Koko Crater Tramway (also referred to as "Koko Crater Stairs", "Koko Head Stairs", "Koko Stairs of Doom", or "Pu'u Mai Stairs") leads to the Pu'u Mai Summit of Kohelepelepe which offers one of the most panoramic views of the Maunalua Region in East Honolulu. This tramway once boasted approximately 1,048 cross-ties or "stairs" that lead adventurous hikers up a 0.4 mile intensely rigorous incline for an elevation gain of about 1,100 heart-pounding & lung-pumping feet. Sadly, due to the passage of time, exposure to the elements, and benign neglect from lack of maintenance those 1,000+ 'Stairs' now only include about 800 stairs that are in various states of decline. With each passing storm and intense rainfall, the integrity of the Stairs will only continue to worsen.
Originally built by the US Army between 1942 and 1943, this gas-powered rail tramway ferried personnel, equipment, and supplies from a base camp (now Koko Head District Park) at the foot of Kohelepelepe along a narrow-gauge cable-pulled rail car up to radar equipment and operational facilities perched atop Pu'u Mai summit. With the creation of the US Air Force in 1947, this site became the Koko Crater Air Force Station and served as one of two vital radar sites on Oahu that tied into the Hawaiian Air Defense Control Center that tracked all aircraft that approached Oahu. Eventually, this mission was assumed by the Hawaiian Air National Guard. Due to the advent of new airborne and satellite technology, Koko Crater AFS's mission perched atop the summit became obsolete and the US Air Force inactivated the installation and turned over the land and the cable car tram to the City and County of Honolulu.
In the past 56 years since the radar site and rail tramway were inactivated, the tramway has lost a significant number of cross-ties due to erosion, rot, and exposure to increased foot traffic. The tramway is more popular now than ever with individuals of all ages and walks of life alike, including those hailing from Hawaii Kai, communities across Oahu, and from regions and countries across the globe with estimates of daily hikers ranging between 500 hikers on a quiet day to 1,000 on a busy weekend or holiday.
These hiking enthusiasts all desire a challenging rigorous workout, access to amazing views at the top, and a glimpse into Hawaiian history and legend. Pu'u Mai Summit has become a location where individuals and groups of people mark significant life events such as engagements, family reunions, memorials, or commemorative activities; enjoy the amazing sunrises and heart-stopping sunsets; military personnel across the armed services conduct reenlistments, promotions, shore excursions or team-building activities oriented around the challenging hike; professional, amateur and everyday athletes challenge their fitness acumen on the Stairs, you name it, we've been witness to many momentous occasions along the Stairs and atop Pu'u Mai.
Koko Crater Tramway attracts people from all backgrounds and from all walks of life.
This tramway means so many things to so many people.
Over the years, numerous other uses for the summit and lands surrounding the tramway have been proposed and fortuitously preempted before they became reality:
- In 1968, a restaurant was proposed for the Pu'u Mai summit that would be reached via a gondola ride;
- In 1998, the State of Hawaii proposed building a prison at the base of the stairs;
- In February 2008, City and County of Honolulu workers installed "Keep Out" signs at the base of the tramway, effectively making the trek to the summit illegal. Due to a heated public outcry, the signs were removed within the day.
Koko Crater Tramway is loved!
Koko Crater Tramway and the Pu'u Mai Summit mean much, much more to people than just another hiking or mountaintop experience.
Koko Crater Tramway is beloved!
Koko Crater Tramway is in great jeopardy of being loved to pieces.
It's falling victim to a lack of maintenance, to exposure to the elements, erosion of the soil and ballast supporting the 'stairs', an exponential increase in foot traffic due to social media exposure and a paradigm shift among individuals and tourists desiring a more adventurous, rugged outdoor experience in their everyday lives and during their vacations.
The Kokonut Koalition is partnering with the City and County of Honolulu to help rehabilitate and maintain this beloved tramway that means so very much to so many people.
Please join us in the worthy effort!
Mahalo nui loa!
The Kokonut Koalition