A deadly and illegal Stairway to Heaven

Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven, is one of the greatest attraction of the island Oahu in Hawaii. It consists of 3, 922 steps that span across the Ko’olau mountain range. The Stairs leads up the mountain ridge with a steep set of stairs with only a handrail to prevent one from falling into the valley. Due to the word Haiku, the tourist attraction is often confused with the Japanese poetry genre. However, Stairway to Heaven gets its name from Hawaiian word Haʻikū, which means a sharp break, referring to the steep climb of the stairs.

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History of Haiku Stairs

As fairytale-ish, as the name sounds, the story of Haiku Stairs’ origin has a military touch. It all began when the US Navy decided to build the Haiku Radio Station, a top-secret facility to broadcast signals to Navy ships operating across the Pacific in 1942. To achieve the optimum height for the antennae, they chose to stretch them across the Haiku Valley.

The station started operating in 1943, and to transmit powerful signals, Navy needed a transmitter of greater reach, something that could only be possible with vacuum technology, at the time. Therefore, they decided to use an Alexanderson alternator that generates powerful low-frequency radio signals and requires a massive antenna.

Later, when the Navy was decommissioned in the 1950s, the US Coast Guard used the place for an Omega navigation system station. The stairs, originally, made of wood. However, in the mid-1950s, metals steps and ramps were chosen over wooden ones. Until 1987, Haiku Stairs were open to the public, but the same year, people no longer had access.

Haiku Stairs at Present

The restriction, however, did not stop interested individuals from climbing the stairs. There have been several incidents over the years when hikers have either lost their lives or been arrested for trespassing the closed site.

For several years, there have been debates over tearing the stairs down to avoid trespassing and repairing them to open for public access. As of 2019, neither of the options have been chosen, and the fight over usages rights remain at a stalemate.

In the meantime, several hikers sneak their way to the stairs from the backside, some lucky and some not. In 2012, comedian and singer Fritz Haschenpush died of a heart attack during his hike on the stairs which is one of many such incidents.

Another way of curbing the hikers is subjecting them to pay $1000 fine for trespassing if caught, and by increasing the security near the site. Additionally, police patrol through the area regularly, to look for miscreants and adventurers attempting to climb the stairs. Aside from law enforcement officials, even residents try to prevent the use of their properties to reach the stairs by installing booby traps. However, hikers remain undeterred and continue to hike at the area.

Is it suitable for children?

Due to the steep nature of the hike, the stairs are not recommended for adults, much less, children. At a whopping height of 2,120 feet, the trail is dangerous to climb, especially at its current precarious conditions.

However, since Haiku Stairs is within the Ko’olau mountain range, children and adult will find Kailua beach and circle island attractive.

Where to eat near Haiku Stairs?

Being enclosed in a mountain range famous for being a natural shield against volcanos, the area near Haiku Stares are peppered with various eateries. If authentic Hawaiian cuisine or Seafood is a visitor’s choice, they can head down Haleiwa Joe’s. However, if brunch or breakfast is the need, the best place to visit is Cafe Kalawe.

With the restriction and the steep hike, Haiku Stairs is certainly a  beacon. However, this acts as no hindrances to many hikers.