Stairway to Heaven – Haiku Trail – Moanalua Valley Park
This blog is great to help you find the right path to the Stairway to Heaven trail. I did read this early on in the planning on my trip (2 months prior) but I never referred to it again which was my mistake. Tripadvisor also has updated reviews.
If you have the time, download the Alltrails map app to your phone which will help you find the trails.
We decided to go the legal route up to Haiku – Stairway to Heaven via Moanalua Valley Park. You want to park at 1849 Ala Aolani St, Honolulu – Moanalua Valley Trail. There is a parking lot that opens at 7AM and closes at 7PM with water fountains, faucets and washrooms. If you think you will start before or end after 7AM or 7PM, you can park on the street in the neighbourhood. You start off by seeing a gate and signs – go through that gate and down the path you go. There are more signs and a foot brush station – indication you are going the right way. The path is flat and goes on for quite some time and you pass roughly 6 bridges. If it has rained the path will be muddy and there are markings to lead you through the forest to climb over a few trees to pass this huge muddy pool.
Once you get to the end of that flat part, the terrain slowly shifts and eventually you will see pink or organ ribbons attached to trees to help mark the trail. You will arrive at a group of signs where it looks like it is a fork in the road. This is before you start the actual trails to go up. If you are looking for the route up to Stairway to Heaven – LOOK FOR THE GREEN ARROW/MARKINGS. You will have to cross the river BUT only once. To the right of the cluster of signs, you will see a less maintained path with loads of palms – but if you turn that way, there is a little path not too far in that will be on the left that leads you to the river – if you can cross here, it will lead you to the path to Middle ridge (on the other side of the river, turn right. You will know if you are going the right way by seeing the curved tree branch that has Middle Ridge carved into it with a green spray painted H beside it. Then it is a elevated path going upwards. The path will get narrow and depending on weather, winds can pick up and and rain makes it slippery. There will be areas that it will be really narrow and there will be ropes to aid in your ascend.
If you do decide to cross the river straight past the signs, you need to veer right immediately once you have crossed the river bed and then you will see the Middle Ridge branch. REMEMBER TO FOLLOW THE GREEN Spray painted markers.
We made the mistake of not fully researching to know exactly where to go before we went which made for a unpleasant surprise. We crossed the river multiple times with another family and a couple. We did indeed follow the pink and orange ribbons but when we finally arrived at the top of the ridge, we thought we just had a pitstop before continuing. It turned out we climbed the ridge east of the Middle Ridge that led to Stairway to Heaven with no clear or safe way to get to the correct ridge from that height. To even make it to the top of that ridge, you will have ropes to help you up and down. It gets super muddy, slippery and windy up top. Don’t go if its’ rained a lot to watch out for flash floods where the paths through the rivers would be unseen.
What really sucked for us is that this took us awhile to climb/hike up and knowing the fact we didn’t actually get to see the stairways dampened out spirits as we had to descend the ridge with the ropes we just got up from. We did have to wait for the other family to make it up as the ridge is narrow and meant for a single person at a time. Especially with my injury, super hard to bomb it down and I literally was backtracking my steps going backwards down the ridge. We eventually made it back down to the start in which I mentioned the sign.
We bumped into another group who were just starting their hike. We (the couple, the new group and my friends) all tried looking for the right trail. At the sign, we decided to walk the trail that had palms but it looked very unmaintained as we started to walk further in. The couple had the all trails map and it also said we were veering off the trail. We turned back and finally noticed the little tape marker that said Middle ridge. Once again, from the main grouping of signs, you can either veer right before crossing the river and then the first left to cross the river is where you want to go then once you have cross the river, you will see the curved branch that says middle ridge on it. If you do decide to go straight past the sign and cross the river, you need to turn right immediately to see the curved branch. Our hike took roughly 6-7 hours to finish and at that point, we wanted to go the correct path up but at the same time, another 6-7 hour seemed daunting. We said goodbye to our new friends and left as we did have reservations for a luau that night. They did exchange numbers with one of the guys who planned on going the illegal route up the following morning.
I think also the fact that immediately once you see the middle ridge curved branch, the climb starts steep and muddy.
