Koko Head, situated in the glorious archipelago of Hawaii, stands as a beacon for hiking enthusiasts worldwide. This majestic trail, characterized by its steep, challenging inclines and breathtaking viewpoints, offers an unrivaled, invigorating experience for adventurers. Renowned for its panoramic views of the Hawaii Kai area and the Pacific Ocean, Koko Head promises a captivating journey that leaves every hiker yearning for more


  • Koko Head holds historical significance as the site was once a military installation during World War II.
  • Koko Head summit, Kohelepelepe (or Puʻu Mai), stands at an impressive height of 1208 ft (368 m).
  • Hikers can find an exhilarating challenge on Koko Head Trail’s “Stairway to Heaven,” while wildlife enthusiasts can spot rare birds and observe native flora and fauna at Koko Crater Botanical Garden.
  • Nearby attractions such as Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Halona Blowhole, Eternity Beach, and Sandy Beach also offer diverse experiences for visitors.


View of Koko Head Crater, a popular hiking destination, from atop Kuliouou Ridge on the south shore of Oahu, Hawaii
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Koko Head is a breathtaking tuff cone perched on the eastern side of Maunalua Bay in Hawaii. Nestled within the community of Portlock and surrounded by the Honolulu Volcanics, this geological marvel stands tall at 642 ft (196 m). Its impressive landscape boasts three significant depressions, including the iconic Hanauma Bay. Though slightly overshadowed by its neighboring tuff cone, Koko Crater, Koko Head still captures the imagination with its peak, Kohelepelepe (or Puʻu Mai), reaching an impressive height of 1208 ft (368 m). This ancient tuff cone is a testament to the volcanic history of the region, with its last eruption occurring approximately 30,000–35,000 years ago.

Historically, Koko Head was used as a strategic lookout point during World War II, armed with artillery outposts and pillboxes. Its historical railway track, known as the Koko Crater Tramway, was initially built to transport supplies to the military lookout at the summit. Today, the remnants of these tracks serve as a stairway for hikers, a testament to its rich history.

Things to Do

Hike the Koko Head Trail

Koko Head Crater and hikers, overlooking Maunalua Bay and the famous Hanauma Bay
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The Koko Head Trail is the perfect synthesis of challenge and reward for ardent hikers. Ascending the over 1,000-step “Stairway to Heaven” is no small feat, as these steps are old railway ties from a bygone tramway. The trail itself, although steep, is straightforward, making it accessible for hikers of varying abilities. As you climb, take a moment to catch your breath and admire the increasingly expansive views. At the summit, you are greeted with a panoramic spectacle of Oahu, from the diamond-like cityscape to the azure waters of Hanauma Bay, to the distant silhouette of Diamond Head. The exhilarating feeling of accomplishment coupled with the breathtaking views makes Koko Head Trail a must-do hike for any nature lover visiting Hawaii.

Enjoy Birdwatching

Hawaiian honeycreeper. It is one of the most plentiful species of this family, many of which are endangered or extinct.
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For those seeking a more tranquil pastime, Koko Head is also a birdwatcher’s paradise. The area’s diverse ecosystems provide refuge for a rich variety of avian species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. From the vibrant Hawaiian Honeycreeper to the elusive Pacific golden plover, birding enthusiasts will be captivated by the unique species they can observe. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and a field guide, as they will surely enhance your bird-watching experience at Koko Head.

Observe and Learn about Hawaii's Native Flora and Fauna

Cactus Close-Up Shot on Koko Head Hike, Oahu
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Koko Crater Botanical Garden offers a serene environment to observe Hawaii’s native flora and fauna. A haven of tranquility amid the rugged volcanic landscape, the garden is a treasure trove of tropical plants, flowering trees, and cacti, including various species unique to the Hawaiian Islands. With well-marked trails meandering through diverse ecosystems, visitors can immerse themselves in the island’s natural splendor whilst spotting local wildlife, thus adding an educational dimension to their adventure.

Visit the Nearby Hanauma Bay

Sunrise from Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Hawaii
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For those who find peace in the rhythmic dance of casting a line or delight in navigating azure waters, the nearby Hanauma Bay offers a serene change of pace. You can do snorkeling and find a diverse array of marine life, as the bay is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. Boating enthusiasts, meanwhile, can take in the stunning coastline from a unique perspective, perhaps catching sight of a playful pod of dolphins or the majestic leap of a humpback whale. Whether you’re reeling in your catch or enjoying the rush of the wind from your boat’s deck, Hanauma Bay is a dream come true.

Other Attractions around Koko Head

By Halona Blowhole on Oahu, Hawaii
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Besides the exhilarating Koko Head Crater Trail and the serene Koko Crater Botanical Garden, the area surrounding Koko Head offers a variety of attractions that are worth a visit. Just a short drive away, you’ll find the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a marine embayment formed within a volcanic cone, renowned for snorkeling amidst vibrant coral reefs teeming with a rich diversity of marine life.

For history buffs, the nearby Halona Blowhole and Eternity Beach offer not only the spectacle of a lava tube that shoots water high into the air during high tide but also the chance to walk on the beach where the famous love scene from the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity was filmed.

