Hiking to the Stairway to Heaven on Oahu

The Stairway to Heaven has some of the most beautiful views on Oahu. Combine that with a prewar, unmaintained staircase and you have yourself an Instagrammer’s dream. With photos of the stairs popping up daily, you would think it would be easy to get to, but that is not the case.

There is a guard who monitors the entrance to the stairs and calls the cops when he sees people climbing down. The fine is a hefty $1000 per person. Unless you have money to burn, I would not recommend this.

Luckily, there is another route to the staircase; a back hike that is 10 miles long and takes 8 hours to complete. You will not be fined if you go this way.

After reading many reviews, we decided that we didn’t want to hike alone, as many people get lost on the trail. I came across a guide’s name on a Trip Advisor review and contacted him via Instagram. His name is Mike Karas and he only takes groups out on weekends. If you direct message him on Instagram, he is prompt to reply.

We met Mike along with 10 other hikers at the Moanalua Valley trailhead at 6am. There is a park there with a play structure and bathrooms. We were fitted for gloves and spikes that went over our shoes. These would be needed for the muddy and steep portions of the trail.

We set out at 7am and started with the easy and flat portion of the hike. It takes you through the woods and across several streams. This section takes about an hour and a half to complete. Our group was pretty young and kept a good pace through this part.

After the flat portion, you start to gain elevation and this is where the gloves and spikes come in handy. It is pretty muddy on the trail, so expect to get a little dirty. Without the spikes, you will slip and slide all over the place.

As you get closer to the staircase, the hike becomes more challenging. If you have a fear of heights like me, you will feel less comfortable and a bit more on edge (literally). The biggest challenge was an almost vertical hill that you had to climb up while holding on to a rope. I held on to that rope for dear life going up, but going down was a breeze. Another girl in the group felt the same way.

Once over the big hill, you are pretty much there. We arrived at the staircase at 12pm and had an hour to take photos and explore. Mike is a photographer and takes pictures of everyone in the group. With 120k followers on Instagram, it was a treat having him photograph us.

The view from the top is absolutely amazing. You will get to see most of the east side of the island including Lanikai Beach, Chinaman’s Hat, the sandbar etc. Make sure to bring a lunch to eat at the top as you will be starving. We brought 3.5 Litres of water for the both of us and drank all of it.

The hike back is pretty simple, but felt like it went on for ever. Once back at the trailhead, Mike had cold drinks for everyone, which was very refreshing on a hot day. We were glad we did the hike with the group as we met some really awesome people that we now keep in touch with. We saw several people hiking alone get lost on the trail and they didn’t make it up because of time constraints. We made it back by 4:30pm.

If you plan on doing the hike alone make sure to download the All Trails app and follow the map. The name of the hike is the Moanalua Valley Trail to the Haiku Stairs.

This is the most challenging and rewarding hike that I have completed. I highly recommend it and Mike Karas as a guide. If you have a fear of heights, you should be able to push through; there are only a few spots that got me really nervous.

Happy Travels,



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