How Long Does It Take To Hike Koko Head?

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Whether you are local to Hawaii or a tourist, climbing Koko Head has become a tradition or purely just that entry on your bucket list to be ticked. An adventure suitable for the whole family. It is encouraged to complete the course at your own pace and according to your personal skills. So, how long does the climb to Koko Head take?

Although strenuous, you may finish the path in 20 minutes jogging or opt for the slower 90-minute hike. Climbing the 1,048 Koko Stairs should take around an hour, with brief breaks every few minutes. Similarly, you should budget around three hours for the trek, including the descent.

The slower approach will allow you to enjoy the beautiful views and scenery. Once at the top, take some time to recuperate and enjoy a beverage or snack before attempting the descent. Familiarizing yourself with the trail details would ensure an enjoyable adventure.

The Koko Trail Hike Duration

From the parking area, it is no more than a 20-minute stroll to the bottom of the stairs. Then, an hour and a half for the climb to the top. Then, finally, add a few minutes to enjoy the views and take a well-deserved rest.

The descent will be quicker, and you should be back in the parking area within an hour and in your vehicle 20-minutes later. But, again, subtract some time if you are more than moderately fit and add some time if you are not.

This trail is a one-day excursion suitable for the whole family. No detailed planning is required, but comfortable shoes and a water bottle are the essential items needed.

History Of Koko Head Stairs Trail

Part of the Beautiful Hawaii scenery Koko Head is the coastal landform that constitutes the eastern side of Maunalua Bay. It lies on the southeastern coast of Oahu island, Honolulu county, overlooking Hanauma Bay, opposite Kalaniana’ole Highway. The Koko Head Stairs Trail is entered via the Koko Head District Park about 10 miles east from Diamond Head on Maunalua Bay.

Initially carved by nature, humans created a railway structure during the 2nd World War to aid the transport of military personnel and supplies up to lookouts at the top. Decades later, only the ruins of the old structures and a trail lined with more than 1000 railroad ties remain.

The Koko Head Stairs

Koko Head Stairs ascend at a moderate incline for about 400 railroad ties up the hillside. After that, the trail becomes steeper to the top. At approximately the halfway mark, you cross a wooded bridge or take a path around the bridge if you are afraid of heights. Every railway tie takes about two steps as the railroad ties are further apart than regular stairs. Some dusty areas can be slippery, and due to the unevenness of the stairs, it is not easy to find a walking rhythm.

Koko Head Hike Distance and Hight

The distance between the bottom and summit of the stairs is only 0.7 miles, calculating the round trip to 1.4 miles. Add another 0.3 miles from the parking area and back again if you want to be accurate. An elevating climb rising roughly 1000 ft, over 1,048 stairs to the top, taking you to 1210 ft above sea level. Once you have reached the top, the lookout points are about 40 feet from the end of the stairs. 

How Hard Is The Koko Head Trail Hike?

Koko Head Hike is rated as moderate but can be strenuous because of the extreme elevation you ascend over a short distance. However, do not let the relatively short length of the hike fool you. By dividing the climb into three equal parts, you will find that each piece increases in steepness. Therefore, take it moderately slow on the first section, as you will need more energy and fit to complete the last.

Take it slow. Rest for a minute after every 20 steps. Use the breaks to enjoy the views and take pictures. Do not be fooled if the first portion seems easy. As you progress, the trail becomes steeper to the peak. After the bridge, the grade is considerably steeper. The last part is extremely steep, and you will need all your strength to conquer it.

Descending is not always easier. Climbing downhill can also put a strain on your knees. So, as with the ascend, take it slow on the way down. Like the up hike, the first down portion is very steep and flattens out gradually to the bottom.

Do not rush. Enjoy the walk and the view. It would be best to have a moderate fitness level and not be physically restrained. Be considerate to your fellow hikers. Unless you are an athlete in training, do not hike against time. Unfortunately, this hike is not wheelchair friendly.

The View From The Top

At the top, the most beautiful views await and are well worth the effort, so plan more time for pictures of the breathtaking scenery. But, first, gaze far and beyond over the windward side of the island and Maunalua Bay, Hawaii Kai, Honolulu shoreline, Hanauma Bay, and Koko Head.

What You Will Need

Comfortable footwear that has a grip as well. During rainy weather, the railroad ties and steps are slippery when wet. A filled water bottle or any beverage keeps you hydrated, especially during the hot, humid summer days. Not essential, but breathable workout clothes would be comfier. A water bottle, hat, camera, and sunscreen in your hiking bag ensure you are ready to go.

When To Hike Koko Head

Koko Head Trail is open all year and one of those trails to hike anytime. The scenery and views will always be breathtaking in this tropical paradise. It is still your decision to choose the best season to visit Hawaii. If you are not the average hiker, you can attempt the stairs in the early morning or night darkness, equipped with headlamps off cause. You will most likely encounter other hikers as this area is prevalent for exploring.


Koko Head is a short day hike and will leave you with memories of the most beautiful spots in Oahu. The Koko Head Railway Stairs hike is recommended by all who have done it in the past. Sure, it is not a walk in the park, but it not that difficult if you pace yourself and enjoy the scenery.

Compared to many other walks in Hawaii, the Koko Head Stairs hike is one of the shortest, most accessible, and most enjoyable hikes. If you are in the area, make an effort. It will be time well spent in the end and one for your bucket list.