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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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