Koko Crater Railway Trail

by admin

Koko Crater Trail, also known as the Koko Head Stairs, is a challenging yet rewarding hiking path located on the southeastern side of Oahu. This popular trail is known for its steep ascent, offering hikers a unique workout along an old railway track leading to the summit of Koko Crater.

The trail’s endpoint provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including Hanauma Bay, the Hawaii Kai neighborhood, and distant views of Molokai and Lanai on clear days. Known as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster, it is beloved by locals and visitors alike for its challenging ascent and rewarding vistas.

The Hike

The trail consists of approximately 1,048 railroad steps, which were originally used during World War II to transport supplies and personnel to the summit. The climb is steep and can be strenuous, especially for beginners, but the reward at the top is worth the effort. The total distance is about 1.8 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of approximately 1,200 feet.

The Ascent

As you ascend, the trail tests both your physical and mental stamina. Yet, with each step, the panoramic views become more spectacular, offering glimpses of the azure waters of Hanauma Bay, the frothy white surf of Sandy Beach, and the iconic silhouette of Diamond Head against Honolulu’s skyline. To the east, on clear days, the distant outlines of Moloka’i and Lana’i grace the horizon, adding to the trail’s allure.

At the Summit

Reaching the top of Koko Crater, you’re rewarded with 360-degree views of Oahu’s southeastern region. It’s a moment of triumph, a time to relax and take in the fresh air, marveling at the picturesque landscape below. The summit is not just a physical high point but a testament to the journey’s mental and emotional rewards.

The Descent and Alternatives

The way back down presents its own challenges, particularly when navigating the bridge. Some hikers prefer the adjacent dirt trail for a less daunting descent. Regardless of your choice, the descent is noticeably quicker, offering a different perspective on the trail you’ve conquered.

Preparing for Your Hike

Before embarking on this journey, remember a few key tips to make your adventure enjoyable and safe.

Hydration is Key. The Hawaiian sun can be unforgiving, and the trail offers little shade. Carry ample water and take frequent breaks to stay hydrated.

Pace Yourself. With every step, the trail unfolds at its own pace. Whether you’re climbing at a brisk pace or taking moments to catch your breath, listen to your body. The midpoint bridge, spanning a 15-foot gully, presents a thrilling challenge; take it one step at a time.

Footwear Matters. A good grip is your best friend on this trail, especially for the descent. Choose sturdy, closed-toe shoes that can handle the rugged terrain.

Koko Crater location

The starting point for the railway trail can be found on Koko Head Park Rd., accessible from Kalanianaole Hwy. There are no fees or specific operating hours for the hike; however, the cooler morning and evening hours are preferred by many due to the absence of shade.

Remember to carry ample water, sunscreen, and a camera to capture the stunning panoramic views. The Botanical Garden is open during daylight hours daily, with the exception of Christmas Day.

Getting There

By Car: The most direct way to reach Koko Crater Trail is by car. From Waikiki:

  1. Head east on H-1 Freeway.
  2. Continue onto HI-72/Kalanianaole Highway, following signs for Hawaii Kai.
  3. Turn left onto Lunalilo Home Road, then right onto Anapalau Street, which merges into Anapalau Place, leading directly to the Koko Head District Park. Parking is available at the park, which serves as the starting point for the trail.

By Public Transportation: TheBus, Honolulu’s public bus system, provides service close to the trailhead. Route 22 (The Beach Bus) can be used to reach the vicinity of Koko Crater Trail. From there, a short walk will bring you to the trail’s starting point at Koko Head District Park.

Note: Parking can be limited, especially on weekends and holidays. Arriving early in the morning can help ensure parking availability and a cooler hike.


Safety and Preparation

  • Water: Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the hike.
  • Footwear: Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with good traction.
  • Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and consider bringing sunglasses.
  • Fitness Level: The trail is challenging; ensure you are in good physical condition before attempting the hike.
  • Weather: Check weather conditions before heading out, as the trail can be more difficult under wet or excessively hot conditions.

Additional Tips

  • Early Morning Hikes: Starting the hike early can help avoid the midday sun and crowds, making for a more pleasant experience.
  • Stay on the Path: Preserve the natural environment and ensure your safety by staying on the designated trail.
  • Respect the Community: Koko Crater Trail is located near residential areas. Please be respectful by keeping noise levels down and not blocking driveways when parking.