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. Instead of fixing the damage, the stairway was 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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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 want 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?