Lastly, adventure enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Sandy Beach, known for its powerful shore break, which is ideal for bodyboarding and bodysurfing, though recommended for experienced practitioners due to strong currents.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time to visit Koko Head largely depends on individual preference. However, it’s commonly agreed that the cooler winter months, from November to March, provide the most comfortable hiking conditions. During these months, the temperature ranges from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for an outdoor adventure. Nevertheless, Hawaii’s tropical climate ensures that Koko Head is accessible and welcoming all year round. Just bear in mind that the summer months (June to August) can be quite hot and humid, so early-morning hikes are recommended. As always, check the weather forecast before you set out, and pack accordingly.

Step-by-Step Guide for Hiking Koko Head

Happy woman enjoying at top of koko head Crater trail.Aerial view of Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head and Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. Hawaiian hiking in nature scenic landscape.Female hiker with raised arms
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  1. Start Early: Koko Head’s trail can be hot and exposed, so it’s best to start early in the morning to avoid the midday sun. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen.
  2. Reach the Trailhead: The trailhead begins at Koko Head District Park, located at 423 Kaumakani Street, Honolulu. There’s plenty of parking available.
  3. Begin the Ascent: The Koko Head Crater Trail is essentially a giant staircase made of old railway ties. It’s a steep and strenuous climb but stick with it. The trail gets progressively steeper as you move upwards, so pace yourself.
  4. Take Breaks: There are several resting spots along the way where you can take a breather and enjoy the view. Don’t rush. It’s not a race.
  5. Reach the Top: Once you reach the top, take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree views of the island of Oahu. You’ll see Hanauma Bay, Portlock, and Diamond Head in the distance.
  6. Descend: Take extra caution when descending as the railway ties can be slippery, especially if it has rained recently.
  7. Celebrate: Once you’re back at the bottom, congratulate yourself on completing a challenging hike!

Remember, safety is paramount. Stay on the path, pay attention to signage, and never hike alone if possible. Happy hiking!

Key Highlights along the Koko Head Trail

Koko head crater aerial view in Oahu, Hawaii
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  • Koko Crater Railway Trailhead: This is where your adventure begins. A remnant of World War II history, the old railway track carries a sense of nostalgia and anticipation.
  • The Stairmaster from Hell: This is what some hikers affectionately call the 1,048 steps of the Koko Head trail. Each step is an achievement in itself.
  • Lush Vegetation: At certain points along the trail, hikers can appreciate the local flora, including cacti and beautiful wildflowers that bloom in the spring.
  • Scenic Lookout Points: Several rest stops along the trail serve as perfect lookout points, offering panoramic views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Koko Crater’s Summit: The pinnacle of your hike, this spot offers a 360-degree view of Oahu. From here, you can see Hanauma Bay’s stunning turquoise waters, the sandy beach of Haunama Bay Nature Preserve, and the distant silhouette of Diamond Head.
  • The Koko Crater Arch: Post-summit, adventurous hikers may choose to take a detour to visit the Koko Crater Arch. This natural rock formation is a hidden gem of the Koko Head trail.

The journey is as rewarding as the destination. So, take your time, enjoy the scenery, and savor each moment along the Koko Head trail.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Koko Head is a popular hiking trail located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is known for its steep incline and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The duration to hike Koko Head varies depending on one’s fitness level. On average, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to reach the summit.

Apart from the physical challenge, Koko Head offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Diamond Head, and Honolulu. It’s also home to diverse flora and fauna.

While Koko Head is steep and challenging, beginners can still attempt it. It’s advisable to take breaks if needed and to bring adequate water and sun protection.

There are basic facilities available at the base of the Koko Head trail, including a parking lot and restroom. However, there are no facilities on the trail itself or at the summit.

Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to hike Koko Head to avoid the midday heat. The trail also gets less crowded during these times.

How to Get There

By Car

Start from downtown Honolulu. Head east on the H1 highway. Take exit 26B to merge onto HI-72 S/Kalanianaole Hwy towards Hawaiʻi Kai. Continue to follow HI-72 S. Turn left onto Lunalilo Home Rd. Then, take the 3rd right onto Anapalau St which becomes Koko Head District Park Rd. You’ll find ample parking space available at the base of Koko Head.

By Bus

Take Bus number 22 (Direction: Sea Life Park) from Kuhio Ave + Seaside Ave stop in downtown Honolulu. Get down at Lunalilo Home Rd + Opp Koko Head District Park stop. From there, it’s a short walk to Koko Head District Park Rd, and you have arrived at your destination.

Koko Head is a Literal High that Combines the Thrill of Accomplishment!

Imagine standing on top of the world, the vast Pacific Ocean laying out before you, the glittering Honolulu skyline behind, and the wild, untamed beauty of Oahu surrounding you. Koko Head stands as a must-visit for every hiker due to its unique blend of physical challenge and scenic reward. With the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, it is a bucket-list destination for hiking enthusiasts worldwide. So pack your hiking boots, gather your spirit of adventure, and set your sights on Koko Head.