“WOAH- How is this place even real?!” – was my first reaction to the stairway to heaven (otherwise known as the Haiku Stairs), located in Oahu, Hawaii. I first stumbled across the stairs while scrolling through Pinterest earlier this morning and I knew straight away that I just had to learn a little more about this epic feat of engineering.
That’s because this set of stairs is quite literally like no other; climbing vertically from the base of the lush green mountain, and disappearing high into the clouds above the turquoise bay. Plus, 3992 steps are what it takes to climb to get to the top- just a little bit of a work out then!
First constructed in 1942 by the US navy during the height of WWII, the first ladder up the mountain was made of wood. The first stairs were intended to reach the Radio Tower 2000 foot up the mountain. However, the wooden stairs were not very weather resisted and replaced by steel ones by the mid 1950s. By this point, the radio antennae had been changed for use as a Coast Guard Station. At some point during the 1980s, the station was deemed too dangerous and abandoned for good, left in the care of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.
If you’re thinking that this abandoned urbex base sounds like the perfect place to hike and explore… then you probably won’t be surprised to find out that it’s also totally illegal! In fact, before anyone even authorised to go up the stairs is allowed to make the ascent, they’re forced to sign a million dollar a waiver agreement!
Controvery over the Haiku Stairs
Closure of the stairs
What is it about off-limit things that make them that much more appealing? The stairs have been illegal to climb since 1987 when they were deemed too dangerous for the public to climb. Their precarious position on the side of the mountain mean that they face all sorts of weather conditions ALL of the time.
Due to the number of illegal hikers and Instagrammers attempting the climb, there is now a guard posted at the entrance 24/7 at a cost of over $150,000 annually. The police are called and hefty fines of up to $1000 are dealt to anyone trespassing on the Haiku stairs. Hiking the Haiku Stairs is so dangerous that dozens of people are rescued via mountain rescue annually.
Haiku Stairs Swing
Some time earlier this year, someone decided that it would be a great (read: terrible) idea to place a swing between two worn and rusty poles at the very summit of the mountain. By using this swing, you’d literally be swinging off the mountain and hanging above thin air. After someone almost died using the swing, it’s since been removed.
There are other illegal swings across the island and it’s become a goal among some hikers to try and swing on as many as possible!
Haiku Stairs Damage
In 2003 the stairs were repaired from storm damage at a cost of nearly a million dollars. However, in 2015, the stairs were once again damaged by a storm and are apparently harder to climb than ever before.
Potential Re-opening of the Haiku Stairs?
There has been outcry over the fact that the staircase has been closed to the public since the late 1980s. And looking at the photos, I can see why- wouldn’t this make a beautiful tourist attraction?! And besides, wouldn’t the money gained from charging an entry fee pay to fix the stairs and make them safer for everyone? Well, I’m obviously not the only one who thinks this, because there’s a group of local activists known as the Friends of Haiku Stairs fighting for their re-opening. So in a couple of years time, who knows? Watch this space!