Hiking Koko Crater

Last night's sunrise over Maunalua Bay, as captured by Kid1 in the backseat of the van. It's right next to Koko Head.

@postaday 246; #postaday2011.

My colleagues are making plans to hike this Sunday. Initially, they had planned to hike the Ka‘au Crater in Palolo. But when my manager Stephen Jonas posted this news item about his son falling 50 feet, it seems there were a few people having second thoughts. I think Stephen should ground the young man, who says he knows how lucky he is to have survived. We’re all relieved!

So apparently, Ka‘au is quite the hike, and there are several who still want to go. However, Stephen is now redirecting the hike to Koko Crater, the volcano in my ‘hood. In fact, Koko Crater is just a couple of blocks away from my house. My backyard is Koko Crater. When I launch my weekend bicycle rides and take to the hills, I climb behind Koko Crater and head toward Makapu‘u. When we hear the helicopters, we know it’s a rescue. A few years ago a man stabbed a bunch of people he didn’t even know up there. Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Mike Gordon’s daughter was there and helped with reporting the crime and rescuing of some of the victims.

Koko Crater looks easy, but it’s 1,048 steps up to a bunker that’s trashed, covered with graffiti, and littered. There might still be a safe box up there for people to leave notes, but I doubt it. The path used to be skinny, but traffic is so heavy up and down, that it looks more like a dirt road. Old railway ties serve as the steps, and the metal has been yanked by looters to sell to recyclers. I’ve heard that people with dirt bikes and off-road bicycles go up and down the trail, too. For a while, the city considered closing it for fear a stray bullet from the rifle range below might hit someone. In the 71 years the range has been there, no one has been hit. One day each year a club takes to the rim. What day is that? Christmas. The only day the rifle range is closed.

Since my Achilles tendon burst of 2010, my hiking days are over. Frankly, that hike up Koko Crater makes me nuts. It’s hot, the trestle is oily and slippery, and there’s always a beehive in production beneath it, and those bees are always ready to defend their turf. Despite its reputation of being a sissy hike, there’s always someone who freaks out trying to cross the trestle and falls or gets the shakes and freezes in fear.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great little climb. And those hearty souls who climb it to capture the sunrise, or come down after the sun sets, are to be commended if they thought enough to pack flashlights!

While my colleagues are hiking in the heat on Sunday up Koko Crater (Not Koko Head, which juts into the sea with Hanauma Bay nestled beneath it), I’ll be doing my swim and spin in the Na Wahine Festival. My goal is to complete it in less than an hour. I hope I can! Next year, I might be able to do a triathlon with the event. I might be walking it, and hopefully, I won’t be DFL. When I get home Sunday, I hope there aren’t any helicopters hovering around Koko Crater.

They should check out the hike that goes in the crater. Enter by the stables. Big old plumeria trees and a xeriscape garden nestled inside. It’s really a great loop, very easy for just about anyone. We have been taking our girls in there for quite a few years now. No helicopter rescues required!

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. My favorite Koko Crater route is to ascend from a point near Halona Blowhole, which crosses a natural arch on its way to the rim. Then, on to the peak and down the tram tracks.I shortcut through the firing range crater (non-firing area) to Lanai Lookout, and return to Blowhole along the coast if wave conditions allow, stopping to view some “secret” petroglyphs. I’ve also done the entire Koko Crater rim a couple of times, but there are parts that are pretty tricky. I’ve been sidelined from big climbs and bike riding since late March with sciatica, but it seems 98% gone now and I look forward to getting more active soon.

  2. Paula, I think it’s the Trail and Mountain Club that does a hike from the Halona blow hole side to the summit, on New Year’s Day rather than Christmas. I think the firing range operates on Christmas. Have to try out the hardware that Santa brought, after all. I don’t think that thing with some lunatic bicycling on the tram tracks was much more than an isolated incident.

    Greg, where’s the shortcut through the firing range crater?

  3. John: Thanks for the correx. I’ll leave the blog as it is. Yes, Greg, how can JOHN and his friends take your shortcut (not ME). LOL.

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