A visit to Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii
There’s nothing like doing your first hike in Oahu and a visit to Diamond Head is always a good start even if you’ve done the hike several times. Diamond Head is such an iconic landmark in Honolulu, jutting out from Kapiolani park with magnificent presence as an extinct crater that punctuates the Honolulu skyline. You must experience the hike and amazing views from the top of Diamond Head (LĒ‘AHI).
A History of Diamond Head
Diamond Head has such a rich and cultural history on Oahu and the ancient Hawaiian civilization. Created between 400,000 to 500,000 years ago from the Koʻolau Volcano that created this crater along with other landmarks like Koko Head, and Punchbowl crater.
Named by Native Hawaiians as Lē‘ahi, the crater is both historic and spiritual with many ceremonies that took place on the slopes of Diamond Head that involved both sacrifice rituals of animals and humans. Named to depict the actual shape of the forehead of a tuna fish (Le meaning head and Ahi is a local tuna), Diamond Head takes on that appearance and is named appropriately by the ancient peoples.
In 1895 a bloody battle occurred on the slopes of Diamond Head that pitted the loyalist Rebels to avenge the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. The provincial government fought with the rebels on the slopes in a battle that was eventually quelled and eventually Diamond was converted into a military base with tunnels, barracks and bunkers placed in strategic spots around the rim for protecting the city from above. A trail was created in 1908 to reach the rim and bunkers which were part of the fortifications that protected the city and coastal defense system. It is the same trail that you can use now to hike to the top and visit some of the tunnels to reach the observation areas and bunkers located on top.
After statehood in 1959, developers were eager to convert the base into ideal developments and resorts and the local population was very vocal in protecting this sacred landscape. Thanks to the hard work and effort to prevent any development around the crater, the activists helped to preserve the entire crater that eventually has been designated as a state monument.
Visiting Diamond Head State Monument
Today Diamond Head is one of the most popular attraction and activities to climb to the top to view the panoramic landscapes below of Honolulu and the eastern windward communities and coastlines. Diamond Head State Monument was established in 1965 with the legislature designating the park as a historic site for all to visit. The park has been run by the State parks division which maintains the area, runs the visitors center and concessions for visitors to enjoy and safely hike to the top of Diamond Head.
Hiking Diamond Head
The hike roundtrip is about 1.6 miles roundtrip with an incline of 560 feet from the base to the rim areas. The start is on paved trail for about .2miles until you reach the crater base when it becomes a gravel and uneven terrain on the trail with switchbacks around the rim. The trail is well marked and easy to follow on the way up to the rim.
If you need a break, there are nice lookout points along the way and some benches to rest in the more challenging parts of the climb.
It is more challenging in the top third of the climb with a walk through a cool tunnel and a staircase to reach the observation areas. The hike is mostly exposed, sunny and hot so bring sunscreen, hat and coverings especially in the hot times of the day when thousands come to visit the park daily.
The average time to reach the top takes about 45 minutes and 30 minutes going back down and there is a nice detour along the rim going downhill with further views of the windward side of the island. The detour connects back to the main trail and leads back to the visitors center.
The visitor’s center offers a fantastic audio tour that is self guided for $4. This tour shares the fascinating history, geological, cultural presence of Diamond Head in the area and is a fantastic overview of this historic site and its development.
How to get to Diamond Head
There are many ways to get to the Diamond Head park entrance either by driving yourself or taking any of these other methods below:
You can drive to the park and parking lot yourself, entry to parking is $10 per vehicle.
You can also take a local bus 23 from Waikiki to the park entrance, you have to walk uphill yourself to the visitors entrance to get to Diamond Head
Uber directly into the park entrance, you can also book Uber back from the park entrance.
The Waikiki trolley system also comes directly into the park if you have a pass for the trolley to visit all the main attractions around the city.
There are rideshare/taxi options to also get you to the park if you want more direct and fast service to Diamond Head.
Other things to do close to Diamond Head
After you are done exploring Diamond Head and looking for other fun things to explore in the area, check out:
Interesting trivia and details to visiting Diamond Head
Cool trivia about Diamond Head
In the 60s and 70s, the crater held some special concerts with a local radio station and promoted celebrity performers including: Santana, Buddy Miles and even Linda Ronstadt, the Steve Miller Band and Fleetwood Mac along with other performers late in the 2006-2007 era in a revival of music in the crater. This was eventually stopped when the park system focused more on public visits to the park and observation areas which were becoming a major tourist attraction.
Hours to visiting
The park is open from 6am to 4pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. Last entry to the park is at 4pm.
Entry fee – $10 per vehicle to park and $5 per person if you walk in or take the bus or other transportation into the park. Pay at the entrance and admission is cash only basis.
**Masks are required to visiting the entire park where crowds climbing and walking the trail make for difficult social distancing in many areas of the climb to the rim. There is signage on the trail to show how to effectively social distance while you are hiking.
The self guided audio tour can be purchased at the visitors center and their is signage along the hike on what you are seeing along the way that highlights a facet of your visit. (audio guides are $4)
There are a series of stairs to climb on the hike so you do have to be alert on this especially sharing the stairs going both uphill and downhill.
There are food trucks and other concessions around the parking area serving up some treats, cheap bento boxes and cold drinks including Dole whips.
The park is busy from 8am to 4pm so to avoid crowds come earlier or later in the afternoon prior to closing.
The hike area is exposed so bring enough water, sunscreen and coverings from the intense heat and sun
To plan a visit to the park check out the main state park website here for more information and details. There’s is a free brochure that you can take that shares more information about visiting the park
At the base area are grassy areas, benches and picnic areas to hang out in before or after your hike and restroom facilities next to the trail head.
Check out this cool and fun video exploring Diamond Head
Conclusion to hiking Diamond Head
For an easy hike with spectacular views of the area, exploring the rim areas and bunker and other unique facets to exploring the southeastern part Honolulu, a Diamond Head hike delivers.
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