Diamond Head is just about the most prominent landmark visible when you are in Honolulu and Waikiki on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. As you lay on the beach, it is a great reminder that the beautiful Hawaiian Islands were all formed from volcanoes. It’s kind of amazing. Diamond Head crater itself is said to have formed with a single, brief eruption about 300,000 years ago.
My boys were dying to get to the top of the crater on our last trip to Hawaii. This was my third time taking the historic trail to the summit. And it had been about twelve years since I had done it last. To my surprise the trail had been improved since my last visit. The tunnels are now lit and the crazy spiral staircase can now be bypassed.
Overall this is not an extremely difficult hike if you are prepared. It is only 1.5 miles round trip. However, the trail to the top is uneven and steep, with lots of stairs, make sure you are wearing the appropriate shoes. I saw so many people wearing thin sandals and wedge heels. I can’t even imagine how uncomfortable this could be, not to mention how easy to twist your ankle. And don’t forget a water bottle for everyone on the hike. Hawaii, is warm and humid. Water is a necessity when it comes to getting to the top.
The beginning of this trail is on a meandering concrete pathway. As you can see this hike is quite popular, with lots of visitors. If you are walking slow, let others pass, especially the ones who insist on running to the top!!???
The trail turns to a dirt-concrete path to the top. This is where it becomes very uneven in places and slippery if it’s raining. In most places there is enough room for people going up and down to pass each other. However, you may have squeeze by each other in other areas of the trail as this path does narrow.
Here you can really see the ascending switchbacks, it reminds me of a mine. Luckily the climb to the top is “somewhat” gracious in its curves so it’s not too bad. But you do need to be in decent shape to make it to the top.
There are a few places to rest on the trail but they are few and far between.
This is the first set of stairs up to the first tunnel. There are 74 steps and the tunnel is about 225 feet long. The last time I was on this hike the tunnel was not lit and completely dark. We felt our way through it and honestly it was a little unnerving. We brought flashlights this time but didn’t need them as lights have now been installed.
When you exit this tunnel you have a choice to turn right and go up another set of stairs (99 steps) and into another tunnel (which is now lit). And there is another set of 52 steps inside up a spiral staircase. Honestly I do not like going this way, it’s a little cramped. You can now bypass this by going straight when you exit the first tunnel and going around to the left. There are still lots of stairs to the top but you are outside with beautiful scenery.
On your way to the summit you will be rewarded with some amazing, panoramic views. This particular day was rainy and overcast in the morning so the water does not look as blue, but it sure was cooler getting to the top. Regardless of the weather, don’t forget your sunscreen.
But I have been to the top on some glorious sunny days and the scenery is just spectacular. At the top you will have sweeping views of the southeastern Oahu coastline towards Koko Head and the offshore islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui.
These are the final set of stairs to the top of the summit if you choose not to go through the second tunnel. They are steep. I think it’s about 82 steps. Gorgeous views await.
The government purchased Diamond Head in 1904 and is was designated for military use. Many batteries were built to house coastal artillery and its construction was considered an engineering marvel of its time. The military history is quite fascinating if you are into that sort of thing.
The picture above is one of the bunkers/lookouts at the summit. Yes you can go inside and see it all.
Since Diamond Head is a National Park, there are bathrooms and drinking fountains once you enter and park the car.
After our hike this particular food truck was there selling refreshments. However, I have no idea if it’s always around or what hours it keeps. They have a very limited menu but the burgers and guava smoothies were great. There are lots of picnic tables around if you want to bring your own lunch.
The view of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach.
Allow two hours for the total hike. The park is open from 6 AM to 6 PM but the last time to start a hike is 4:30 PM. It’s $5 to park the car or a $1 to walk in. The parking lot does fill up and you may have to wait.
Anyone else done this hike? Would love to hear about your experience.