An extremely controversial hike on Oahu’s windward side looks like it may have met its end as the Honolulu City Council votes to remove the Haiku Stairs. The famous but illegal hike is still frequented on a daily basis by residents and tourists alike.
The Haiku Stairs – or Stairway to Heaven, as the hike is popularly known – are what remains of a service pathway to the antennas strung above Haiku Valley for the US Coast Guard’s Omega Navigation System station. In its current state, the trail is comprised of some 3,922 steel stairs and ramps. Originally, the US Coast Guard allowed individuals access to the stairs for recreation. However, in 1987, the agency closed the stairs to the public following a surge in visitations. Since then, the stairs have remained off-limits to the public. Yet, every day, diehards continue to make the trek. Meanwhile, talks of reopening them have been ongoing for years, while the City even spent close to $1 million back in 2003 to repair the stairs. Yet, that all seems as if it was for naught now.
Update – 9/14/21
Mayor Rick Blangiardi sided with the Honolulu City Council in a statement released late today, okaying the removal of the stairs. This was the last hurdle in dismantling the Haiku Stairs, though no timeline for their removal has been set yet.
Honolulu City Council Votes to Remove Haiku Stairs
Last week, the Honolulu City Council voted unanimously to remove the Haiku Stairs. The reason for the unanimous vote was thanks to the lack of a clear way to open the stairs up to the public legally. Councilmembers cited difficulty in getting the various landowners around the stairs to grant access as being the biggest obstacle. So, rather than dragging the issue on for another generation, the Council voted to remove the stairs. What’s more, $1 million was already budgeted this year for the removal.
It’s Not Over Yet
The City Council’s resolution to remove the stairs is non-binding. That means that, despite the vote, no action must be taken. What’s more, while the Council budgeted the funds for the removal of the stairs, it’s up to Mayor Rick Blangiardi to release them. Mayor Blangiardi has not yet stated which way he’s likely to go. So, the final verdict is still out there.
On the one hand, it’s a bummer that it looks like the Haiku Stairs’ days could be numbered. But, on the other hand, I can see area residents’ concerns too. I’d be pissed if people noisily trespassed through my property during the early morning hours nearly every day. What makes it worse is the fact that hikers often leave trash and even human excrement behind too. Not cool! So, naturally, the City should do something.
That all said, you’d never catch me on the Haiku Stairs anyway. Not only would I die attempting it, but I’m also quite afraid of heights. Yes, I know, I love flying and love zip lining. But something about hiking and being able to kill myself through my own clumsiness or stupidity just leaves me unsettled.
For those of you that want to do the hike, though, I urge you to explore other options. The “back way” up to the top of the Haiku Stairs is completely legal. There are, however, a few different routes. What’s more, the back way is more technically difficult and often takes much longer. So, if you decide to do this, be sure to properly prepare, be safe, and stay off the stairs!