Exploring Koko Head Crater

Also known as Kohelepelepe, Koko Crater is a tuff cone that rises 1,208 feet into the air. One of the most popular landmarks on the south shore of Oahu, the crater can be seen from quite a distance while hiking the trail that leads to its peak. The natural attraction should not be confused with the smaller tuff cone located nearby with a similar name of Koko Head, which is 642 feet in height. The two features together and the surrounding land offer ample opportunity to explore the great outdoors while enjoying the scenic beauty.

Getting Situated

Located on the east side of Maunalua Bay, Koko Head is the headland that defines the southeastern side of Oahu. The community of Portlock is located on the western slope of the ancient tuff cone, which experienced its last eruption 30,000 to 35,000 years ago. Koko Head boasts three significant depressions or old vents, with the largest being Hanauma Bay.

The scenic Koko Head Regional Park is located at the eastern end of Oahu. Administered by the City & Council of Honolulu, the park includes the natural areas and formations located between Koko Head and the eastern end of the island. Some of the features found within the park include:

  • Halona Blowhole: A large blowhole in the rocky shore featuring a large pull-out/parking area.
  • Halona Cove: Located adjacent to the Halona Blowhole, Halona Cove is best known for being the site of the love scene between Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity.
  • Hanauma Bay: A tuff ring that is breached by the ocean. One of the most popular attractions on the island, the bay is home to about 400 species of fish. The bay is also known for its abundance of Green sea turtles and parrotfish.
  • Koko Crater: A large tuff cone that towers over Koko Head. The Koko Crater Botanical Garden, which specializes in cacti and succulents, and horse stables are located inside of the crater.
  • Lanai Lookout: A scenic lookout offering a distant view of the Island of Lanai, which is located to the southwest of Oahu and directly across the Kaiwi Channel.
  • Sandy Beach: Popular for surfing, kite flying and extreme water sports. The beach is not recommended for casual swimming due to the shore break that breaks close to the shore and the consistent barrels along the beach. Rip currents are also present during high surf.

Visiting Koko Crater

Hiking to Koko Crater is certainly an adventure. In fact, to reach the lookout point, you have to climb 1,048 stairs. Originally built more than 60 years ago, the stairs are quite steep. The path also features a short bridge-like area that can be a bit hairy to cross. Due to the number of stairs that have to be traversed on the trail, it is important to bring plenty of water, to apply sunscreen and to wear good shoes before heading out to the crater. It is also best to hike in the early morning before the sun gets too hot. The trail takes most visitors 30 minutes to an hour to complete.

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