Hawaii is known for its natural beauty. From its gorgeous sandy beaches to the volcanoes and more, tourists (and natives) have many opportunities to get lost in the islands’ breathtaking views.
But there’s one attraction forbidden from tourists, and that’s the Haiku Stairs. Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, this 3,922-step stairwell would be the perfect destination for tourists who wish to see Hawaii unlike ever before.
So, what’s the real story behind these mysterious stairs? And why is it illegal for tourists to visit them?
Originated During World War II
If you haven’t heard about the Haiku Stairs until now, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s a hidden gem in history, but the natural site has existed much longer than you might think.
After the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, the United States Navy built a radio station in Haiku Valley on Hawaii’s O’ahu island. The top-secret plan was intended to enhance military communications, an essential need following the devastating attack during World War II.
But in order to build the radio station, construction workers had to suspend the massive antenna between two mountain walls rising as vertically as possible. With a similar height of 2,000 feet and flat land in between, the Haiku Valley was the perfect location as it created a natural amphitheater to amplify the signal. It would be difficult to climb toward the station; therefore, workers created a stairway to help, which ultimately led to the historic Haiku Stairs.
Offering The Most Gorgeous Views Ever
If you’re lucky enough to gain access to the Haiku Stairs, you will want to spend all day at the site. Nestled between Hawaii’s natural vegetation, adventurers would be surrounded by mango and palm trees, lilies, ferns, and more.
With a view like this, it’s not surprising large groups of tourists would flock to the stairs to see the view for themselves. But not everyone was happy with this sudden increase in popularity.
Closing Down For Safety
The Haiku Stairs first opened to the public in 1975 by the U.S. Coast Guard. But due to immense popularity, the stairs were closed to tourists in 1987 because of vandalism and safety concerns. Many tourists understood the new regulations, but in the age of social media, tourists have wanted to trek to the stairs for the perfect Instagram selfie.
This isn’t safe, which is why the Coast Guard closed the stairs. For example, a 2015 storm left the stairway rugged and dangerous to traverse. The Board of Water Supply works hard to protect the stairs, spending $170,000 per year to place guards on the stairs. If you’re caught trespassing, you could expect a fine of up to $1,000 and a court date. On top of that, local residents have booby-trapped their property to prevent trespassers from reaching the stairs.
Don’t think Hawaiian locals are frustrated with the popularity of the Haiku Stairs. They are, but they would never think of demolishing the stairway. After all, it’s a unique part of history. Instead, locals united to form the Friends of Haiku Stairs, an organization of volunteers who work together to protect the stairs. This is all in hopes of eventually restoring the Stairway to Heaven to its original beauty.