oahu hike

Hawaii's Hardest Hike? Koko Crater Trail

If you're looking for a hard hike on Oahu, look no further than Koko Crater Trail. This steep climb consists of 1,000+ steps along an abandoned railroad track that runs to the top of Koko Crater. It's a challenging hike that will challenge not only your leg strength but your will as well. Read on for tips on how to find and conquer this beast of a hike.

The Stats

  • Round trip distance: 1.8 miles
  • Number of steps: 1,048
  • Elevation gain: 820 feet
  • Type of hike: out and back
  • Difficulty level: difficult
  • Generally very crowded with athletes, hikers, and tourists
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

About the Trail

Originally created during World War II at the same time as bunkers such as the Lanikai Pillbox, this railway was used to haul cargo and supplies to the mountaintop. Today, the abandoned railway is used as a hiking trail. It's considered a difficult hike, but you'll see all types of people attempting to get to the top. Some are athletes using the trail as their regular training route, while others range from experienced hikers to overly optimistic tourists. Not all will reach the top, but that's actually ok given the fact that you can get decent views from even part way up the trail.

The ascent is rather difficult and steep at times. It's made more challenging by the fact that most of the steps are much longer and taller than the usual steps that we are used to. But the reward is a stunning panorama with views of Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. If you have any fear of heights, don't attempt this one, or come with an experienced friend who is willing to give you a helping hand. There are no ropes or handrails to help you up and down these stairs.

Where is Koko Crater Trail?

The trail is pretty easy to find and is visible in the distance. From Waikiki, drive south on H1 (Kalaianaoli Highway) and keep going until it turns into Highway 72. When you hit Hawaii Kai Shopping center, take a left on Lunalilo Home Road, then a right on Anapalau Street. Taka e left onto Koko Head District Park where you'll find parking lots and a trailhead.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

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koko crater trail
koko crater trail

Photo Gallery

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Pillboxes - Easy Oahu Hike

One of the most picturesque and rather easy hikes on Oahu is the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as Kaiwa Ridge Trail. It's located on the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii and it offers stunning views of the beautiful Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach, and the Mokulua Islands. If you're looking to do this hike, read on for directions to the trailhead and tips to make the most of your hike. Also, check out the hyperlapse video that shows you exactly what you're in for.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

What are the pillboxes?

This hike gets its name from the two military observation stations (pillboxes) from World War II that are located on this hiking trail path. Each pillbox offers a resting point for hikers as well as stunning panoramic views. Depending on your pace, you can reach the first pillbox in about 20 minutes or less. It's not unusual for most hikers to make it to the first and/or second pillbox and turn back from there. But if you're on the more adventurous side, you can go further down the path into the valley for more scenic views and generally smaller crowds. The whole hike itself usually takes about 1 hour to 90 minutes round trip.

Also worth noting is the best time of day to do this hike. Sunrise is best viewed from this side of the island, but sunset happens on the Waikiki side. Sunset can also be a trickier time of day since the mountains block the setting sun, causing the windward side of the island to get darker faster. Thus, sunrise is a good time of day for optimal photography lighting conditions, especially if you want to beat the mid-day heat. But sunset can also be great to enjoy after colors and a significantly less crowded hiking trail.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Getting to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike

The Lanikai Pillbox trailhead is located just off of Ka'elepupu Drive, directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. It's a little nondescript that may or may not have the sign up (it wasn't there during our recent trip). But due to this hike's popularity, it can usually be marked by the handfuls of people heading to the trail. This hike is free and there technically are not set operating hours although it is best done in daylight.

Due to the location of this hike in a residential neighborhood, it's recommended that you drive or take a bus. It's about a 40-minute direct drive from Waikiki. Just be forewarned that there isn't a whole lot of parking in the area. Your best bet is to find parking near Lanikai Park and simply walk the few blocks over to the trailhead. Make sure to read traffic signs and park in designated parking zones as traffic police tend to patrol the area regularly.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike - Safety Tips

Although this hike is considered intermediate, plenty of beginners can handle the terrain if they come prepared. The hardest part is the 10-yard long steep hill you encounter at the very beginning. If you start off on the far right side of the trail, there's a rope that can help with your ascent or descent. But if you're an inexperienced hiker, we highly recommend bringing a walking stick such as these compact folding hiking poles that we bring with us on every hike.

Hiking sticks or poles will help you with your balance while going up and down steep terrain. Several other hikers on this trail saw our hiking poles and immediately commented on how they wished they had some too. Along the lines of gear, proper hiking shoes are recommended to protect your toes and give you a good grip. This hike has many rocks and dirt paths that can get slick and muddy. Be very careful if you do this hike right after a heavy rainfall.

Day Trip - What to Do in Lanikai After the Hike

If you're making your way out to Lanikai for the hike, spend the rest of your day in the area. On your way into Lanikai, you'll pass by the popular, ever-crowded Kailua Beach. Spend some time here if you're lucky to score a parking spot. Or if you park near Lanikai Park as suggested above, walk a few blocks towards the water and enjoy Lanikai Beach. Top your day off with a post-hike fresh juice or açai bowl at Lanikai Juice.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

- Best Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/best-oahu-hikes -

Underrated Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/underrated-oahu-hikes

- Lanikai Pillbox Hike: http://bit.ly/lanikai-pillboxes

- Koko Crater Trail Hike: http://bit.ly/koko-crater-trail

Lanikai Pillbox Hike Photos

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

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Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of Hawaii Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Hawaii Hiking Trail
Hawaii Hiking Trail