If you enjoy hiking to a rewarding view, then you’ll love hiking to the top of Diamond Head on Oahu. The photo above shows the view of Honolulu from the top of the crater. You can see all the photos we took from this trail here.
A Bit of History about Diamond Head (Le’ahi)
The Hawaiian name of this crater is Le’ahi. Hawaiian legend says that Pele’s sister, Hi’iaka gave the name to the crater because the summit resembles the forehead (lae) of the ahi (tuna) fish. Another translation is “fire headland” which may refer to the fires that were lit on the summit to assist canoes traveling along the shoreline.
So, how did the crater get the name Diamond Head? Western traders and explorers who came to Oahu in the lat 1700’s found rocks that resembled diamonds. They must have thought they’d struck it rich, but actually the rocks were only calcite crystals.
This historic trail was built in 1908 as part of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery defense system. The view from the summit was ideal for identifying potential sea and air attacks. Diamond Head was fully prepared to defend Oahu from attack, but no artillery was ever fired during a war. The summit was also used as an fire observation station.
Though the view of Diamond Head from Waikiki appears to be within walking distance, it would be a much longer trek than you’d realize. Access to the trail from the crater floor is actually somewhat on the other side of the crater from Waikiki.
If you have a rental car, I recommend that you drive it to the crater floor parking lot at the trail head. There are two ways around the crater. I prefer the more scenic route that hugs the coastline. That would be Kalakaua Avenue bearing right along the way to Diamond Head Road. (See this Google Map to better visualize this route.)
If you are using public transportation, you can get there on The Bus. See this link and scroll down to the Diamond Head section for routes and more information. Also, see this post on using Google Transit to help you navigate Oahu.
If you walk in, the fee is $1 per person. If you drive in the cost is $5 per vehicle. They accept cash only.
When to Get to the Trail
The park hours are from 6:00am until 6:00pm, with the last time to start the hike at 4:30pm. I recommend that you hike the trail as early as possible to avoid crowds. Another good reason to hike earlier in the day is that the summit area is very sunny and dry and can feel quite arid, so an earlier start will provide more comfortable hiking temperatures.
Advice for Hiking the Trail
The trial is only 0.8 miles one-way, which at first sounds pretty simple, but climbing 560 feet in elevation, makes the trail a bit more strenuous. The trail includes sections of stairs. I believe there are over 225 stair-steps in total. Trust me, they will certainly get your heart pumping no matter how fit you are.
Here are some tips for hiking the trail:
- Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the hike and enjoying the views.
- Wear the proper shoes. Though the trail isn’t very technical, I’d still advise you to wear proper hiking shoes if you have them. At a minimum, wear sneakers. The trail is dusty and a bit rock, so if your shoes don’t have gripping tread, you’re more likely to slip. I did see some folks struggling in flip flops. In fact, I saw someone who was wearing flip flops have a very hard fall.
- Though the start of the trail (0.2miles) is paved and looks very mild, the trail is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.
- Stay on the designated trail. Taking shortcuts can be dangerous and add to the erosion and falling rocks.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Wear a hat or visor.
- Bring plenty of water, at least a half-liter per person.
- Do mind your step. Take a look at the photo on the right. One slip and….let’s not think about it.
- From about mid-December through March, watch for humpback whales from the top of the summit.
- Be aware that at the very top of this hike there’s a small opening that you’ll almost need to crawl through. Please watch your head. I got distracted and accidentally knocked my head into the concrete slab. Ouch!
The Hawaii division of land and natural resources created a really good video overview of hiking Diamond Head. Check it out here.
Have you hiked Diamond Head trail? What did you think of it?