Haiku Stairs

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Haʻikū Stairs, January 2014

The Haʻikū Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven or Haʻikū Ladder, is a steep, steel step structure that provided pedestrian access to former U.S. Navy communication facilities on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaii.[1] The more than 3,000 steps span along Oahu's Ko'olau mountain range.[2] The pathway has been used as a hiking trail at various times but is not open to the public. The city council voted to remove the stairs in 2021.

Early history[edit]

The view from the top of the stairway overlooks Kaneohe as well as Kaneohe Bay.

In 1942, contractors for the U.S. Navy began construction of the Haʻikū Radio Station, a top secret facility that was to be used to transmit radio signals to Navy ships that were then operating throughout the Pacific.[3] In order to obtain the necessary height for the antennae, the Navy stretched them across Haʻikū Valley, a natural amphitheater. Some remnant parts of the wooden ladder may still be seen beside the metal steps.

The radio station was commissioned in 1943. To transmit such a powerful signal, the Navy needed a transmitter of greater capability than possible with vacuum tube technology at the time. They therefore decided upon an Alexanderson alternator, a huge device capable of generating powerful low-frequency radio signals, and requiring a large antenna.[3]

When the Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay was transferred to the Marine Corps as Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay in the 1950s, the U.S. Coast Guard used the Haiku Radio Station site for an Omega Navigation System station. In the mid-1950s, the wooden stairs were replaced by sections of metal steps and ramps — by one count, 3,922 steps. The Coast Guard allowed access in the 1970s but stopped after an appearance on Magnum, P.I. increased visitation.[4] The station and trail were closed to the public in 1987.[5]

21st century[edit]

In 2003 with plans to reopen the stairs to the public, they were repaired at a cost to the city of $875,000.[6] With no public access available, nearby residents have experienced trespassing and litter on their property.[7][8] In early 2018, the City and County of Honolulu had stated that there was no plan to open the stairs for public use, citing liability concerns. Some hikers ignored the "no trespassing" signs and continued to climb, contributing to the local community's misgivings about reopening the structure.[9]

In 2020, the Board of Water Supply released a final environmental impact statement that evaluated alternatives. The process collected comments through small-group and public meetings with various agencies, landowners, community organizations, and individuals. It estimated that removal of the stairs could cost as much as $1 million.[10] The board voted unanimously on April 27, 2020 to transfer the Haʻikū Stairs over to the city since the stairs were a liability that did not align with the agency’s mission. The city had 18 months to take over or the stairs would be torn down. The city anticipated operating the trail as a paid attraction.[11] The city took possession on July 1, 2020.[9] After consideration of the significant liability and maintenance expense for the city along with the impacts to the quality of life for nearby residents, the City Manager was urged to remove the Haʻikū Stairs by non-binding Resolution 21-154 unanimously passed by the city council in September 2021.[12][8] Friends of Haiku Stairs, a volunteer group aimed at preserving the trail, objected to the decision, saying they have a plan managing safe public access and trespassing at no taxpayer cost.[13] The mayor said that removal will proceed as a high-use tourist attraction is inappropriate with an entrance through a residential neighborhood that lacks the room for necessary facilities such as parking.[14]


In August 2012, Don Tiki show singer and comedian Fritz Hasenpusch died of a heart attack during his Haʻikū Stair climb.[15]

In 2014, six people were arrested and 135 were cited for climbing the stairs. The City Prosecutors Office said that criminal trespass in the second degree carries a $1000 fine.[16]

Numerous injuries have occurred over the years on the stairs.[17]


  1. ^ "The Friends of Haiku Stairs". Friendsofhaikustairs.org. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  2. ^ "Surviving the Stairway to Heaven". untappedcities.com. Alysha mendez. July 13, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "History of the haiku stairs". haikustairs.org. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  4. ^ Jedra, Christina (June 23, 2019). "Stairway to Heaven Could Be Removed By 2022". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved May 14, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Dym, Zoe (May 12, 2021). "Bill Proposes Funding The Removal of Ha'iku Stairs". www.Hawaii Public Radio. Retrieved May 14, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Stairway to Heaven, Oahu". To-hawaii.com. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  7. ^ Davis, Chelsea (February 28, 2018). "Injured hiker: 'Booby trap' set up to deter Haiku Stairs trespassers". Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Lee, Fiona (September 10, 2021). "Hawaii's infamous Haiku Stairs are one step closer to removal". SFGATE. Retrieved September 13, 2021.
  9. ^ a b "City to make Hawaii's 'Haiku Stairs' a public attraction". KITV. July 3, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  10. ^ Pang, Gordon Y. K. (January 25, 2020). "Final environmental impact statement renews call to dismantle Haiku Stairs". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved June 7, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Davis, Chelsea (April 28, 2020). "Haiku Stairs gets reprieve from demolition, but now city needs to take action". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  12. ^ "Decision to remove Haiku Stairs now in Mayor's hands after council's unanimous vote". Hawaii News Now. September 8, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Anguiano, Dani (September 22, 2021). "Hawaii to remove forbidden staircase due to 'rampant trespassing'". The Guardian. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  14. ^ Fox, Catherine Toth (September 15, 2021). "The Famed ʻStairway to Heaven' on Oʻahu Will Soon Be Gone". Hawaii Magazine. Retrieved September 26, 2021.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Kubota, Gary T. (August 7, 2012). "Haiku Stairs hike victim is identified as Don Tiki singer Fritz Hasenpusch". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  16. ^ Cruz, Catherine (March 15, 2016). "Crackdown on hikers at Haiku Stairs". KITV. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  17. ^ Marcus, Lilit (September 16, 2021). "Hawaii's famous Haiku Stairs will likely be removed". CNN. Retrieved September 16, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]

  • Find a trail, Division of Forestry & Wildlife, State of Hawaii

Coordinates: 21°23′45″N 157°49′27″W / 21.3957°N 157.8241°W / 21.3957; -157.8241