All dirty, we made a pitstop at Foodland on the way home to grab some food. We all took showers and then travelled to the west shore for our Luau at Paradise Cove. Free parking. It’s located in the same area as the West coast resorts but still quite lovely. We got lei’d with a shell lei (more so to decipher which group you were with). The luau was on was a decent sized property right on the beachfront with a wedding taking place a field over (music there overpowered at certain points). There is a beach access point from here for public and Paradise Cove use as it was in a resort area.
The seating / dinner tables are long family style tables and we were seated to the right of the stage far back. We reserved the basic package for $90USD. We met a wonderful mother & daughter who were meeting in Hawaii as it was their middle point. The daughter is stationed in Guam and the mother lives in California.
The site has many activities you can do before the dinner and show start. We of course lined up to get our temporary tattoos drawn on us then we lined up to get flower crowns and bracelets made. Remember, if you are wearing any flowers in your hair; wear it on your right side to signify you are single – left if you are married/taken and on both sides if you want to start something new ;).
The performances were pretty good but I feel for me, I was comparing it to my previous visit to the island and Polynesian Cultural Centre. The centre requires you to spend at least half the day to absorb everything and you get to visit the different “islands” and learn about each culture a bit more. They also have a river parade where each island is represents in their costumes and they dance on the floats.
For once, we slept in and “we took it easy” (as Herbie would say). Started off our morning going to Kamehameha Bakery. They are famous for their – poi glazed donuts. I also got a poi haupia donut as well.
In this same plaza, if you really enjoy ube, Ubae is situated. I grabbed a ube crinkle cookie.
The plan for today was to explore the city and take a break from hiking and beaches and explore the city. I’m an avid fan of graffiti and have been following the whole Powwow movement that gathers artists in different cities to create giant art murals around cities. Similar to what Miami has with Wynwood. The place to go for this Powwow Hawaii movement is Lana Lane in Kaka’ako. The Lana Lane Studio is a good starting point which also houses some art exhibits as well. The murals are all different in terms of style and look but definitely brighten the areas and give it more flavour. The area is mainly industrial in terms of car distribution warehouses but it’s like a hidden gem. There are some really cute boutique shops nearby called SALT at Kaka’ako.
Kaka’ako is relatively near Ala Moana Mall. We decided to leave the mall to another day but stopped by Don Quijote. Don Quijote is a major chain in Japan that has a bit of everything and where you stock up on food and souvenirs and other little nicknacks. For lunch, I wanted to take my friends to a local spot called Rainbow Drive-in. Its the typical fast food that Hawaiians love – you can get mixed seafood plates, loco mocos, burgers etc. I got myself a mini loco moco bowl and a salad (because we weren’t really eating greens).
Our plans were very much in the air for the afternoon so we messaged Herbie to see what they were up to for the day and in Herbie style he told us he was “taking it easy”. They went to the zoo earlier in the day but also mentioned that a beach volleyball court is usually set up at Waikiki Beach. We slowly made our way to the beach (word to the wise, Kuhio St is a one way and you need to loop around again if you miss the parking. There is paid parking closest to the beach but there is a lot that is slightly further away which is closer to the zoo where locals park for free). It turns out the beach court is set up sporadically when they feel like it nearby the pier in the middle of the beach where people jump off to boogie board from. It turned out that that day they indeed did not set up a volleyball court. Luckily Herbie and Elvia showed up with Tristan and a volleyball to pepper with for a bit and we did “take it easy” with the Ku’s on Waikiki beach for the afternoon.
We stayed at Waikiki Beach and took in the free Hula show called Kuhio Beach Hula Show that occurs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather-permitting from 6:30pm to 7:30pm (6:00pm to 7:00pm Nov-Dec-Jan), free to the public at the Kūhiō Beach Hula mound on Kalākaua Ave near Uluniu Avenue across from the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī. It was very fitting and ended with the sun setting.
To end the night off, we stopped by the Mall and had dinner in the The Street food Hall. I got the largest bowl of greens I have had in such a long time from Indie Girl. I ordered the Kailua Sunrise bowl – $15.99USD (Baby kale, Quinoa, sunflower butter, roasted purple sweet potato, pomegranate dressing). The best part of this meal was most definitely the salted roasted sweet potato. It took me such a long time to eat it that I was entirely stuffed and the girls finished it off.
