Koko Crater Tramway Stairs & Terrible Ideas: It’s All Fun and Pain Until Someone Gets Hurt. Wait, What…?

There should be a list of things not to do the day after one has blown their quads, and going up the Koko Crater Tramway stairs should be very high on that list. How can I tell? Because, after destroying my quads on K2, I headed out to Koko Crater the very next day.

Koko Crater is a cinder cone near Hanauma Bay. This roughly 7,000 years old, tallest, and best-preserved cinder and ash cone, juts up above the rest of the surrounding land like an impressive candy corn piece and one look at it might discourage any attempt at summiting it even before it had begun. Under the scorching sun, armed with nothing more than sunscreen and a bottle of water, I’d decided I’d go up, anyway.

A view of Hanauma Bay & Koko Crater

The secret to getting up the tramway stairs is rhythm. Crawling up on all fours is what I wanted to do, especially when the already steep staircase got, seemingly impossibly, even steeper. However, pushing up in a rhythm of steps, even though I was breathing like an old locomotive, proved to be easier and less discouraging, even with the often-needed breaks.

By the time I was halfway up, my cotton shirt (yes, sweet mother of my god, I wore cotton) sported a deep v-shaped sweat mark down its front and adjacent moon-shaped sweat patches under my arms. By the time I reached the top, praying for even the slightest ocean breeze but secretly hoping for death, my shirt sported a very chic ombre of sweat halfway to the bottom hem.

Looking down the tramway stairs from about halfway up

Oh boy, if it wasn’t worth it tho! The views were gorgeous, the 32,000 years old Hanauma Bay could fit in my palm, and the southern coast of O’ahu spread far and wide on the background of even wider ocean.

Despite my sweaty appearance of a madman who didn’t know the first thing about walking anywhere else than on city streets, I made acquaintance with two other travelers and offered a minty candy to a third. She wanted something to cool off so I offered her the candy, saying it wouldn’t cool her down but would at least trick her into thinking there was anything cool about what we were doing. Laughing, she accepted it, even though I think she either laughed out of politeness or slight heatstroke.

Looking out into the ocean from the top of Koko Crater

I punished my legs once more (and more) on the way down. Once again, rhythm was the name of the game, otherwise, I’d certainly lost my footing and rolled all the way down. On my way down, I met Andrew who, for whatever inexplicable reason gathered that I was a runner (I looked as far from a runner as I could in my outfit) and, as I was passing him, asked, “Have you run HURT?”

I told him I’d done the trail a few days earlier but hadn’t run the actual race and convinced him that he definitely should head out and give the course a try. I might have said something about it being an absolute blast and realized only very later that not everyone is an idiot like me and therefore not everyone enjoys technical trails that seem to exist for the sole purpose of breaking one’s ankles.

I walked all the way to the nearest bus stop that I knew and grabbed two malasadas from a food truck that stood there, which was, in all honesty, an absolute treat. One was filled with custard and the other was a good ole’ plain malasada and both were a song to my taste buds. I arrived back at my friend’s place when it was dark already, having caught the last bus (thank god I caught it at all).

Leonard’s Bakery Truck

Overall, the trip was a success, if your definition of success is not swimming in Hanauma Bay but instead destroying your glutes, quads, and everything else on a set of stairs that probably shouldn’t exist for the sake of every other idiot like me who tries to go up a day after they crawled on a steep ridgeline which they nearly got blown off by a storm.

Now, I must admit that, in all honesty, the climb up to the top of Koko Crater is more than worth it and that you should totally, absolutely do it. I can promise you, it’ll be something you won’t forget even if you try to.

Running on the HURT course was all fun and pain until I got hurt. Wait… what?

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