KOKO CRATER RIM TRAIL ON OAHU, HAWAII

The Koko Crater Rim Trail is an adventurous alternative to the Koko Head Crater Stairs. Starting at the base of the crater rim, the trail leads you up along the rim to the summit of the popular Koko Head Summit. Here you will hang out with all of the stair-climbers momentarily as you enjoy the views of Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, and down the east coast of the island. The trail then continues on traversing down the coastal side of the crater rim before looping back to the entrance gate of the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens.

BLOG POST: If you are interested in my experience (many years ago) hiking the Stairway to Heaven the regular way you can check out my blog post here: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2021

OAHU HIKING GUIDE: I’ve written a guide for the top hikes on Oahu that I am sure you will find useful: TOP 10 HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII

KOKO CRATER RIM TRAIL DETAILS

Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 4km for the loop trail.

Hike Duration: The hike around the entire rim should take you about 2 hours including a few photo breaks and drink stops.

Hike Difficulty: The trail follows the rocky rim around the crater and has a number of moments with high exposure and big drop-offs. This trail is often quite windy and with some basic scrambling to be done up and over boulders, it can be a little dangerous although quite basic in terms of scrambling. I would not recommend this hike for beginner hikers and would suggest only experienced hikers with scrambling experience should hike along this trail.

Hike Incline: 350 meters incline on the trail around the rim

My Strava Map Upload: Sunrise on the Rim

HOW TO GET TO THE KOKO CRATER RIM TRAIL

The Koko Crater Rim Trail begins at the entrance to the Koko Crater Botanical Garden. There is limited parking nearby but many neighborhoods nearby with ample parking. I’ve pinned the trailhead location on the map below. It’s important to know that if you begin the hike before dusk, as I did, the front gate will be closed so you would have to walk around that if you are on a sunrise mission.

MY EXPERIENCE ON THE KOKO CRATER RIM TRAIL

The east coast of Oahu is where you want to be when the sun rises. Therefore, we made the plan to be hiking up on the Koko Crater Rim Trail as the sun broke over the horizon. Not every sunrise mission goes to plan and the sun had to battle a thick layer of clouds on this morning but our adventure was a success nonetheless.

We drove from Waikiki at around 4:30 to reach the trailhead at the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens by 5:00 am and started hiking shortly thereafter. It’s a little hard to find the trail in the early moments of this route but you have my GPX via my Strava route linked above or you can use the AllTrails map, which I found helpful and accurate for this route. Having a headlamp helped to navigate this early section through the long grass and trees. Note that the entrance gate will be closed if you begin the hike before dusk.

The elevation on this trail is just over 300 meters but it all comes in the first couple of kilometers so you will be working from the first moment. The trail winds you up through some thick grass as you dodge small cacti and rogue branches until you break out of the undergrowth to emerge onto the trail. The path itself is quite worn so it’s relatively easy to follow in most parts and if you take the wrong way for a few steps you will quickly see it leads nowhere and re-join the correct path.

The 2-kilometer ascent to the summit overlooks the suburb of Hawaii Kai as you make your way across the rocky crater rim. You will encounter some basic scrambling and bouldering, but there is nothing extremely technical. You will need to have composure with drop-offs and heights as there are multiple occasions where the trail will be quite narrow with a sizeable drop to your side although usually you have protection on one side with a rock wall and are rarely exposed on both sides. I don’t want to scare you but it’s important for some hikers to know that this is not as basic and safe as the Koko Head Crater Stairs.

After two kilometers of scrambling and enjoying the views over our shoulder, we reached the summit. You can expect to enjoy the Koko Crater Rim Trail all to yourself but when you reach the summit, there will be a crowd of hikers. The stairs are immensely popular and hikers enjoy the view and regain their energy by resting at the collection of ex-military pillboxes scattered atop the crater. It’s fun to look around here and enjoy the views but also good to get back out on the trail away from the crowds and continue along the route.

That’s the halfway mark of the trail and you now have a fun descent down the coastal side of the crater rim. This track is slightly less sketchy than the ascent although you still need to concentrate on your footing as it can be a little slippery on the loose gravel. We did the hike on a dry day and I would suggest leaving this one alone in the wet.

