Koko Crater – Makai Side Rim Trail Descend

Now that we’ve done and completed the Koko Crater Stairs Trail on numerous occasions, it was time that we explored the crater rim. The stairs trail is a great and relatively safe cardio workout, however, the Koko Crater Rim Trail is perfect for those looking to get their adrenaline pumping while navigating narrow trails, and doing some rock climbing.

Now, there are a few ways that you can go about and tackle this trail. Most people will start from the bottom of the makai (toward the ocean) side / east side of the crater and then work their way up to the top lookout point of the crater.

Our plan was to start with the typical ascend up the Koko Crater Stairs before sunrise, reach the top to see the sunrise over Hawaii Kai, descend down the makai side of the crater rim, ascend up the mauka side of the crater rim back to the lookout and then walk back down the crater stairs. We started going up the stairs at 5:15 am. Surprisingly, the moon and the city lights were enough for us to navigate up with the use of our flashlights. We reached the top of the stairs at 5:41 am. I’m pretty proud of the 26 minutes climb to the top – my record so far! When we reached the top of the lookout, the sun was just about working its way up – it was a beautiful sight.

A beautiful shot from the rim of Koko Head Crater. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

After enjoying the sunrise, we began our descent down the east crater rim. The trickiest part was definitely the start of the descent. The rock here is pretty loose and there are some real narrow sections (see video below) to the rim. Once you get past the first section going down, the trail get a bit easier.

As you walk down the rim, you’ll get some world class views of Sandy Beach (to the right) and inside the crater (to the left). If you look back you can see the locals and tourists staring down at you from the top of the lookout. The views are pretty cool.

Amazing shot with the sunrise in the back ground. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

As we navigated down the east trail, we noticed that the winds were getting a bit stronger and we noticed some ominous clouds over the mauka (towards the mountain) side of the rim. So we made the decision to finish off the makai rim trail and then call it a day. Now, there are two starting points when beginning the makai rim trail. One starts at the Koko Crater Botanical Garden located within the rim and the other starts at a natural arch. We terminated the makai trail via the botanical garden. I tried looking for the natural arch but couldn’t find it. Next time I’ll find it.

This was also the first time that I used my new GoPro HD Helmet HERO Camera. I used the headstrap mount and recorded the descent the down the east side of the rim. I thought about recording the initial ascent up the stairs trail but figured that the lack of light (pre-sunrise) would make the recording pretty worthless. Be sure to check out the video that I put together documenting our experience going down the crater rim.

Koko Crater Makai Side Rim Trail Tips:

  • My Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek Sport’s worked very well on this particular hike.
  • If you decide to climb up the stairs first then be sure to bring water with you, the hike up can be quite strenuous.
  • There are a ton of dry plants, shrubbery, and cacti, so it’s a good idea to wear long pants on this hike.
  • You’ll do some light climbing and grabbing on to branches, shrubs and rock so a pair of gloves would be a good idea.
  • Review Marvin’s write up of the Koko Head Crater Stairs Trail.

Explorers: Marvin Chandra and Coty Gonzales.

Marvin worked his way into a little hole on the side of the rim. There was a huge dropoff here, so one slip and that would have been the end of Marvin. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Aloe arborescens (shrub aloe) found on Koko Crater Rim. Thanks for the tip Mark! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Excellent view of the ocean and the path down the east side of the crater rim. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Owling at Koko Head Crater Makai Rim. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

Marvin looking out at the distance. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Lion King wannabe. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

All fun hikes fulfill this criteria. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.


  1. Hi Coty! I stumbled upon your site trying to do more research on this koko crater rim hike. I’m planning to do it on Sat, and I have to say, I’m pretty nervous about it. I’m not an avid hiker, but I’ve done a good amount I think (a lot of the easier one’s :p). Is it really hard?

    • HI there tiff! The Koko Crater rim hike is not too bad. There are a couple of ways that you can tame this beast. The route mentioned in this blog post involves first going up the tracks and then one at the top, turning right onto the rim (ocean side). From the top, you could also turn left and work your way around in a clockwise fashion.

      I’ve done both sides of the rim and I an say that’s it’s not too bad. I’d say start by going makai first (turning right at the summit, going in a counter-clockwise fashion). There’s one section at the very beging that is a bit narrow but very doable.

      One factor that increases the difficulty of this hike is wind. It can get very windy at the top which can affect your balance. Please be cautions if it becomes too windy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *