Hawaii to Remove Banned Tourist Attraction at Cost of $2.5 Million Following Persistent Trespassing

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Jstan2000 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo Credit: Jstan2000 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Hawaii is a beautiful US state that sees approximately 6 million tourists every year. Known for its beaches and its hiking trails, visitors love to explore the islands and take in all the sights that they have to offer. However, there is one viewpoint that has banned visitors for decades and, despite warnings, continues to see thousands of tourists. Now, the city council is having the attraction removed for good.

Tourists have been banned from visiting the Haiku Stairs

A tourist walks down a steep flight of stairs on a mountain.
The stairs are extremely steep and pose a danger to those who trespass. (Photo Credit: Hawai Foto / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

One of the major attractions tourists visit in Hawaii, which has been known to see up to 20,000 people each year, isn’t actually even open to the public. The Haiku Stairs, also known as the “Stairway to Heaven,” have been closed off to the public since 1987. These stairs were originally built by the US Navy in 1942 following the construction of the top-secret Haiku Radio Station, a facility used to send radio signals to passing ships.

In order to reach the necessary heights to build the station’s antennae, the Haiku Stairs were constructed. However, they were closed off to the public in 1987 as their steepness has long been a danger to visitors. Despite the numerous ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted, local officials have been unable to keep tourists away from the stairs. In the past, several people have been caught, and some even arrested for visiting the Haiku Stairs, and in 2012, comedian Fritz Hasenpusch actually died from a heart attack after trying to climb the 3,922 steps to the top.

The stairs pose a serious threat to tourists, and as such, the Honolulu government has confirmed that the Haiku Stairs will officially be removed.

There is more than one way to reach the point

A woman walking steps on a Hawaiian mountaintop.
A tourist walks the Haiku Stairs. (Photo Credit: Kalen Emsley / Wikimedia Commons CC0)

Unfortunately, the Haiku Stairs are not the only way to access the viewpoint at the top of the mountain. There is another, more difficult, and longer path to reach the top located along the Moanalua Ridge. This path tests visitors even more than the Haiku Stairs, and as a result, many have had to be rescued by local authorities. By cutting off access to the viewpoint via the Haiku Stairs, perhaps tourists will be less willing to make the trek to the viewpoint via the Moanalua Ridge.

Honolulu City Council member Esther Kai’āina explained that “Due to rampant illegal trespassing, Haiku Stairs is a significant liability and expense for the city, and impacts the quality of life for nearby residents.” The Mayor, Rick Blangiardi, agreed, saying, “this decision that was made was predicated upon our respect for the people who live in and around the entrance to the stairs, our respect for our ʻāina [land and sea], and our respect for both the future and the past history of the culture of the Haʻikū community,”

Removing the attraction

Stairs up a foggy mountain.
The stair removal process began in the spring of 2024. (Photo Credit: Kirinwizard / English Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

The decision to have the Haiku Stairs removed was reached back in 2021 by the local council, but it is only in 2024 that the removal process has begun. The process of their removal isn’t an easy feat, either, as it will require one 700-foot section at a time to be taken away by helicopter. Additionally, it’ll be an expensive task, costing the city a whopping $2.5 million.

However, the council is confident in their decision. Importantly, the decision to remove the stairs “…prioritizes public safety, seeks to stop illegal trespassing on the stairs and nearby neighbors who have dealt with decades of disruptions and disturbances, addresses significant liability for the city, preserves the natural beauty and condition of the area and improves the quality of life for neighborhood residents in the area.” they said.

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What will happen to the stairs following their removal has yet to be determined.