This section of the hike is quite beautiful as you look down the east coast of Oahu at Cockroach Cove, Sandy’s Beach, and catch a view of Makapu’u in the distance. The ocean crashes into the cliff walls below you, as you take in an incredible overhead view of the coastal highway, which must be one of the most scenic in America.

The trail loops back down to your starting point at the entrance gate. I actually exited from the rim a little early and found myself inside the botanical gardens, which isn’t an issue but not my intention. It seemed as if the trail headed down inside the rim a few hundred meters before the actual crater rim finished but I must have missed the alternate path to continue on. Keep an eye on that.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to the Koko Crater Rim Trail and can enjoy this aerial image I took from the helicopter while flying past Koko Crater.

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MY FOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES ON OAHU

Looking for some idea for activities on your rest day from hiking? These are my favorite activities on the island… especially the doors-off helicopter flight.

  • Oahu scenic helicopter flight: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off). You will be absolutely blown away when you see Oahu from the sky! Click to book your tour: Doors-Off Helicopter Flight Tour
  • North Shore Shark Cage Adventure: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks! Click to book your tour: North Shore Shark Cage Experience
  • Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Half-Day Cruise: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins. A once in a lifetime experience. Click to book your tour: Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour
  • Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: One of my favorite memories of Hawaii is floating in the water with a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. On this tour that is exactly what you will do! Click to book your tour: Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran

HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST

Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you atleast have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rainjacket and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need.

Hiking shoes – It’s best to use hiking boots with good grip and that can handle mud, rain, and tough terrain. Hiking shoes I use: Salomon Mid GTX

Rain Jacket – Never hike in Hawaii without a rain jacket, no matter how sunny it is in Honolulu. Rain Jacket I use: Arcteryx Lightweight Rain Jacket

Spare T-shirt – To change into at the top of a summit to be dry and warm as you will sweat through your original shirt while hiking: Dry fit hiking shirt I use: IceBreaker Merino Lite

Micro-spikes – You might not have used them much before but they basically slip over the top of your normal shoes giving you incredible grip, which is perfect for the slippery trails of Oahu. They will be the best purchase you make if you plan to hike a lot on Oahu. Microspikes I use: Kahtoola MICROspikes

Headlamp – So you can keep your hands free instead of holding a torch. Head Torch I use: Petzl Head Lamp 450 Lumens

My Camera Backpack: You simply won’t find a better camera backpack for hiking that my Atlas Athlete Backpack, which I’ve been using on all of my hikes all over the world for years now: Atlas Athlete Camera Backpack

I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!

WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU

Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island.

Why I recommend this hotel: It has its own private lagoon. While lots of people love the beach it is perfect for families. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries. There are no currents, waves or sea creatures to worry about. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach so don’t worry the beach is right there also.

Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.

Why I recommend this hotel: The Sheraton is always exceptional no matter the location but imagine you are leaning over the edge of an infinity pool, the ocean is below you and you turn to your left and watch Diamond Head crater in the distance. That’s where you will be at the end of each day, having a Mai Tai cocktail in your infinity pool. Later on, in the evening Rumfire is a great bar venue, which is actually part of the Sheraton. It is open to the public and is one of the best high-end venues on Oahu. It has a small dance floor but is mostly standing and seating areas for drinks, chats and good times.

Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.

Why do I recommend this hostel/hotel: This is the perfect hotel if you want location but are willing to sacrifice a pool and some luxury items to save up to $200 per night. All of the hotels in this area are minimum $300 per night and often much more. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway. Didn’t you come halfway across the world to swim in the beach!

Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.

Why I recommend this hostel: Unfortunately Waikiki and Honolulu, in general, are not cheap.  You can grab a dorm room for under $35 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach. This location really is great. You are near a lot of attractions and can take public transport to a lot of great east coast beaches and hikes. It is the number one hostel in Waikiki and I’m sure you will meet other adventurers to go on hikes with!

Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.

Why I recommend this hotel: Disney Aulani Resort combines luxury accommodation with family fun. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind. The kids club and massage center are just among a few of the many activities included in your stay. Attend ukelele lessons, free fire-pit story-telling at night and more and more! Your kids will never be bored and the quality of entertainment and facilities is just beyond amazing.

MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS

I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!

What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY

A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?

Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018

The best Waterfalls: 11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII

Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU, HAWAII

Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII

My favorite experience on Oahu: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII

The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU – THE BUCKET LIST

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