Koko Crater Trail: climbing the famous Oahu Crater
The Koko Crater trail is one of the most popular hikes in Oahu. Its fame comes mainly from the fact that this hike follows the old railroad used by the military when the infrastructure and bunkers were in use on top of the Koko Head.
Today the military activity has stopped but its railway has become the playground for thousands of hikers who come to venture out every day and climb to the top of Koko Head where the view overlooks the coast from Hanauma Bay to Waikiki. But be warned, this hike, in addition to being very crowded, is also very steep and challenging.
1How to get to the Koko Crater
The parking lot for the famous hike is located in eastern Oahu, next to Geoas Baseball Field accessible from Anapalau Street.
Several parking lots are available at this location, so you should have no trouble to park there.
Note that the access road from Koko Head Park Road at the junction at Hanauma Bay is closed. It is also not possible to park at the end of the Koko Head Rifle Road.
2Climbing to Koko Head (Koko Crater) by following the railway.
From the car park you will first have to reach the start of the ascent by following the old Koko Head Park Road on foot for a few hundred meters.
It is only when you reach the bottom of the climb that you will realize that the next part of the ascent will require good physical resources! Here you are in front of this volcano that you will climb following the topology of the terrain, that is to say straight ahead following the rails!
The beginning is hard because we don't have time to warm up our legs, but the rest of the climb is worse! The slope gets steeper and steeper to reach an incline of 35 degrees or nearly 70%, according to our readings, located at the 2/3 level of the ascent.
The biggest difficulty is here... well, if you are not prone to vertigo, because when you arrive a little before the middle of the climb, you will be confronted with a zone of emptiness. That is to say that under the rails and the railway sleepers, a void of 2 or 3 meters deep is present on a little less than 50 meters.
Fortunately, an alternative on the right side of the railway avoids this part.
But the steepness of the path and this passage over the void will not be the only worries. Added to this are the difficulties linked to the heat, which can become intense from 10am onwards, and to a lesser extent, the mud that can make its appearance. There is also the humidity in general, which makes crossbeams very slippery.
During our walk, the perspiration of the hikers alone made some of these crossbeams slippery, so beware!
Finally, to give you an idea of your progress during the ascent, you should know that there are numbers written on the right-hand rail every 3 or 4 metres, the last one at the summit being 2450...
Once you get to the top, you will be able to see the facilities left abandoned after the military activity has stopped. Behind the concrete structure at the top of the climb, you can also see the entrance to a bunker, which has been condemned.
But don't stop now! To the right of this bunker, the path continues through the brush to reach several viewpoints on the inside of the crater. From here, the panorama will allow you to easily see Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, the southeastern tip of the island and part of Waikiki. It's really pretty! This is the place to go if you decide to watch the sunrise.
3When to go to the Koko Crater
Here are the 2 choices that we consider opportune to take full advantage of the hike without suffering too much from the heat.
Coming at sunrise
In this case, plan to arrive very early, a solid hour before sunrise so that you have time to climb and have a good place at the top. Don't forget to bring a headlamp, otherwise the phone flash can do the trick.
However, coming at sunrise can also be a disadvantage as the low lights of the first rays will not enhance the colours from a photographic point of view. This is the case of the waters surrounding this part of the island at ocean level, Hanauma Bay but also Kuapa Pond to the west with its ridges in the background, which will remain dark. Photo enthusiasts who have already experienced the grazing lights know what I'm talking about.
The ideal is therefore to go up in the cool and then wait until the colors are more beautiful to enjoy it once at the top.
Come before 8am to avoid the heat
If you don't feel like going up for sunrise (and we understand you), it can be interesting to go up in the morning before the heat. This advice is especially valid from May to November when it is quickly hot in the morning.
We personally started the hike at 6:50 am and attacked the descent at 8:00 am. Once we arrived at the bottom at 8:40 am, the heat was already starting to be intense knowing that it was the beginning of November!
The upper part of the hike being in the middle of shrubs, the freshness is kept there a little longer (contrary to the lower part). Starting the hike no later than 8:00 am should therefore allow you to reach this shrubby area before the heat overwhelms you.
4Our opinion on the ascent of the Koko Crater
We gave this hike a score of 3.5 out of 5, a score that was marked down by a star for the simple reason that the hike takes on the appearance of a freeway very quickly at first light.
However, we had targeted a day in the middle of the week and very early so that the sun wouldn't be completely up, and we still came across a lot of people.
The proximity of Honolulu and especially Waikiki and its hotels, the fact that a shuttle bus runs directly from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay contributes to the popular success of this trail.
As a result, the feeling of being constantly bothered, between those who climb faster than you, those you catch up with, and those you cross, all on a railway track with sometimes dilapidated parts, you will understand that this hike has somewhat frustrated us. Too bad because the panorama at the top is well worth it!