In this Throwback Thursday I’m going to talk about one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever been on- “Stairway to Heaven,” formally known as “Haiku Stairs.” The hike consists of a set of stairs that goes all the way up Puʻukeahiakahoe mountain in the Ko’olau mountain range on the windward side of Oahu. There are almost 4,000 steps and the elevation reaches 2,800 feet. I’ve been up Stairway to Heaven three different times so far and each one of those times has been a unique experience.
The stairs were built by the military in the 1940’s in order to install radio antennas and satellites so that they Navy could communicate with submarines in places as far as Tokyo Bay. When the military stopped using it, hikers began climbing the stairs to get a view of almost the entire island from the summit. The City and County of Honolulu saw this as a liability issue and closed the stairs to the public. Apparently the stairs are very dangerous and they don’t want anyone going up there. The entrance is fenced in and there is a security guard that monitors the stairs to make sure nobody goes up.
However, as you can see, there are several holes in the fence that you can sneak through, and as long as you get there before the security guard gets there (which is about 6:30 a.m.), you’re good to go. Depending on the time of year, it may still be dark out when you get there which makes for an eerie and super fun experience.
The first time I went up Stairway to Heaven was in the Spring of 2008 with one of my bff’s Rikki, the second time was a few months later with my friend Myke who was visiting from California, and the third time was on Dia de los Muertos 2009 with my law school friend Sarah.
The stairs are pretty rinky-dink and are more like a ladder at some points. Luckily, there are three different platforms available where you can take a little break and enjoy the magnificent views.
That little island/peninsula in the picture is the Marine Corps base where I used to live before I moved to town. That body of water is Kaneohe Bay.
At one of the platforms there is a litte building thing with a bunch of weird, rusted out old radio equipment. The building is crumbling and there is graffiti everywhere which makes for an interesting contrast with the pristine, lush valley.
At the very top of Stairway to Heaven are the big satellite dishes (that obviously aren’t in use anymore). It feels like you’re in a scene out of that television show Lost when you’re up there.
Because you can’t really tell what the weather is going to be like when you start your hike, it’s really hit or miss whether or not you’re going to get the gorgeous views. It’s called Stairway to Heaven for a reason… the view is just unreal. It’s just so perfect that it seems fake. The only words that come to mind are, “This is Hawaii.” The last two times I went up it’s been rainy and cloudy, though (you’re literally up in the clouds), and I couldn’t even see a few feet in front of my face. It is definitely still worth the trip, though. It makes it a little scary. I almost felt like I was chilling up there with the spirits of ancient Hawaiians or something.
The way down is the sketchy part, especially if it has been raining. The stairs can be very slippery and I’ve fallen a few times, luckily not in any critical areas.
Anyway, this is one of those things you just have to do if you’re ever in Hawaii.