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Hiking Koko Head Crater on Oahu

Of the nearly endless number of hikes on Oahu, easily the most challenging, and probably the most rewarding, is the hike up Koko Head Crater. Located on the South Shore, just a short drive from Waikiki, in the town of Hawaii Kai, Koko Head offers amazing views of the island, but getting to the top is no easy task.

Finding the trailhead is a bit of a challenge, and you will have to make your way past the baseball field and along the footpath before arriving at the base of the hike. From the bottom, it doesn't look so intimidating, but once you’ve started your trek to the top, you will see that looks can be deceiving.

Koko Head Crater is located right next to Hanauma Bay, and helps to define the coastline along Hawaii Kai. A tuff cone, the last eruption of Koko Head was approximately 35,000 years ago, and has since been used as a lookout bunker in World War II, and also hosts a botanical garden inside the crater. Running along the entire face of the crater, a train track was put in place to carry supplies to the lookout post, and those train tracks remain today.

And on those train tracks is one of the most popular hikes on the island. Hikers climb to the top using the rail ties, more than 1,200 of them, each step more difficult than the last. As you climb closer to the summit, the volcano becomes steeper, and the ties farther apart, creating a very tough hike. Not to mention, there is no shade or reprieve from the sun, so this challenging trail is even tougher when you consider the grueling heat.

In all, the round trip hike is just under 2 miles, and will be one of the toughest challenges you face in Hawaii. However, the view from the top is breathtaking, with sweeping views of Hanauma Bay, South Shore Beaches, Hawaii Kai, and even views into Honolulu. You can see so much from up here, and the ocean disappears over the horizon, while the cool breeze cools you off following a hard hike.

Be advised that you will need to bring plenty of water, and apply plenty of sunblock. There is no hiding from the sun and the heat on Koko Head Crater Trail, and hikers are often airlifted off the trail for not hydrating. This is a very tough hike, and is well worth the challenge, but prepare appropriately.

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