Hawaii Travel: Visiting and Hiking Diamond Head National Park ~ Oahu, Hawaii

Visiting Diamond Head National Park hotel view
This post is meant to help those who are wondering if visiting and hiking Diamond Head National Park on the the island of Oahu, Hawaii is an option. Pictures of the terrain and summit will let you decide for yourself.

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.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park  1st part of trail
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!!???

Visiting Diamond Head National Park trail
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.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park upward trail
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.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park benches
There are a few places to rest on the trail but they are few and far between.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park first set of stairs
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.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park views
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.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park reaching the summit
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.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park  bunker
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. 

Visiting Diamond Head National Park food truck
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.

Visiting Diamond Head National Park
The view of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach.

Diamond Head CollageAllow 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.

Three Years Ago: Fresh Corn and Chicken Chowder
Four Years Ago: Sitting and Waiting
Five Years Ago: Supper Club!

Post a Comment

17 Comments and 8 Replies

  1. chris 1

    I did that hike years ago… aren’t those bunkers the coolest? There is a lot of history on Oahu.. Go on the Doris Duke tour… you will love her mansion as well as the collection.. Eccentricity is definitely the word for her.

  2. chris 3

    forgot to mention there are a lot of local hikes… Manoa Falls hike is in a residential section.. Rainforest galore! its beautiful… Also there’s a hawaii kai hike that at the top u can see all of the western side of Oahu…that too is in a residential section- its a local’s hike.

  3. Erin 7

    Absolutely breathtaking!

  4. I have never done this hike because I have always been afraid of those tunnels – since they now have lights I might just have to brave it next time I am there…

    • Cathy 9

      I know. The first time I thought it was crazy because you could not see light at the other end. But the first tunnel is now well lit and you can bypass the second which I would recommend.

  5. June g. 10

    We did the hike a few years ago. I thought I was going to pass out and my lungs were going to explode! It was sooo worth it. I was amazed at some of the hikers with babies in backpacks. Thanks for the gorgeous photos, we loved our trip:) I hope to get back again.

  6. Reeza 11

    Oh my gosh I just came home from Hawaii yesterday! Now back in snowy Alberta Canada! LOL When were you guys in HI?

  7. Hapa Couple 13

    Glad you enjoyed the hike and our island home! We take visitors there whenever they are in town. Once in a while for exercise my friends and I will park outside the park and hike in from there. I agree with Chris on the Hawaii Kai hike, it’s called the Mariner’s Ridge hike…it’s free and the views of the windward side are amazing. Manoa Falls is another beautiful one as well as the ones in Lyon Arboretum (same area as Manoa Falls)…we live not too far from Manoa Falls.

  8. I may or may not be stalking your blog for Hawaii ideas! haha

  9. Wow! What an amazing hike! :) And that is one busy trail. But so worth it for those views! I swear, one day I am going to make it to Hawaii. ;)

  10. Hawaii is the greatest place on earth! I am convinced. This looks like a worthy trail! Never knew before. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Deborah 17

    I would love this hike! That is a lot of people, but I definitely think those views are worth it!

  12. Lindsay 18

    This looks amazing! I have to send this post to my mom. She’s going to Hawaii in the fall. I’m so jealous! lol!

  13. Lauren 19

    How lovely!! Now I need to make it to Hawaii to go on a hike ;)

  14. Marc 20

    This is a great hike. I haven’t done that but its on my bucket list. My wife said it was a great climb. I see its been climbed by so many people. :)

  15. Jill Ditzel 21

    Can you do this hike on your own, or do you need a tour guide? Seems like a guide would be an added expense not really needed……

  16. Doug 23

    Okay – How difficult is the hike? I heard one guy mention his lungs were about to burst! Is it a difficult hike?

  17. Becky 25

    Is it good to go at 6am or is it too dark still? When does the sun usually come up? My husband and I are looking to go to Hawaii for the first time for our 25th anniversary October 2017 and would like to do this hike.



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