“Originally wooden, the stairs were built as an access path during World War II, leading up 2,000 feet to a naval antenna that was one of the largest of its kind at the time." - Business Insider
Prior to my move to Hawai'i, I remember constantly seeing pictures of the amazing hike, Haʻikū Stairs (also known as Stairway to Heaven). I’ve seen so many interesting pictures that I had extremely vivid images plastered into my head of what I thought it looked like and exactly how the stairs were laid out (I thought the stairs were flat and almost bridge-like…boy, oh boy, how wrong I was!). Obviously, there was no doubt in my mind that once I moved to O'ahu I would complete the IG-famous hike,
even when I later found out that the hike is actually illegal…and has been since the ‘80s.
Despite the hike being illegal, plenty of tourists and locals travel on over to the Windward Coast to take the exhausting journey up the 4,000-something steps that lead to one of the most, if not THE most, breath-taking views of O’ahu (def not sponsoring illegal activities or hikes, though, friends).
As mentioned in Business Insider, “Originally wooden, the stairs were built as an access path during World War II, leading up 2,000 feet to a naval antenna that was one of the largest of its kind at the time." During the '50s, the wooden stairs were replaced with steel, and in '87 it became illegal to hike the stairs.
When my best friend decided to visit me to spend a week in the so-called paradise that is Hawai’i, we decided that this would be the absolute perfect time to embark on the trek to Ha’ikū Valley. Although the excursion was scary at times (did I mention it’s illegal?) and actually pretty dangerous, it was absolutely AMAZING and I am so, so glad that I finally gave in and did it. My calves hurt for at least five days after the fact and it served as a killer outdoor stair master determined to destroy my butt and thighs, but believe me when I tell you that it was 100% worth it. So worth it, in fact, that I hope to go again sometime in the near future.
I would most definitely not recommend this hike to anyone who suffers from acrophobia, as you are quite literally climbing up an extremely steep staircase along the ridge of the Ko’olau mountain range. Yes, most of the stairs are steel, however, there are still several steps that are wooden, in addition to broken and/or missing steps and railings.
However, I must note that I have heard several stories about people making it up, or most of the way up, despite being extremely fearful of heights. In fact, one of the women that I climbed the stairs with was afraid of heights yet made it halfway up. She did a great job, and I think would have regretted it if she didn’t at least attempt to climb up as high as she did.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Stairway to Heaven, Friends of Ha’ikū Stairs has a great deal of historical information about the stairs, beginning with their construction in 1942 during WWII.
View the rest of the photographs that I took (and some that were taken of me) below: