How to Climb the Stairway to Heaven
UPDATED 5/28/2019: Fines have been reported as high as $1000, with people receiving them recently. Security has been upgraded and there is now not only security but also a frequent (but not constant) police presence. Police helicopters have been reported but are very infrequent. Police waiting at the top of the hike to book hikers is very uncommon. Be aware that it is NOT illegal to climb the back way up the ridge to the stairs!
How to climb the Stairway to Heaven (aka Haiku Stairs) in Oahu:
There are plenty of ways to do it without getting a $1000 citation. Be warned. This is not technically a legal climb, and you should be as polite and respectful as possible to those that live in the area.
To be clear, there is a security guard at the base of the stairs, poised and ready to call the cops. The security guard cannot issue you a citation. The afternoon guard drives a red truck with a giant raiders sticker on the hood. I spoke with him, and discovered that he doesn’t want to have to call law enforcement, but will if necessary. He generally does not call law enforcement, or will cancel a call if hikers descend a different path that leads through the drainage ditch and out of the area. It is harder to catch trespassers this way, and Hawaii doesn’t have the manpower (or the care) to find trespassers if you exit the Haiku Stairs away from the trespassing signs.
The neighborhood residents are a little more staunch, and less kind than the guard. Be quiet. Be respectful. Don’t give them a reason to call law enforcement, or create more distance between main-landers and islanders.
If you choose to descend from the main entrance/exit: Do not descend in large groups if you choose to exit through the main gate. You are far more likely to receive a citation (at $1000 per person) in a large group than you are in twos or threes coming out of the Stairway to Heaven in front of the security guard.
Bring a pair of gloves with grips. Especially if you ascend before sunrise, or the weather is windy or rainy, you will be grateful for the extra grip. There were a few times that I felt far more secure climbing up the dewy railing than with my bare hands
Bring a headlamp to assist with your climb rather than a flashlight. You will want both hands free for some of the more vertical areas.
It can get quite chilly and windy at the top. Bring a jacket to put on.The brush can be a little irritating to your skin, so wear long pants. I came down with tons of brambles attached to my clothing and hair
Water x4 and Snacks, snacks, snacks. I don’t know how you get if you don’t eat, but my boyfriend gets “hangry”. I would suggest at least 1.5 liters each for your ascent.
Start your climb around 2-4am to avoid the neighbors. The security guards will do their job in calling 911, but the residents are far more aggressive.* The night guard cannot do much in terms of detering you from climbing, and will most likely just log the number of people that are actually climbing the Haiku Stairs to transfer to Mr. Red-Truck.**
There are 2 flat sections to relax along the way up. It would be a perfect picnic spot!
Check out these resources to take the ridge way down instead. It will add another 4-7 hours onto your total trip.
If you choose not to park a rental car at the base, you might take an uber/taxi and give them an address in Haiku village!
*one resident actually cut me off as I was making my way down the government road and gave me a piece of his mind. I’ve never really understood someone with so much anger, since he didn’t actually catch me climbing, or trying to climb. I was very respectful to him, but that certainly wasn’t reciprocated. The residents of Haiku Village may have had to deal with rude hikers in the past, or perhaps even car break-ins. I tried to keep that in mind as I took the verbal abuse.
**The day guard is quite intimidating. He’s big, heavily tattooed, and has a gold grill. Although I had a respectful encounter with Mr. Facial tattoos, I certainly wouldn’t want to catch him in a bad mood.
Here’s the hard part: how to successfully get to the base of the Stairway to Heaven:
Head over to Kaneohe and park in the Haiku village. Be quiet. Have your gear already prepared, so you can grab your bag and leave without disturbing anyone.
Step 1: Pick your entrance point.
I would suggest ascending through AP1, and descending through AP2, and parking somewhere in between, especially if you are ascending in the dark. It’s easy to get lost in the brush .
Access Point 1 (AP1): The neighbors fortified the gate heavily, including added height, tons of barbed wire, and other pokey-things. Look to your right. You can squeeze between the bamboo and wiggle your way around the gate, sliding down the other side. Be very careful of all the barbed wire. I think more people hurt themselves here than on the stairs themselves. The gate will be open in the afternoon.
Try not to use your flashlight so you don’t disturb the neighborhood. Feel free to use it after the gate.
Walk down the government road. At the first fork, turn left. At the next fork, turn right. Keep your eyes focused on the left side of the path. About 5 minutes down the path, there will be a hole cut into the gate.
Climb up the hill side and reach an overgrown asphalt road. Turn left. Walk about 10 minutes around a few curves of the road and you will reach the security guard and the entrance to the stairs.
Access Point 2 (AP2): This path is quite steep as you reach the stairs. You will enter/exit the Stairway to Heaven about 100 stairs up from the base. This path will avoid the security guard. I recommend it for descending in order to avoid a citation.
You will enter near a street over from the fortified gate and walk up an overgrown path to a bamboo forest, then ascend up the side of the mountain. I recommend this path on the descent only because its easy to get lost in the dark if you aren’t familiar with the area.
Walk along the road until you see the bamboo forest on your left. Push through the bamboo. The H3 highway should be over your head and eventually over your right-hand shoulder as you ascend. Make your way through the brush and you will eventually come upon the stairs, about 300 meters from the base. The trail should intersect with the Haiku Stairs just above the broken section.
**If you choose to ascend through the bamboo forest, be aware that the guard can still see your headlamps in the dark. He will be to your right a few hundred yards.**
Access Point 3: This path is just a bit farther outside of Haiku Village. It will lead you to a water tower/storage area and meet up to AP2.
Climbing the Stairway to Heaven
Here are some additional blogs and other resources I referenced when I climbed! Please do let me know if this was useful; send me photos of your climbs! I wish everyone a successful and safe trip up. Much love and Namaste. Don’t forget to subscribe so we can stay in contact, y’all.
Check out my other Oahu, Hawaii posts:
Best Hikes in Oahu
For more awesome adventures, check out:
Why Kauai is the Spiritual Paradise You’ve been looking for