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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!

haiku stairsSource

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!

Sources: Wikipedia, Journey Era, Khon2 Cover Image

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!


  • Tiffany
    6th October 2016 at 10:38 am

    I just saw a video of it being shared on Facebook, and boy, what a breathtaking scenery! So when I saw this post title, I just had to read it. Although I must admit, I thought you hiked up that trail! 😀

    Anyways, it’s great to hear that there are locals who are advocating for a ‘safe’ reopening of the Haiku Stairs.

  • Lisa @ Midwest Glam
    4th October 2016 at 8:20 am

    My goodness it sure is beautiful! I can imagine the view along the way. I’m not much of a thrill seeker so it’s definitely not something I’d do. But I can see the appeal.

  • Eden @ Mint Notion
    1st October 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I grew up in Hawaii, but never got the chance to visit this place. I had no idea it was illegal actually until just this week when I saw it mentioned in a Facebook Group. It does look like a thrilling hike, but not worth the risk.

  • Shireen L. Platt
    1st October 2016 at 12:52 am

    Believe it or not, this is the first time I’m reading about this and I read A LOT of travel blogs. Maybe the fact that it’s illegal that’s why there have been no mention? That said, I can see both sides of the arguments. It’s dangerous as heck but wow, that’s a piece of history there and I can see the appeal.

  • Elisa martinez
    30th September 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Heard about this soo much! Really thought I’ll be able to when I Visit Oahu last year. After researching, I was sad to read it’s illegal. It was a dream to do this and capture fabulous shot of everything. A million dollar waiver, wow! Did not know that. I hope they’ll reopen so I can grab that chance too.


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