
Although you could finish this 1.5-mile trail faster, Shaka Guide recommends taking at least an hour and a half out of your day to pause for the many scenic overlooks and spot whales.
Don’t forget your binoculars!
The Legal Way To See The Haiku Stairs
As recently as this week, people have received $1000 fines for attempting to do the Stairway to Heaven hike. Guard presence has been ramped up and there is a frequent police presence including officers stationed at the top of the hike and occasional helicopter fly-overs.
So don’t do the Haiku Stairs that way.
If you’re determined to see the world famous Haiku stairs, there is a way that you can do it legally, however it’s dangerous and difficult. Although the hike offers unbelievable views and true adventure, it’s simply not a practical one to take often, if at all.
Unfortunately you can no longer access the stairway part of the famous
Stairway to Heaven Hike On Oahu is closed! Photo by Kalen Emsley
What’s more, you are not at any point actually allowed on the stairs–but you do get the view of them as if you had hiked to their peak.
But if you are determined to see the stairs, here’s how to do it the legal way…
You’ll start at the Moanalua Valley trailhead on Moanalua Valley Road. About two and a half miles in, you’ll take a left which will start your trek across the Moanalua middle ridge.
This trail links up with the Haiku Stairs right at the stairs’ peak.
General Hiking Safety
The most important things to remember when hiking are to know your limits and the limits of the trail. You need to know what you’re capable of and in which conditions the trail cannot be done.
Do not go on any dangerous hike that you aren’t one hundred percent certain you are prepared for. Pushing yourself is awesome, pushing yourself too far can be catastrophic.
Steep hikes usually become extremely muddy in the rain. Other hikes become hazards for dehydration and heat exhaustion in the summer. Read this hiking safety guide from the State of Hawaii and do your research.
Always use the rope if one is available. Some people don’t use them to increase a hike’s difficulty, but we highly recommend taking hold anytime they seem safe.
Stay hydrated. If you aren’t sure if you’ve had enough water before a hike, you haven’t.
The Best Oahu Hikes Aren’t Illegal!
Although the Haiku Stairs are beautiful and iconic, they are far from the only adventure worthy of your time. Oahu hikes are some of the best on all the Hawaiian islands. Some of these adventures are a serious risk, so make sure you are prepared and that you chose a good day to go.
Lastly, please remember that more and more Oahu hikes are closing due to local residents’ complaints and liter.
Always respect the land and residents of the area so that we can keep each of these hikes open permanently!
Did we miss a worthy adventure? Leave a comment below! And don’t forget to share these hikes with your adventurous friends, too!