Surviving all 1048 Stairs to the Top of Koko Head Trail

by | Mar 24, 2017 | Hawaii, USA | 20 comments

(Last Updated On: November 5, 2018)

For anyone who has been to Hawaii, you know its beautiful. And if you haven’t, hopefully you’ll soon find out. There are so many beautiful beaches/mountains/landscapes around, its easy to get lost in the scenery. Hiking is always a great way to get some exercise and see some incredible views while traveling. We had several hikes on our mind before we got to Oahu, Koko Head Crater Trail being one of them. Koko Crater Trail, or Koko Head is an amazing hike, in more than one way! If you come to Oahu, Koko Head hike is worth the hike, but theres a few things you should know before you do.

Tips to surviving the hike to the top of Koko head stairs in Oahu, Hawaii

About Koko Head Trail

Koko Head Trail is an old military lookout created during World War II. A railway was created on the trail to haul cargo and supplies to the top. The train tracks tracks have become a popular trail. Koko Crater hike is about 1.8 miles roundtrip. While its short in distance, it makes up for it in steepness. The trail summits 1200 feet above Hawaii Kai and downtown Honolulu.

Koko Head Crater Trail hike has a total of 1048 steps to the top! The steps are actually the remnants of train tracks and to be fair, the steps are no ordinary steps. A majority of the stairs on Koko Head are longer and taller than a standard 7 inch stairway step. They are not evenly spaced so some are super small steps and others are a huge step-up, especially if you have short legs like I do! Its basically a 30 minute stair-stepper workout straight up. As you begin at the bottom, it starts out gradually. You may be thinking, “Whats the big deal?” but brace yourself as you get to the half-way point. You’ll a hit a point in the railroad tracks without any dirt underneath, which would be similar to a bridge. If you are scared of heights, don’t look down! Its not terribly high off the ground, but still can be a scary sight.  Once you cross over the railroad track without dirt, it immediately turns into an uphill battle. The stairs go from hard to harder. We like to think that we are in pretty “good-shape” and do a fair amount of hiking, but we were sucking wind. Don’t let us scare you away though. As intense as this is, the view is definitely worth it.

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koko head top of the world Hawaii

Beginning The Koko Head Hike

We got up at 430am, and left the house at 5am to start the hike at 6am. The goal was to be at the top at sunrise, and we only missed it by a couple minutes, mostly due to a late start. It took us about 40 minutes for us to get to the top, and we stopped for pictures (and to catch our breath) along the way. At the top of Koko Head, we couldn’t believe our eyes! The sun was just coming over the horizon and it was gorgeous!  All you see is green lush mountains and blue water. On the back side, you have a perfect view of Hanauma bay and downtown Waikiki. You can hangout/relax, have a seat and enjoy the sunrise, and then make your way to the steel grate at the very top to see a little more of the island.

koko head hike Oahu  koko head trail

When you are ready, prepare yourself for the way down. You have to go down the same tracks that you came up, which means the stairs are just as steep going down as they were coming up. While it is intense, this hike is suitable for all ages and levels. We saw everything from 6 year olds to 80+ year olds. We met some people who were doing this for the first time as well, and we saw some locals who do this everyday. While we were walking down the stairs, a man happened to lap us, up and down twice! And we really weren’t THAT slow! It truly was inspiring to see all the different people that were working hard on the Koko Head Trail. You may not enjoy the climb up, but you will definitely enjoy the views at the top! This is a must-do hike when you’re in Oahu.

koko head sunrise

Watch all the fun we had along the hike on youtube:

When you’re done with the hike and you’ve worked up an appetite, check out these Oahu restaurants. We personally loved Koko Head Cafe (P.S. you’ll want to order the French Toast).

koko crater trail Oahu

Getting to Koko Head

From Waikiki take the H1 south until it turns into the Highway 72. Turn left on Lunalilo Home Rd. Then turn right onto Anapalau St. Turn Left into Koko Head District Park. Park in the Koko Head parking lot and follow the trail past the baseball field to the steps.

