Tourists Risk Arrest for Last Chance on Hawaii Trail

Famed Ha'iku Stairs in Oahu are coming down
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2024 6:00 AM CDT
Tourists Risk Arrest for Last Chance on Hawaii Trail
The Ha‘iku Stairs in Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii.   (Getty / Majicphotos)

For tourists using Instagram to guide their travels, a sojourn for one last shot at visiting the famous Ha'iku Stairs in Oahu could come with a hefty price. The days are numbered for Honolulu's famous selfie spot, and CNN reports that tourists are flocking there hoping to grab a glimpse of the island from its heights before the stairs are dismantled. The problem is that the hike—nicknamed "Stairway to Heaven"—is illegal and passes through private property in sections. At least five people were arrested for first-degree trespassing last month and lots more received warnings or lesser charges.

"The city was disappointed and dismayed to learn that so many individuals appear to have recklessly disregarded clear warnings that the project to dismantle the Ha'iku Stairs has begun, putting themselves—and, potentially, first responders—in harm's way," said a spokeswoman for the city of Honolulu. The Washington Post notes that rescues from the trail—the 3,922 stairs rise to 2,800 feet above sea level—have been unfortunately frequent. Between 2010 and October 2022, authorities rescued more than 100 people, per KHON, and just this September, a woman and her dog had to be airlifted out by helicopter after falling 50 feet.

The Ha'iku Stairs were built by the US Navy during World War II, but were officially closed in 1987. Honolulu's city council voted in 2021 to remove the steps, which attract an estimated 4,000 visitors each year. The council specifically cited social media for enticing people to make the trip, not only in sharing tips on how to get there but with the virality of "panoramic pictures that have encouraged people from around the world to take the hike." Removal has hit snags but is expected to get going in earnest following an evidentiary hearing on May 10, reports Hawaii News Now. (A town in Japan made a 'regrettable' move in regard to Mount Fuji.)

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