How To Hike The (Illegal) Stairway To Heaven

The view from the top of the magical Stairway to Heaven or Haiku Stairs

Updated September 26, 2017

Picture this: You’re on your third glass of wine, you’ve just arrived on a tropical island, and you meet a group of people who promise you an amazing adventure…

This is exactly how I ended up agreeing to hike the Stairway To Heaven.

The morning of the hike, I wasn’t exactly prepared. I was hungover, I was dehydrated and I was jet-lagged. In fact, this article should probably be titled how NOT to hike the Stairway To Heaven.




A Short History Of The Stairway To Heaven

The Stairway To Heaven, also known as the Haiku Stairs was built during World War II as a way for soldiers to access the radio antenna that sits at the top.

In 2015 a storm damaged some parts of the stairs.ย Instead of fixing the damage, the stairway wasย fenced off and deemed highly dangerous and illegal to climb.

You can be fined up to $1000 USD if you are caught climbing the stairs.

On the way down the Stairway to Heaven #stairwaytoheaven #haikustairs #4000steps #sorelegs #legday #hawaii

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Is It Really That Dangerous?

Yes and no. To be honest, I was expecting it to be a lot more dangerous than what it was, so I was relieved when I found that only 10 feet of the stairs had been damaged from the storm. If you hold the hand railing and concentrate on where you put your feet you should be fine.

What To Pack

Take a backpack and bring plenty of water- this is a tough hike. You will climb 4,000 steps and some of these are at a 30 degree angle. In parts, you are basically climbing a ladder. Now is also the time to pack high energy food. You will need it!




Ensure you pack some sunscreen too. The hike can take up to 3-4 hours to complete and there is very little shade. Also make sure you bring a camera and your phone is fully charged- you will want to take many photos.

Hawaii โค๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’œ #stairwaytoheaven #legday

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How To Access The Stairway To Heaven

To access the stairs, you need to sneak in. There are three main access points, however I’ll discuss the one that we used to get in. Whatever you do, do not walk directly to the entrance. There are police patrolling the road that leads to the entrance, and there is a guard at the entrance also. You will actually meet the stairs a little after they start. Many people choose to break in as early as 4am in the morning to avoid the guard.

The safest way to gain access to the stairway is to go via the drainage ditch (see photo below for the exact location). Once you jump the fence and go down into the drain (it’s clean, don’t worry) you will then climb through bush until you reach a security fence. The trial is vaguely marked- be careful you don’t get lost! Once you reach the security fence, you will have to climb over. It is marked with barbed wire, however there is a section where the wire has come loose so you can climb over without tearing a hole in your leg.




Map of access point to Stairway to Heaven aka Haiku Stairs

Try Not To Get Snapped- But It Doesn’t Reeeally Matter

You will then cross a road into even more bush- be careful when crossing the road. We actually got caught by the police when we were crossing the road. Fortunately, they turned a blind eye when they saw us! I have heard this story a few times- there are so many people trying to do the hike that the guards can’t do much. They do hand out the odd fine- it’s just luck of the draw if they let you past or not.

This is where it gets more challenging. The track isn’t as easily marked here, but when you go into the bush you want to start heading right. You will have to climb up some steep areas; you will grip onto vines, and you’ll get on your hands and knees to crawl.

Once you reach the stairs- it’s time to start climbing! The steepest part of the hike is at the beginning, so once you get through that it does get a little easier. Welcome to heaven (and hell- for your legs!).

Update:ย My friend and fellow travel blogger Kylie And The World attempted the Stairway to Heaven in September, 2017. She told me that since writing this post security has increased massively, and she was given an official warning outside one of the entrance points.

Security are now checking the drain entrance to the hike as early as 4am. She also talked to a few people that managed to get access to the drain at around 9am. She has written a comprehensive guide on the alternative legal route to the summit of the Stairway to Heaven hike here.

Back to Earth #stairwaytoheaven

A post shared by Yvette Morrissey (@wayfaringkiwi11) on

Coming Back Down To Earth

When you go back down the stairs, you will be able to see the guard and he will be able to see you. Luckily, there is a security fence separating you and the guard. You will wantย to go the same way out as you came in, just in case.

The locals living in the neighborhood surrounding the Haiku Stairs really do not like the tourists hiking it. Do not be surprised if they yell abuse at you- just be polite, and keep walking. It is a privilege to hike the Stairway To Heaven.

Lastly, why not make a donation to a place such as the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve? This isn’t going to change the fact you broke the law by hiking the Stairway To Heaven, but it’s still good karma to put some money back into the island.

Have you hiked the Stairway To Heaven? Do you have any other tips on how to climb it?




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24 Comments

  1. March 18, 2017 / 4:20 am

    What an awesome story! I’ve seen pictures from friends and have yet to do it but it’s on my bucklist. Hopefully I won’t get caught

    Justine
    TheIridescentWings.com

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:34 pm

      It gets the adrenaline going, that’s for sure. Good luck and if you follow my tips you will be fine! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. March 18, 2017 / 5:28 am

    I love illicit adventures like these, thanks for sharing! The scenery is fantastic and I’d definitely do this if I get to Hawaii one day.

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:34 pm

      Hawaii is one of my favourite places on the planet- you must visit!

  3. March 18, 2017 / 6:16 am

    4000 steps with royal purple shoes. I admire that. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And you don’t look hungover or dehydrated at all.
    The Stairway to Heaven is now on my bucket list. Thanks for posting.

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:35 pm

      I may have sweated out any lingering alcohol by the time I took those photos ha ha!

  4. March 18, 2017 / 6:19 am

    WoW that must have been so cool! Great pictures too ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป XX Bonnie

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:43 pm

      It was probably one of the best life experiences I’ve had to date ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. March 18, 2017 / 6:44 am

    THOSE are the kind of blogposts that I like to read! Don’t stop exploring, girl!

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:42 pm

      Thanks! It’s adrenaline bursts like these that make me feel alive

  6. March 18, 2017 / 10:29 am

    I love the last part about KARMA!!! looks incredible and adventurous. I did many hikes on Oahu (though not this one). Must be a bit scarier during the rainy season.

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:38 pm

      It is quite steep in some parts so hiking it when wet would not be the best idea. Luckily it was a beautiful day when I hiked the stairs. I did feel a little bad about breaking the law, hence why I made a donation to Hanauma, but I feel it’s our as right as human beings to be able to see and experience the beauty in the world

  7. March 18, 2017 / 4:02 pm

    What a coolexperience! To be honest, I would love to try it but don’t think i wouldn’t have courage to hike it lol

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:39 pm

      My heart was hammering in my chest the WHOLE time! It wasn’t until we were in a taxi back to Waikiki that I could relax!

  8. Megan Johnson
    March 18, 2017 / 4:16 pm

    I had no idea this was illegal, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to do it! It look amazing and 100% worth it!

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 19, 2017 / 10:41 pm

      I’m surprised they don’t just fix the steps that are broken! I would think that it would cost less to do that than pay for a guard and police to staff it. I know a lot of the locals are rallying for it. Fingers crossed they make it legal again one day

  9. March 22, 2017 / 8:30 pm

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  10. March 26, 2017 / 3:08 pm

    advent ours post it is..thanks for sharing the road map for hiking and the smart guidelines..i will plan to go there with my family coming august for sure.. will it be fine to there in august???

    • wayfaringkiwi
      March 27, 2017 / 1:44 am

      I assume it will be fine- I hiked it in November last year. It was pretty warm then, so I’d say it will be very hot in August! Just be careful to avoid the guards, take plenty of water and you’ll be fine ๐Ÿ™‚

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