All You Need to Know About Hiking Diamond Head
Honolulu, Hawaii is heaven for tourists and adventure seekers alike. There are plenty of activities to fill your days, whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or explore the island. And when visiting Hawaii’s capital, you don’t want to miss Diamond Head (or Lē‘ahi).
Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone and crater that sits on the southeast coast of Oahu. It’s visible from almost anywhere in Honolulu and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the state. Diamond Head is one of the most popular hikes in Oahu.
If your family is visiting Oahu you may be wondering if the Diamond Head hike is kid-friendly or what you need to prepare for a visit. Here’s everything we need to know about hiking Diamond Head based on my own experience.
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Diamond Head (Lē‘ahi) History
Before you hike Diamond Head you may like knowing some of this volcano’s history. A series of volcanic eruptions occurred, including the Koʻolau Volcano, ultimately leading to the formation of Diamond Head about 400,000 to 500,000 years ago. The native Hawaiians call Diamond Head “Lē‘ahi,” which means “forehead of the ahi (fish).” The early Western explorers in the 1700s came up with “Diamond Head” after they mistook the calcite crystals of the crater for diamonds.
The U.S. government bought Diamond Head in 1904 and used it as a military base. The crater underwent a few transformations, including building bunkers and tunnels that are still visible today. The summit trail was built in 1908 and was used as a lookout point to spot approaching enemy ships. And in 1962, Diamond Head State Monument was established, preserving the crater as a historic site.
Diamond Head’s slopes have witnessed many historical events, from the early beginnings of Hawaiian royalty to World War II. Many developers eyed the crater for real estate potential while locals fought to keep it untouched. In 1975, it finally came under Hawaii’s Park Division management, and the government prioritized public access.
Now, Diamond Head is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Hawaii. It’s a place of natural beauty that’s also steeped in history.
Why Do People Love To Visit Diamond Head?
Diamond Head offers some of the most breathtaking views of Honolulu. On a clear day, you can see all the way from Waikiki Beach to downtown Honolulu. If you time your hike right, you can even watch the sunset from the crater’s rim.
Diamond Head is also a great place to work out! The 0.8-mile hike may not seem like much, but it’s all uphill. Your heart will definitely be pumping with an elevation climb of almost 600 feet. But the accomplishment of reaching the summit is worth the effort.
You may be wondering, “Can you take a stroller on Diamond Head?” And the answer is, not really. The hike is very rocky and the path isn’t very conducive to stroller pushing. The welcome center however, is accessible making it possible to explore the area and use the available facilities. However, the hiking trail is not recommended for strollers or wheelchairs.
Diamond Head shows us Hawaii’s rich history and geological past. It’s also a great place to take a breather (once you reach the top of course!) and take in the sweeping views of the city.
Diamond Head Summit Trail
The most exciting challenge when visiting Diamond Head is the summit trail. Its difficulty is considered easy to moderate, but be prepared to sweat.
The trail itself is quite interesting. It takes you through old military bunkers and tunnels built decades ago. Once you reach the summit, you’re greeted with a 360-degree panoramic view of Honolulu!
The hike starts from the parking lot on the crater floor, near the Diamond Head visitor center. From there, it’s a 1.6-mile roundtrip hike on a paved concrete walkway. The real challenge begins after the first mile, taking you to uneven and steep trails. There are also steep staircases in some portions of the hike.
Generally, the Diamond Head Summit Trail is friendly for beginners and even children. However, I recommend that children be at least six years old and in good physical condition to attempt the hike. Parents may have to carry small children for some parts of the trail.
The Diamond Head Summit Trail is perfect for families who want to explore Honolulu together. While the trail’s difficulty level is enough to get everyone’s heart pumping, it’s still achievable for most people. It takes about two hours to complete the hike, depending on the hiker’s pace. Everyone is welcome to take their time as long as you don’t go past your reservations.
How to Get There
Hikers must head to the Diamond Head State Monument to begin the trek up to the summit. The park is located in Honolulu, just east of Waikiki Beach. There are several ways to get to the Diamond Head State Monument:
- Take Makapuu Avenue from Waikiki Beach and turn left onto Diamond Head Road.
- Take the Waikiki Trolley and get off at the Diamond Head State Monument stop.
- Take Bus 23 from Waikiki to the Diamond Head Monument stop.
- Take a taxi or rideshare and directly head to the Diamond Head State Monument.
Entrance and Parking Fees
The Diamond Head State Monument only accepts credit cards. Entrance is free for Hawaii residents with ID and children aged three and under. For non-Hawaii residents, the entrance fee is $5. The state park also charges $10 per non-commercial vehicle for non-residents. For commercial vehicles, the following charges apply:
- 1-7 Passenger Vehicles = $25
- 8-25 Passenger Vehicles = $50
- 26+ Passenger Vehicles = $90
How to Make Reservations
Non-Hawaii residents planning to visit the Diamond Head State Monument are required to make reservations. Reservations start at 6:00 AM and are available until 4:00 PM. Visitors can make reservations up to 30 days in advance and must arrive at the park within the reservation’s first 30 minutes. If you are late you may be denied access and parking.
Cars parked in the crater must leave by the end of the parking reservation. Walk-ins and drop-off visitors, however, may leave whenever they want. All visitors must leave by 6:00 PM. For Diamond Head State Monument reservations, go to their website.
Diamond Head Hiking Tips
To some people, visiting Diamond Head may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Here are some tips to help you maximize your experience:
- Check the Weather Before Making a Reservation: Diamond Head State Monument doesn’t offer refunds due to bad weather. It’s best to check the forecast and ensure that the weather will cooperate on the hiking day. However, if the park officially announces park closure due to weather conditions, reservations may be refunded or rescheduled.
- Make a Reservation as Early as Possible: Diamond Head sees hundreds of visitors daily, so making a reservation as early as possible is best. There’s always a possibility of missing out on a reservation, especially during busy times like weekends and holidays. The earlier you make a reservation, the better your chances are of getting one.
- Wear Good Walking Shoes: Diamond Head hike is relatively challenging, and it’s vital to be as comfortable as possible. Wear good walking shoes that have been broken in and are comfortable. If you don’t have proper footwear, your feet will pay the price later.
- Bring Sunscreen and Water: Hawaii is known for its sunny weather, so make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and wear a sun hat. And bring lots of water! The majority of this hike is exposed to the sun so we took A LOT of water breaks on the way up.
- Respect Other Hikers: Everyone deserves to enjoy the Diamond Head hike. Be respectful to other hikers and be aware of your surroundings at all times. A good hiking experience will depend on every hiker being considerate of one another!
- Leave No Trace: Diamond Head is a special place that should be preserved for future generations. All hikers must respect nature and take their trash when leaving. Hikers should also avoid trampling vegetation or disturbing wildlife.
- Have Fun: Diamond Head hike is a unique experience that you shouldn’t miss. Take the time to enjoy the views and create lasting memories! The hike may be strenuous at times, but it’ll be worth it in the end!
Heading to Honolulu is always a good idea. When you’re finalizing your itinerary, don’t forget to pencil in a visit to Diamond Head! This natural wonder will complete your Hawaiian experience.
When you arrive, don’t forget to follow the tips above for a fantastic hike. With some planning and preparation, you’ll make great memories that’ll last a lifetime.
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