How to Hike the Haiku Stairs and How To Get Past the Guard at Haiku Stairs
Introduction to Haiku Stairs and the Haiku Stairs Guard:
The Haiku Stairs guard gets to the stairs pretty early. I’ve heard of anywhere from 2am to 3am but I personally wouldn’t worry about the ‘hire a security guard’ they have at the base. I just hiked the Stairway to Heaven on January 18th 2015 and spoke to the guard at the bottom. I was walking by with my headlamp on and she said “Do you know you’re on private property?” I was polite and spoke with her briefly and she had given my a fair warning about the potential $600 USD fine. I headed up the stairs with my pack and headlamp. So long as you respect the neighbourhood where you have parked (which is described below), speak politely to the guard and understand the risk of the fine, and leave no trace behind during the hike you should be fine. But I do not condone breaking the law, I’m just attempting to help reduce the disturbances because if you are like me, the Haiku Stairs are on your bucket list.
1. What time to start the hike to Stairway to Heaven?
I would recommend starting your hike around 3-4am so you can still get ample sleep and do not have to radically change your sleep pattern. If you are scared of heights, I do not recommend the hike because the first section is straight up. The first section is a ladder and in the early morning it is typically covered in dew. However, you can hike anytime of day – as I saw hikers come and go throughout the morning
2. How to get to the Haiku Stairs – Stairway to Heaven trailhead:
Google Map this and save as a Trailhead to Park your car: 46-46 Kuneki Pl, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA
You can park on Kuneki St, Kuneki Pl. or Kuneki Way but do not park in front of driveways or mailboxes!
a. From here go to the end of the street Kuneki Pl. then you will see the big barbed wire fence and signs. You will enter the Haiku Trail paved path from the right side of the fence and climb up around and through an area of bamboo and shrubs. Keep quiet and have your headlamp on low and ensure it is fully charged with batteries the night before.
b. Walk down the path for about 5-10 minutes until you hit the fork in the road seen in daylight here and take a left
[at this fork take a left and you will start to go uphill a bit]
c. Then you will reach a second fork in the road and here you will take a right.
[Take a right at this fork – if you mistakenly go left you’ll see a fence]
d. Then from that point in the trail you will follow along about 100 yards or so as it bends a bit to the left then you will see some brush and dirt where people have obviously stepped and you will walk up the side bank onto a little dirt path through some bamboo and brush again.
e. You will then hit a fence and this fence has some openings that are fairly obvious and once through you immediately step on another paved but extremely narrow path/road. Take a left here and this is the last section that leads straight to the guard and beginning of Haiku Stairs.
[The above photo is your first view of the tiny paved right hang a left here]
[from this photo above walk around 5 minutes and the guard will be straight ahead and H3 highway above you and Haiku Stairs fence to your right]
f. About 3-5 minutes from turning left onto the narrow paved path you will see a parked car or two. This is the Haiku Guard. I never saw an erect blue tarp or anything like other posts suggest but I didn’t even try to sneak around and just was polite. They cannot arrest you or force you to not go, but they can (and have sometimes) call(ed) the Police. Just be wary of your surroundings.
g. Once you are at the the parked car of the Haiku guard you take a right and go under the H3 Freeway and you see an obvious barbed wire fence which you go around to the left. Watch your footing here, it’s a bit slick with the dew and mud. Now boom you’re on step 1 of the 3,922 stairs up! Remember the first section is a ladder and the rails and stairs are covered in moisture in the early mornings. REMEMBER: LEFT at 1st fork, RIGHT at 2nd fork, LEFT into bamboo, through the fence, LEFT at narrow paved road, RIGHT to fence under the freeway.
More Haiku Stairs – Stairway to Heaven hike tips and Haiku Stairs FAQ
1. Haiku Stairs Damaged Section: The damaged stairs are near the beginning and it’s easy to get around just watch out for jagged or broken steps and rusted sections.
2. Total time up the stairs? It took me just over 2 hours to go up with photo breaks and water breaks. It isn’t too strenuous for fellow hikers, but it is mentally tough to get here this early in the morning. Maintain focus and one step at a time. Safety is key.
2a. Total trip time: Approximately 5-7 hours with breaks and resting at the top
3. How to get down? Coming down the stairs all you do is just turn around and descend like you are on a ladder. The way down is a lot better when there is no dew.
4. Take your time at the top and enjoy the view, watch the sunrise (if it’s not cloudy/foggy) and converse with other hikers. Everyone is in a good mood at the top and for good reason, you cannot beat the views of Heaven.
5. Preparation and parking: Have your gear packed and ready to go at your campsite, hostel, or hotel before getting to the above neighbourhood to park. You essentially just want to park, grab your bag, lock your car and start the trek without opening and closing trunks/doors.
6. Passing people on the stairs. This can be sketchy if you are at a steep section of the stairs, so watch out for fellow hikers. Wave them through and communicate because it is not fun to leap frog over someone when there are drop offs to either side of you. Although it did happen to me as I was climbing down backwards because we both didn’t see each other.
7. What to pack and wear for Haiku Stairs. Wearing proper hiking shoes, I wore my Keen hiking boots and had gloves, but it was too hot to wear them. I also used a Tamrac camera bag loaded with some of my camera gear, 2 Luxpro headlamps, 1 Luxpro Flashlight, 1L of water, 2 Clif Bars, and an orange for the top. Bring a light jacket, I had my Arcteryx shell with me and wore shorts, a hat, and t-shirt and I was sweating (in January) at 3:30am but at the top it cools down.
Enjoy it and please respect the Hawaiian locals and minimize the disturbances and be safe. I do not condone breaking the law or disturbing the residents.