Going Outdoors in Oahu: The Waikiki to Diamond Head Walk

| December 17, 2012 | 28 Comments

Diamond head is probably the most popular landmark in Hawaii and perhaps just as famous as Pearl Harbor, if not more. This extinct seaside volcano is easily seen from Waikiki beach, the most popular in the island, and has always appeared in all the beach’s postcards and pictures. Known in Polynesian as Le’ahi Diamond Head last erupted about 150,000 years ago and is thus safe to hike, perhaps almost mandatory. It is safe, family friendly and offers a unique overview of this part of the island above water, unlike so many of the underwater activities there is to enjoy too.

diamond head

Diamond Head as seen from Waikiki beach

Contrary to what we and most people thought the trail that leads to the top of Diamond Head is not on the side that faces Honolulu, but on the back. We learned this as we were getting closer to it when walking from Waikiki Beach while passing all sorts of Oahu beach rentals and hotels, and despite the heat decided to continue on our own and enjoy the nice walk. The well paved road meanders comfortably up the slopes of the hill reaching the base of the crater, time at which a short tunnel will lead you into the park. Entering the park costs 1USD if walking or 10USD if getting there by car or van. It is open from 6am to 6 pm, there are public toilets, vending machines and a lunch wagon with food if you want to eat something, and I highly recommend you bring some water with you. While the crater is only 232m high, once you reach the park the slopes to the top of the crater become steep and tiring, perhaps due more to the lack of a breeze than the terrain itself, and it si when the Diamond Head hike actually becomes a hike. The last 160 m are all stairs and especially steep, but the site is accessible to those with disabilities near the visitor booth. The trail is well marked and you’ll find of tourists walking up and down while there so it will be impossible for you to get lost.

diamond head lighthouse

Diamond Head lighthouse

Perhaps something that most people ignore until they reach the park is that the U.S. government purchased Diamond Head Crater for military use in 1904. Fortification of the crater began four years later with the construction of gun emplacements and an entry tunnel through the north wall of the crater from Fort Ruger known as the Kapahulu Tunnel. Five batteries were built on Diamond Head Crater to house military weapons and artillery and additional defense was provided by long range guns installed on the outer slopes of the crater rim around 1915. Yet despite all the engineering and costs no artillery was ever fired from Diamond Head crater during a war.

Overlooking Honolulu

Overlooking Honolulu from Diamond Head

Reaching the top is an accomplishment one anxiously is waiting for during the last ten minutes, as the stairs become steep and finding your way through the concrete structure inadvertently mean you’re about to reach the top. The air becomes cooler, the path becomes narrower and once you walk outside the  views are second to none. On your left you will distinctly spot Diamond Head lighthouse with its red roof, on peak of the crater a machine gun appears to be safeguarding Honolulu without- oddly- being out of place and the surf roles gently toward Waikiki beach in the distance. Spend at least 20 minutes here before heading back, and make sure you take plenty of pictures!

honolulu from diamond head

Honolulu from Diamond Head

It takes  about seven hours to walk from Waikiki to the top of Diamond Head at a comfortable pace and stopping to take pictures along way. If you don’t feel like walking there are tours that will take you to the top (tours like the Oahu Circle Island day tour we took don’t stop here thought), taxis that will take you to the park’s entrance or a public bus that will stop at the base of volcano. Cheap, historical and fun, the Diamond Head hike is good family fun I recommend to anybody visiting the island. Aloha!

Visiting Hawaii Tip

Most EU  citizens are eligible to apply for an ESTA online. An ESTA is usually valid for 2 years and is a multiple entry visa in which for each entry you can stay up to 90 days. You can find more here.

If you are not eligible to apply for ESTA, you have to apply for a paper tourist visa from the local American Embassy. In majority of the countries, you have to book an interview with the embassy in advance. So it is wise to plan your visa at least 2 months in advance, especially in the high tourism season. Always get the visa first before you pay for the air ticket, or at least make sure the air ticket is refundable.

Have you hiked Diamond Head? Visited Oahu? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below and this post too if you liked it!

Category: Americas, Destinations, Hawaii, United States


28 responses to “Going Outdoors in Oahu: The Waikiki to Diamond Head Walk”

  1. Robert says:

    Always enjoy the Lighthouse hike, amazing ocean views! If you’re lucky, you can spot whales in the distance! Thanks for sharing the great photos and article.

  2. Leigh says:

    That sounds like a great way to spend a day – as long as the temperatures weren’t in the stratosphere. I didn’t even realize you could do it so good to know.

    • maitravelsite says:

      Mind you it was hot. On the way there a local insisted we take water with us, but there was not shop, so we had to buy it once we reached the park. It wasn’t that bad though…

  3. Jack says:

    Amazing post.We are planing for a holiday trip and i think this place will be the ideal one for us.I have never seen a extinct volcanic and i am more than eager to visit this one.Also i would like to try out the underwater activities.

  4. Steve says:

    My experience with Diamond Head was fabulous. Getting cheap flights to Hawaii and hiking there for 2-3 days and clubbing was complete fun.

  5. Adam says:

    The video that you have shared looks amazing, The place looks really awesome and I wish to visit this place and want to click lot of pictures, thanks a lot for sharing.

  6. Paul says:

    The video that you have shared looks amazing.I have not been to this place but i am surely making plans to check out this place.Hiking is something that i would never miss once i reach this place.Also i would grab some cool pics.

  7. It looks like heaven! I would love to see the place with my own eyes 🙂

  8. Sam says:

    I have been to Hawaii but never really visited Diamond Head. In Hawaii, I have been to Secret beach, Kauai and the sunset beach, Oahu. Your article seems very interesting especially the images that you have posted. The beach looks so striking and serene. I am really looking forward to visit this heaven on earth place in Hawaii. Thanks for the share!

  9. Peter says:

    Awesome place! I visited this place this Christmas and my experience was fabulous. The plane trip to Oahu was fab. The food was great and the sites incredible, I even climbed to the top of Diamond Head. There was this amazing site to see from up there. Out on the ocean I have seen Dolphins that came right up to the boat and a mother and calf whale. The experience of watching sunset with Diamond Head cannot be written in words. But one thing I can say for sure, I would love to go back there again…

  10. I love hiking. Just published a post about a beautiful hike in southern Germany. Would love to hike in oahu, it looks great!

  11. Erica says:

    I keep seeing pictures of this hike. It looks amazing.

  12. Pete says:

    Looks like a pretty nice hike! Never been to any of the islands that way, but with all this snow right now that we are surrounded with, it looks pretty tempting to book a ticket and just go.

  13. Alex says:

    I went on five hikes when I was in Oahu, and it says a lot that Diamond Head was actually one of the least spectacular among them! Hawaii is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

  14. We didn’t have time to hike Diamond Head when we were on Oahu last year. While I don’t regret any of the activities we did, I definitely plan to make the hike a priority next time.

  15. Luice says:

    Nice information and pictures! I have visited Kona, Hawaii’s Big Island and I must say it is worth visiting once. The fine resorts of the Kona Coast offer a variety of entertainment options. If you drive down Alii drive in Historic Kailua village, you will find spirited spots for live music, shopping and dining. It is one of the beautiful place in Hawaii.. I have never been Oahu, but will definitely want to visit that place once as per your recommendation. Thanks for the share!

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  17. I hiked Diamond Head and had the most amazing weather and views!

  18. Ayngelina says:

    I loved my time on Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i but I haven’t been to Oahu yet but with these photos it looks like I definitely need to go soon.

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