Illegal Hawaii hiking trail to be demolished, addressing “long-festering issues”

The Haiku Stairs in Honolulu with almost 4000 steps to offer views of the islands
The Haiku Stairs have been closed to the public since 1987, but that hasn't stopped trespassers (Image credit: Majicphotos)

Bringing an end to nearly 40 years of trespass by tourists and complaints by locals, the Honolulu council has announced it will begin permanently removing the famous Haiku Stairs at the end of April.

“This is a historic day,” said Honolulu mayor Rick Blangiardi in a press conference on Wednesday.

The Haiku Stairs, often referred to as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’, are a steep climb of almost 4,000 steps that wind through Oahu's 2,800ft tall Ko’olau mountain, providing what many consider to be the best view in Hawaii

The steps were originally constructed during the Second World War by the US Navy as a means to access secret communications facilities and were opened to the public for hiking after the war. They started to become crowded and subject to vandalism, reportedly following a cameo in hit ’80s TV show Magnum, PI, and were subsequently closed to the public in 1987. 

However, the Haiku Stairs have remained popular with hikers, tourists, Instagrammers and Youtubers seeking the illegal thrill of climbing into the clouds and breathtaking views despite the $1000 fine for trespassing on the land, which is owned by the Board of Water Supply. According to reporting in SF GATE, trespassing hikers have scaled fences and crossed people's backyards for access, sometimes leaving trash in their wake. 

The World War 2 communication tower built by the US navy atop a mountain on Oahu with the ocean behind it

The steps were originally constructed during the Second World War by the US Navy as a means to access secret communications facilities (Image credit: SvetlanaSF)

Though no one has died attempting to scale the stairs, rescues are a common and expensive problem. In September 2023, we reported on a woman and her dog who required helicopter rescue after the dog fell 50 feet while the pair were illegally hiking.

“This decision that was made was predicated upon our respect for the people who live in and around the entrance to the stairs, our respect for our aina (land), and our respect for both the future and the past history of the culture of the Haiku community," says Blangiardi.

Demolishing the stairs will be a complex operation of removing 664 sections at a time. It will require a team of six to eight workers on the ground and a helicopter to transport the sections from the steep terrain.

With initial preparations already underway to begin the removal process, Blangiardi warns hikers against the temptation to tackle the steep stairs one last time, advising that conditions now are even more dangerous than before.

“The last thing we want is for something tragic to happen.”

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.