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The Stairway to Hawaiian Heaven

Now this is something that I found whilst lurking on Pinterest as a kid, I saw the picture and knew I would go there one day. Manifestation is real and at the end of the day if you want something enough you will eventually get it.


For a bit of backstory to how I managed to walk this illegal 4 hour round trip hike, it all started when I was saving for my travels after camp. Going to Hawaii from the UK can sometimes be pricey with the long flight so I scraped together some extra savings to fly direct from Texas. With Hawaii being the 50th state it’s counted as a domestic flight, which as we all know isn’t too high on the scale. I knew I had to take advantage of this and make this trip the best one yet. ​​

I landed into Honolulu airport on the island Oahu. Feeling free as ever I got straight on the bus to the Waikiki Beach Hostel. To anyone that is scared of hostels, this place is super welcoming! The staff all embrace the Aloha sprit and the rooms have options for women/men only. Everyone is in the same position and just wants to have a good time without worrying. Within the hour I met a lovely lady in my room that had already been there a week and introduced me to her friends. Since I wasn’t staying on the island long I aimed to get good nights sleep to make the most of the two days I had in Oahu. However they had invited me to join them on a hike at 5am. They described it as a muddy jungle, which others had done from the hostel, it wasn’t really selling it to me until someone had showed me a picture-then I knew exactly what it was! At this point I had Goosebumps... I didn’t even want to wait to the morning to go. When I was younger and I read up about the Stairway to heaven (otherwise known as the Haiku Stairs) I had seen that this was illegal and you can get instantly fined up to $1000 if caught. This is the reason why I hadn’t planned it into my trip. I wasn’t ready to get slammed up alone and out of money but I seriously didn’t realise how common it is that thrill seeking travellers dare to climb it.

There aren't really many busses that go close to it nor run at the time you would want to get there so a taxi is your best bet. Tell them the address: John A. Burns Fwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744, United States. If you walk about 20 minutes you should come to the sign that looks like this: There are a couple of cut throughs but this is the main hike walkway in the valley so don't worry yourself too much, just continue to travel uphill.

There are 2 options you can ether go the whole way over therefore you will reach the illegal ladder side eventually or climb the jungle course otherwise known as the Moanalua Valley. There is a whopping 3,922 stairs in total on the ladder side, which will not only make your knees tremble from the height but from pure exhaustion. In my opinion the jungle side is much scarier and more dangerous. Especially if the weather isn’t on your side! I was petrified mid way when it was so misty I couldn’t plan my next step and the strong wind definitely didn’t help my balance. One of the reasons why the Hawaiian government have these rules in place is as the man made ladder rails can be unsteady and they wouldn’t want to be held accountable for any fatalities from this old Navy facility. The Jungle side is an alternative route branching from a public footpath so is completely legal. Usually I would recommend sticking to the law, but if this is a must do on your agenda I’d say take the stairs to avoid a one foot slip to sudden death-not to be dramatic!

Packing a bag that isn’t a strain to carry is so important and more enjoyable for sure. Obviously plenty of water is a must and some snacks to keep the energy levels high. There are no toilets/ shops at all- not even anywhere near so you could pass loo roll as a necessary too. QUALITY SHOES IS KEY! Hiking shoes with spikes (if you have them) will be your best friend, if not any grippy trainers will do just fine. Another useful tool may be a head torch especially if you are in foggy conditions or are out in the morning darkness for a while. This will be a lifesaver when you require both hands to lug yourself up the ropes.

As you go over The Valley you almost feel like you are on Total wipeout or some kind of Takeshi’s Castle show with the obstacles you are faced with. Many of you will be faced with the fight or flight reaction just as I was. I urged myself to go on rather than turn back. Like I said in normal weather conditions it may have been a breeze however the dampness from the previous nights rainfall made every hill into a literal mudslide and made it a tremendously scary experience.

Getting to the top gives you such a sense of achievement. I could almost feel the abs popping out of my chest- Wow, was it worth it though. The view is dreamy with my head above the clouds and nothing else mattered but that moment.




After the trek to reach the peak, you will most likely be exhausted. After a well earned break at the top and some very instagram worthy photos have been snapped, I stated to head down the stairs. At first I thought it would be a walk in the park however gradually the stairs started to get steeper by the descend. Every so often there are military bases mid way down the steps, this isn't just good for photo opportunities but a good place to hide. This is exactly what you will need to do if a military helicopter stats flying over, alternitively some parts will have overgrown stops where you an try to blend in. Now as I mentioned this can be very risky and you will need to communicate with other hikers at the top to know where and when the guards were last seen.

When we reached three quarter way down the route, we were passed by an array of these helicopters with mega phones informing us we would be met at the bottom. No way were any of us going to get caught out. So what did we do? We steered of the course and jumped branch to branch down a jungly hill. Now this wasn't part of the plan but eventually after an hour of carefully tiptoeing past CCTV and alternative routes, we made it out back into civilisation in our muddy states. I don't regret attempting this hike at all- not even close. Being a sucker for adrenaline for me it was completely worth it.

The choice is down to you. Don't follow the crowd and do something you aren't comfortable doing but at the same time remember life is too short to let jaw dropping experiences pass us by. Stay safe and happy hiking!


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