Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,050.00 ft (320.04 m)
Trail type
2.50 mi (4.02 km)
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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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Amazing views. Physically challenging.


Hot. No shade. Difficult to find.

Trailhead Elevation

150.00 ft (45.72 m)


Big vistas



As mentioned above, the two trailheads accessible near the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens can be difficult to find and the trail was extremely overgrown when we went on 4/4/2021. I definitely recommend long pants and good hiking shoes. We parked in the Kokohead Botanical Gardens parking and spent a good 10 minutes trying to find the two separate trailheads on both the west and eastern sides. We ended up finding the start of the most difficult ridge first (the side closest to Hawaii Kai). We found that trailhead by walking into the Botanical Gardens and veering right to go up a small hill that advised "no walking past this point." We found the start of the trail by chance somewhere to our left (there is A LOT of unkept brush to walk through on both sides of this hike, and therefor it is difficult to see the actual trail). Not long after started, we passed a headstone, so if you find the headstone, you're on the right path, as strange as that sounds. As we made our way up the incline, we got to a point that we would have had to scramble up with very little trail and very little room for error. We decided to make our way down at that point and try to find the other, more recommended trailhead via the gardens, as I didn't feel experienced enough to try the scramble (we later saw another couple turn around right where we had).

We eventually found the makai (towards the ocean) trailhead next to the three car parking lot right before the actual Koko Crater Botanical Gardens parking lot. The trailhead was in between the two No Parking signs and was "marked" with two large rocks. It will seem like you are not on the trail as the grass is VERY tall. Overall, I would stay the trail can be difficult not only to find but to follow (we managed to get lost on the way back, making our way down another unmaintained side trail). Hopefully this in depth description can help someone else prepare and able to find the trail a bit more easily!

-This hike is not for the faint of heart or anyone not willing to do a little bouldering/romping through the tall grass
-The incredible views make it worth the while
-Wouldn't recommend for kids or anyone afraid of heights
-Start on the makai (ocean side) trailhead and trace your way back before the narrow scramble on the Hawaii Kai side of the rim.
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