I’m usually not one to travel in the summer due to the fact that for a short period in time, Toronto has great weather and also because I dedicate my summer travels to volleyball (9-Man). It also is prime time for work opportunities. I made an exception this time around as it all started with my friend Lulu trying to convince me to join her and Renee back in Feb/March to goto Hawaii with them. With this being said, it led to us booking a one-way ticket to Maui. With the one-way ticket purchased, it left me to planning a trip that we could do in a 2 weeks span and also island hopping. Once my itinerary was made, I was able to convince (not very hard to) my friend Tiffany to join us making us a group of 4. I have previously been to Hawaii back in 2014 to photograph my high school friends wedding and staying in Oahu for 13 days – it was amazing and I was mistaken for a Kama’aina surfer girl (a local).
Looking at my last few trips, you can probably tell that I am a very ambitious person and my itineraries are jam-packed. This one was no different. For 2 weeks, we made it so we would island hop – Maui to Oahu to Kauai. This itinerary was made 1.5 months before the trip was to happen and a month before, I injured my leg – side note: sprained my hamstring a month before and didn’t let it rest enough – knee irritation during trip.
For good quality poke anytime, anywhere – goto Foodland.
Download the Gypsy Guide – for your most in-depth car ride. It is an off line audio guide that tracks where you are and will tell you where to stop off to get the most of the islands. It is also very informative and fills you in with all the history that makes Hawaii what it is. We downloaded it for Maui especially for the Road to Hana and also for Kauai.
And of course, last bit of advice: Check airport car rental hours before booking your flights to ensure the offices are open when you land. Late late night flights are no good if you can’t actually leave the airport.
Some facts about Hawaii:
Hawaii is one of the only places in the world that I cannot really tell ethnicity apart. That is because it is a mishmash of many ethnicities and of course tanned complexions. The reason for such mix of ethnicities comes from back in the day when the concept for having an owner and workers started. Before that, people believed they could just survive off the land and live well that way. There was a shortage of workers to work plantations once they adopted the owner and workers system. Since there was a shortage, Hawaii took in workers from different parts of the world such as China, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Puerto Ricans, and Portuguese etc.
After each ethnic group started to immigrate to Hawaii for a better life, the locals started to feel like they were taking all the jobs and started to xenophobia them over and over as a new group came in. Sugar cane plantations were a huge source of income however in 1990, 150 years of plantation ended as the introduction of high fructose sugars started being put into food and the demand for real sugar dropped.
100% Kona Coffee is one of the highest qualities however the price that comes with it isn’t always ideal.
Hawaii has also banned non-coral friendly sunscreens.
Now onto my itinerary. To make the most of our time, I tried to align each day to explore certain areas of each island and tried to alternate hiking days with beach days. I think the biggest thing I am happy to have done was reversing the Road to Hana route – Drive all the way to the end of Road to Hana and explore in reverse for optimal time at Pipiwai Trails and less tourists.
It was such a fun experience. We got a 10% discount because of our large group which included luau with buffet and a show – $99CDN. It was pretty much a large outdoor facility with majority of its staff coming from the local university. At certain islands, we were able to get temporary skin tattoos from Aotearoa (Ow-T-O-roa), Tonga and Tahiti.
We started at the Samoa pavilion and the Kap was an amazing MC. He showed us how to open a coconut and start a fire with its husk. You can tell when a coconut is ready by the colour – it needs to be brown – therefore a ripe coconut. We played the stick game at the Aotearoa island where you throw 4 sticks back and forth. We walked around and tried to catch all the shows. We saw the huge canoe pageant on the river where all the islands had their own float and did a few dances that represented each particular culture.
We then met up with the rest of the group for the luau buffet. It was really good. The mango smoothie in the pineapple is really tasty (if you decide to purchase). The food selection consisted of kalua pig, poke, steak, chicken, fish, taro, sweet potato and salad for the most part. It was such a good meal to have while watching a luau.
After the luau, we went to the show – Ha Mana. Sortof like a musical with incorporation of all 7 island styles of dance but also showing that the Ha (spirit) gets passed on within the ohana through centuries. It was such a good show but the highlight was definitely the aeoteroa haka dance and the fire baton spinning sections.