The Koko Crater Rim Trail is a great alternative to the busy Koko Head Stairs, offering the same views with a more challenging ridge hike. The trailhead can be accessed from the parking lot of the Koko Head Botanical Gardens. Finding the trails can be difficult because they are often overgrown and unmaintained. The trail can also be accessed from the summit of the Koko Head Stairs or at the intersection of the ridge trail above the Koko Crater Arch.
The lower sections of the rim trail ascend quickly through dry scrub, tall grass, and thorny kiawe trees, gaining either the western or eastern ridgelines within a half-mile from the trailhead. The eastern ridgeline is easier and more maintained.
Along the ridges you will see plant life adapted to living on this dry side of Oahu. Following the eastern ridge, views of Makapu'u, Sandy Beach, and the surrounding coastline are plentiful, and on clear days you can see all the way to the neighboring islands of Maui and Lanai. Further up the eastern rim is a sharp peak that marks the intersection with the Koko Arch Trail. Continuing up toward the summit, hikers will be confronted with narrow ridges with steep drops on either side. Use caution as the wind can be strong along these sections.
The summit is roughly a mile into the eastern ridge, where panoramic views of the entire south side of Oahu are simply breathtaking. Here, remnant bunkers from the military radar facility and the popular Koko Head Stairs tramway can be seen. Descend the way you came or continue along the western rim to complete the loop trail. Use caution along the western rim; the trail is narrow and difficult to follow in places.
The ancient Hawaiian name for Koko Head was Kohelepelepe, meaning the inner lips of the vagina. According to a racy legend, the Big Island goddess Kapo had a flying vagina. She flung it across the island to distract the demigod Kamapua'a, who was infatuated with the goddess's sister, Pele. Kamapua'a left Pele alone and followed the airborne kohe, which landed at Koko Head and created a crater. Henceforth, the crater was named Kohelepelepe. Today, it is more popularly known as Koko Head.
This strenuous hike requires careful footing and plenty of wayfinding through unmaintained and overgrown trail.