Oahu Hikes That Give the Haiku Stairs A Run for Their 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 from any route. It's completely illegal and hikers who attempt to do it are regularly cited and fined - just DON'T DO IT. 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!
There are plenty of Stairway to Heaven hikes in Oahu that will knock your socks off; Photo by Darren Lawrence / Unsplash
So What Are The Best Oahu Hikes Besides The Stairway To Heaven?
Since you can’t hike Stairway to Heaven, we've 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 and should only be done by experienced hikers.
1. Olomana (Three Peaks) — Our Favorite Haiku Stairs Alternative
Difficulty rating: Difficult
Location/Address: 770 Auloa Rd, Kailua, Oahu, HI 96734-4648
Best Times To Visit: Weekdays, best to avoid peak hours such as weekends.
How long will you spend here? Some people might take several hours to do the first peak, some avid hikers run the whole thing in forty-five minutes.
The Olomana Hike, also called Three Peaks is a favorite Oahu hike by locals and tourists; Photo by Darren Lawrence / Unsplash
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.
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 we highly recommend 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.
2. 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! Photo by Drew Farwell / Unsplash
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! Don't forget to pack water, a cell phone, and bring a hiking buddy.
3. Koko Head
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.Or around sunrise or sunset, before the crowds roll in.
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 Hanauma Bay, which is a stop on Shaka Guide's East Oahu Shoreline Drive.
4. 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.
Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail is the perfect complement to the Shaka Guide East Oahu Shoreline Drive. It's a stop on the tour / Asreger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
If you’re on the Shaka Guide East Oahu Shoreline Drive and want to stretch your legs for a short and sweet hike, this is a great choice; sspecially if you’re looking for views of the ocean!
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. This trail is extremely popular and the parking lot tends to fill up, however you can usually find spots along the roadway into the parking lot.
Although you could finish this 1.5-mile trail in 45 minutes, we recommend taking at least an hour and a half out of your day to pause for the many scenic overlooks and lookout for whales.
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 be sure to research any trails you're interested in prior to embarking on the trek.
Always use the rope if one is available. Some people don’t use them to increase a hike’s difficulty, but they are there for a reason.
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.
When you're in Hawaii, please be respectful of the land, animals and plant species you come across. Hawaii's ecosystems are fragile. You can show your aloha by leaving the trail better than you found it. Always dispose of your trash properly and never trespass on private property. If there are no trespassing signs, they are there for a reason! For more on how to be a safe and responsible traveler when you visit Hawaii, click here.
Always respect the land and residents of the area! Also throw out your trash, bring out what you took in and leave the trail better than you found it.
Did we miss a worthy adventure? Leave a comment on Instagram and Facebook.
Traveling to Oahu? Shaka Guide has four driving tours and two walking tours on the island! Check out Shaka Guide's Oahu tours here.