Paradise in the Pacific: Hiking Oahu's Diamond Head
It had been more than two days since I left the East Coast — all 15 hours of plane flights and 8 hours of recuperating on the beach — and I needed some exercise. Both to build up a suitable beach body and as a safeguard against the thousands of calories I'd planned to cram down my gullet while exploring the Aloha State.
From my perch in Waikiki, I can see the regal brow of Diamond Head Crater (known as Leʻahi among the locals). After catching sight of what they thought were diamonds reflecting from its slopes, British sailers coined the volcanic crater's English name before discovering those "gems" were actually calcite crystals.
At the top of the mountain sits Diamond Head State Monument. Built in 1908 as part of O'ahu's coastal defense system, the summit includes views of old bunkers and the original Fire Control Station, which directed artillery fire from batteries in Waikiki and Fort Ruger.
Although it's fairly steep, I thought the easy 1.6-mile-roundtrip hike would be a nice introduction to Hawaii's history and would offer a great first glimpse of Honolulu.
The 0.8-mile hike to the top begins after entering the interior of the crater via a military tunnel.
From the parking lot, a series of switchbacks and dizzying staircases take you up the 760-foot summit, where you emerge from within the chilly confines of a World War II bunker.
How We Did It
- Go early! Not only will you beat the tourists, but you'll escape the blistering heat of Hawaii's midday sun.
- Bring cash. There is a $1 park entrance fee for pedestrians and a $5 car entry fee. There is also a souvenir stand within the park along with a food truck, which sells bottled water, shave ice, hamburgers and hot dogs.
- Wear sunscreen. The hike may be an hour or less, but there is little to no shade while you're ascending/ descending. Practice good skincare and use an SPF 30 or higher.
- Water, water, water. Bring a water bottle or CamelBak to stay hydrated throughout the hike.
- Leave the slippers (i.e. flip flops) at home. I can't tell you how many people I saw wearing inappropriate clothing and/ or footwear. The paths are rocky and can get fairly steep. Especially if your legs are tired after all those stairs, your flip flops can easily get caught on rocks or steps causing you to trip. Don't be that guy. You can get away with sneakers or hiking shoes, but this isn't the terrain to wear your sandals.
- Bring a camera! The views of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu are spectacular.
The entrance is off Diamond Head Road between Makapu’u Avenue and 18th Avenue in Honolulu.
From the parking lot on the crater floor, the trail to the summit is 0.8 mile (1.3 km) one way and climbs 560 feet (171 m) in elevation. There is a paved concrete walkway for a distance of 0.2 miles at the start of the hike. Portions of the trail involve steep stairways, while another portion of the trail goes through a narrow, lighted tunnel.