Skip to Content

The Haiku Stairs Mystery: What Happened to Daylenn Pua?

While disappearances on hiking trails are not uncommon, the case of Daylenn Pua is still a mystery. The teenager vanished while climbing the Haiku Stairs in Hawaii, never to be seen again.

He had sent photos from the hike to his family, and a man crouching in the bushes can be seen in one of them. Other hikers have heard cries for help in the days after his disappearance, but rescuers couldn’t locate the source.

Photograph of Daylenn Pua.

So, what really happened to Daylenn Pua during his hike in February 2015? Was it an accident, or someone else was involved in his disappearance?


Daylenn Pua, also known as Moke, was a teenager from South Kona, a district on the Big Island of Hawaii.

He was a senior at Ke Kula ‘O Ehunuikaimalino, an immersion school in Kealakekua. Daylenn dreamed of becoming a pastry chef and looked forward to applying to culinary school after graduation.

The friendly and outgoing teen loved spending time outdoors and enjoyed swimming and hiking. In addition, he was interested in photography and regularly posted on social media.

In February 2015, Daylenn was on a field trip to Oahu. The teen was staying with his grandmother, Martha Bear, in Waianae over the weekend.

An avid hiker, Daylenn wanted to visit Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven. The scenic route is a popular hiking trail even though the stairs are closed to the public.

While the entrance to the stairs is closed down and illegal to access, adventurers from around the globe don’t mind trespassing and taking a risk to experience this landmark.

What Are Haiku Stairs?

As World War II raged in Europe, the United States was fighting its battle on the Pacific Ocean. So, to communicate with the ships in the Pacific theater, the U.S. Navy started building the Haiku Radio Station in 1942.

Haiku Valley was selected as the location because of its topography. The military needed two steep mountains that were similar in height, with a valley between them.

It was a one-of-a-kind project in terms of construction, and the challenging terrain made it difficult to install the antennas across the valley.

Dense vegetation and lava rocks needed to be cleared, so the U.S. Navy received help from the civilians living in the area. However, the biggest challenge was the landscape surrounding the valley.

The cliffs were almost entirely vertical, and climbing them was difficult because of the muddy terrain. Therefore, the army personnel needed to come up with a solid plan.

Photograph of the Haiku Stairs from 2007. Image via Kirinwizard.

When they learned that two professional high scalers were currently in Red Hill, building another military facility, the U.S. Navy called and asked them to assist. Bill Adams and Louis Otto were courageous climbers who never backed down from a challenge.

Despite having minimal equipment, they conquered the eastern cliff of the valley within 21 days. Meanwhile, a transmitter building was erected on the Pali summit.

Haiku Radio Station was completed in December 1943. It used an Alexanderson alternator, allowing military personnel to send warnings and updates to vessels and submarines as far as Tokyo, thanks to its large antenna.

After the war, the U.S. Coast Guard used the radio station for Omega Navigation System. In the 1950s, the wooden stairs were replaced by metal ones, which made the station more accessible.

Local hikers would climb the 3,922 steps occasionally, but the trail wasn’t super popular. However, Haiku Stairs were featured in the popular show Magnum P.I. in the 1970s, and the visitation rate skyrocketed.

Realizing that most of these hikers were inexperienced, the Coast Guard eventually closed Haiku Stairs to the public in 1987. But that didn’t stop the trespassers who wanted to experience the stunning views of the valley.

In 2003, there were plans to make Haiku Stairs open to the public again, and the construction was repaired. But the idea never took off because of the dangerous terrain and unpredictable weather. Of course, trespassing continued despite the warnings from authorities.

In September 2021, the city council voted to have the stairs removed despite their popularity among hikers. The idea of rebuilding the structure and preserving the history of the place was dismissed.

The direct entrance to the stairs is in a residential neighborhood, and making it a tourist attraction would disrupt the people living there.

The Disappearance

On February 26th, 2015, Daylenn Pua talked with his grandmother and revealed he planned to hike in Moanalua Valley Park.

The teen mentioned the Haiku Stairs and was warned by his grandmother not to go there because he might be charged with criminal trespassing. Furthermore, one part of the trail had been washed out in a storm that hit the island two weeks prior.

But despite this warning, Daylenn was determined to conquer the 3,922 steps of Haiku Stairs. He grabbed his red backpack, left the house, and headed straight to the bus station in Waianae.

It was sometime before 11:00 am when Daylenn started walking up the steep ridge, and he posted social media updates along the way, including photos. He had sent several images directly to his family.

But when the teen failed to return to his grandmother’s home that evening, the woman was sure something had happened to her grandson.

Martha knew that Daylenn had attempted to climb the Haiku Stairs thanks to social media, so she contacted law enforcement immediately. An extensive search of the area was launched the following morning.

The area of Moanalua Valley Park was taken over by the Honolulu Fire Department, the U.S. Navy, Daylenn’s family, and volunteers, all hoping to find the teen as soon as possible. Drones and helicopters circled the trail, looking for any sign of Daylenn.

But rain had made the search efforts harder than expected, and the searchers couldn’t reach the location where Daylenn was last seen, according to his photos. Tracker dogs were on the trail, too, but they couldn’t pick up Daylenn’s scent because of the weather.

On Monday, March 2nd, 2015, a group of hikers climbing the Haiku Stairs in very windy conditions heard two cries for help from below the trail. They called 911, and a team of rescuers was sent to their location.

They searched the area where the voice came from but couldn’t go far down the ridge. Dense clouds made it impossible to hear any voices from any direction.

The efforts to rescue the teen continued until Tuesday, March 3rd, at 4:44 pm. Unwilling to give up, Daylenn’s family searched the Haiku Stairs for two more days with local volunteers.

Several searchers slipped and fell themselves, proving that the trail was dangerous even for experienced hikers. But no trace of the teen was ever recovered.


In the days following Daylenn’s disappearance, his family and friends analyzed the photos he had sent to them on the day of the hike. A couple of them were of the surrounding foliage and nature.

Shockingly, a man can be seen crouching in one of the images. This finding led his family to believe the teen was followed by someone and attacked on the trail.

Photograph taken by Daylenn shows a man amongst the foliage.

The image was shown to the officers at the Honolulu Police Department, who took a closer look and determined the man could be a person of interest.

Even if he had nothing to do with Daylenn’s vanishing, the man was also on the trail that day and perhaps could provide more information. An alert asking the public to identify him was issued.

There was no official statement from the police regarding the man’s identity. However, a Reddit user left a comment under the thread about Daylenn’s disappearance, stating that the man in the photo was his friend.

According to this user, his friend went to the police and identified himself. While we can’t know for sure if the commenter was telling the truth, law enforcement seems to believe that no foul play was involved in the vanishing of Daylenn Pua.

The predominant theory is that the teen had slipped and fell down the side of the trail. As previously mentioned, the stairs were closed to the public because of the instability of the structure.

Additionally, the previously mentioned storm resulted in a landslide, which left several hikers stranded on the trail on February 16th, 2015. Luckily, rescuers reached them in time.

If Daylenn slipped on the trail, the outcome was very likely fatal. The teen could’ve gotten injured and unable to get back up.

A couple reported seeing a light on the side of the mountain the night after Daylenn’s disappearance. It is possible he was using the flashlight on his iPhone, but we can’t be sure that it was him because some hikers like to climb in low visibility conditions.

Almost ten years have passed since Daylenn Pua vanished on the Haiku Stairs, and his body was never recovered. His family and friends continued looking for him on the trail but never found any clues. His phone and backpack were never stumbled upon by other hikers.

What happened to the 18-year-old on that February day in 2015 remains unknown to this day.


Leave a comment

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