Tips for hiking Koko Head

  • Plan for it to take you 30 minutes to an hour to get to the top. The views are so beautiful at top, you’ll want to spend another hour or so just hanging out and enjoying the scenery from the top.
  • Wear breathable clothes, as it will get hot at the top. If you do leave before the sun comes up, you might need a jacket, but we took off our jackets pretty quickly as we started sweating early.
  • There is no shade so be prepared if you go when the sun is out. Sunrise is best as it is cooler. If you start before the sun comes up, bring a flashlight or headlamp so you can see where you’re going.
  • Be prepared for a good amount of people. Even though we started when it was dark, we saw plenty of lights from people already starting their trek up.
  • Pace yourself. While the first half may seem “easy”, you don’t want to tire yourself out for the harder incline.
  • Bring some water. The stairs get steep fast. Make sure you have some water to keep yourself hydrated.

If you visit Oahu and you are up for the challenge, plan to hike Koko Head Trail. It has one of the most rewarding views we’ve ever seen after a hike. Don’t be intimated by the stairs, there will many other people taking their time and stopping along the way too. You will be so happy once you see the view at the top.

This is one of the best hikes we’ve done and we can’t wait to go back and hike it again! So tell us: whats one of your favorite hikes you’ve ever done? 

kok crater trail  koko head hike view of Oahu koko head trail




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Tip and Tarah of Fit Two Travel

Tip and Tarah of Fit Two Travel

Tip and Tarah are the founders of Fit Two Travel. Since getting married in 2013, they have traveled to 26 countries and 22 states together. They are true Oregonian natives, and love to explore the outdoors, enjoy the food and drink, and spend time with their 2 dogs. They help others plan their international and local trips.


  1. Katie @ The Katie Show Blog

    Your pics are beautiful! That’s one of my fav hikes on O’ahu. Did you do the Koko Head Rim Trail or the Koko Head Arch? There’s so much to do in that area & even though those stairs burn like crazy, you’re right that it’s so worth it at the top.

  2. Ashwini

    Wow! Amazing place!! Beautiful pics!

    And such a detailed writing! Kudos to you for penning a lovely blogpost

  3. Lauren West

    This looks like an absolutely glorious hike! You’ve inspired me to give it a try on my next visit to Oahu!

  4. Gabby

    Beautiful post and photos! Those stairs sound intense haha but it’s on my list now the sights are gorgeous!

  5. Ms. Travelingboots

    Awesome pictures and comprehensive information inside. This article deserves a two thumbs up!

  6. Stephanie

    Wow, what an incredible hike! Watching the video, I literally got goosebumps when you see the sunrise at the peak! Looks like a totally worthwhile hike, and I’ll be sure to add it to my list!

  7. Maegan white

    These pictures are so beautiful! We love an active vacation and this hike is right up our alley! I would love to see this in person!

  8. Christie

    One of my fav hikes! I always do it at least once while I’m in town. Soooo brutal but pretty quick so I love it! Gorgeous pics and good info

  9. Eric || The Bucket List Project

    Sounds like a great hike. I love how the steps are actually the remnants of train tracks and are the beams of the tracks! So cool especially if you are into WW2 history. So does the path close at any certain time because I got say, 4:30am sounds absolutely awful but watching the sunset may be beautiful too!

  10. Nausheen

    Love the guide and the tips! Wow, not sure I could handle such a hike when I’m 80+ haha, will have to make it a point to go before then!

  11. The Travel Ninjas

    This sounds like such and interesting climb. When I heard about the stairs I assumed it would be easy, but it’s actually really adventurous. Your cool video really convinced us. We have to do this!

  12. Kulani Abendroth-Dias

    Great tips section at the end! This post is so informative, very much enjoyed it 🙂 Just got back from Hawaii and miss it already!

  13. Eulanda

    Wow, this looks like a fantastic hike! You guys shared so many great and practical tips. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Carol @ Get There | Get Lost

    Love reading this! My uncle just moved to Hawaii and is looking for places to go. I’ll definitely share this to him, though I do think he’s going to stick with the easier hikes ;P

  15. Carol @ Get There | Get Lost

    So cool! My uncle just moved to Hawaii and is always looking for new places to go. I’ll definitely send him this, though I do think he’s going to stick to easier hikes ;P

  16. Fabian Keresztfalvi

    Beautiful trail! Thanks for the info.

  17. UK Travel Visas

    Wow, literary jaw dropping. I’m interested now in Koko head trail and I wonder if I can survive in 1048 Stairs.

  18. emma

    That’s one of my fav hikes on O’ahu. Did you do the Koko Head Rim Trail or the Koko Head Arch? There’s so much to do in that area & even though those stairs burn like crazy, you’re right that it’s so worth it at the top.


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