Hiking Koko Head in Oahu

1,048 steps to an incredible view!

Meg Biram at the top of Koko Head hike in Hawaii.

When I was in Oahu I realized what type of traveling I really enjoy. I love good food, a great hotel, art museums, historical sights, and I love to see local designers, makers, and shops. But I also realized that I always like to have an active element during my travels, and I prefer that the active element to not be in the hotel gym. I’d rather be out doing something, especially if it involves enjoying the nature specific to where I’m visiting.

My first morning in Oahu we hiked to Manoa Falls. It’s a short hike, very easy. The waterfall and scenery were beautiful. Anyone who can walk on a trail and use small steps could do the Manoa Falls hike.

The next morning me, Kylie, and her husband Andrew decided to get up really early and hike the Koko Head Crater Trail. I had watched a video about Koko Head on YouTube but I don’t think that video did it justice and it didn’t really prepare me for the hike — which is why I made my own video for anyone who is curious or researching hikes in Hawaii (below).

When I told my friends that I was going to Hawaii they all described it the same way — magical. When I got to the top of Koko Head, that’s where I found the magic in Oahu. I mean, the entire island was magical, but the view from the top was really where I truly felt a mini out-of-body experience. I realized that getting up early to do a hike was definitely the right decision and I want hiking to be a much bigger part of all of my travels. I had a similar experience in Hong Kong.

View of Koko Head stairs from the bottom.

View of Oahu from Koko Head.

ABOUT KOKO HEAD

+ I’ve read that it is 1,028 feet high, and has 1,048 railroad ties. I couldn’t find any official numbers but that seemed to be consistent in my research.

+ It’s only 0.7 miles (1.1 km) but it feels longer!

+ The trail is not maintained by the state (or as far as I knew at the time) so parts of it can be dangerous. Any maintenance has been done by locals who hike it regularly.

+ How to find it — follow the path by the baseball field, then a trail, then a paved path, then you’ll see the stairs. We went down a short dead end path before we found the right one. When I went there wasn’t a sign, you just follow a path to the stairs (more detailed explanation in the videos below).

oahu koko head view

hawaii view from koko head oahu

SHOULD YOU HIKE KOKO HEAD?

+ I don’t recommend it for everyone. If you are in good shape and stairs don’t bother you, you will be totally fine. If stairs bother you in general, this is not the hike for you. If you are able to do stairs but are out of shape, this will be a great workout! You can go as slow/fast as you want and take frequent breaks. I saw all ages and all body types, so I wouldn’t limit yourself unless you know that over 1,000 stairs will cause you pain.

+ It is dirt/gravel which makes it a bit slippery. Going down is much easier than going up, but it’s still important to pay attention while descending so you don’t slip and fall. If this concerns you I recommend going with someone else so you can stabilize each other. There isn’t a railing to hang on to.

+ There is a part where there are a lot of bees. I think they generally keep to themselves as people are walking by them all day every day, but if you are really allergic to bees this could be a concern. There is a way around them, but again, if you are deathly allergic it’s something to think about.

view from koko head oahu

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE HIKING KOKO HEAD

+ Go early in the morning. There is no shade on the trail so it gets very hot. It also gets busier later in the morning, so to avoid tons of people, I’d go early. We went around 8:00 am and I wouldn’t want to go any later than that.

+ Bring water. It’s definitely an intense hike, whether it takes you 20 minutes or 40 minutes, you’ll want water. I’d say two bottles per person is a safe amount.

+ Go to the bathroom before you start. I heard there are bathrooms near the baseball field at the bottom, but didn’t see them myself. There is no where to hide and pee during the hike.

+ Wear a hat and sunscreen. Trust me, you’ll want both! That Hawaii sun is intense!

+ Wear hiking boots or tennis shoes. Something with tread. I don’t recommend sandals.

+ Don’t freak out! There’s a gun range near Koko Head and we heard lots of gun shots. Nothing to freak out about!

+ Wear light pants/leggings. I wore workout leggings that came all the way to my ankles. I had heard there were bees on the trail (there were!) and I figured pants would be a good way to not get stung on my legs, or bit by any other bugs for that matter. I’m also allergic to grass, so to avoid any irritation on my legs, or in case I slipped, I wanted to guard against all of that. It was a good choice for me and it didn’t feel any hotter than shorts in my mind. A lot of people wear shorts, so that’s totally fine, but I just preferred leggings.

+ Take short breaks on the way up if needed. You can step over to the side and take a break. It’s pretty narrow so just try to find a spot that has a bit of space on the side.

+ Don’t leave anything in your car. Put anything visible in the trunk. We didn’t have any issues, but living in DC I never keep anything in my car, and I heard that in Hawaii you shouldn’t leave anything visible in the car.

+ Soak up the magic. There are multiple lookout points on the top. Follow the paths around the top to all the look out points. Don’t just take photos and go back down — sit down and enjoy the view for a while.

stairs descending koko head oahu

View from Koko Head hike in Oahu, Hawaii.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, this was one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done. I loved the intensity of the stairs and had a euphoric feeling when I go to the top. The view was incredible. It literally felt magical.

If you are on the fence about doing it, I say try it. You can always turn around. The view halfway up is gorgeous in itself. But you might surprise yourself and get all the way to the top. Watch my videos so you can get a sense of the hike. I write all of these tips out because I want you to have the best experience possible! If you are new to hiking, please take my advice!

 

WATCH ME HIKE KOKO HEAD & SEE THE VIEW

 

 

TIPS FOR HIKING KOKO HEAD

 

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Photos and video by Meg Biram