Experience Diamond Head (Le’ahi) crater hike in Oahu
When you visit Honolulu, one of the must visit sites to start off your vacation in Oahu is to hike up the Diamond Head crater and check out the amazing views from the top. This iconic Lava formation that sits at the edge of Waikiki and always makes it into everyone’s photo capture of the Waikiki skyline is a fantastic experience to see Honolulu from above. Check out why this Diamond Head hike should be on the top of your list in visiting Honolulu soon.
Visiting Diamond Head State Monument
The state park entrance is open seven days a week and with parking available at $5 per car and entry to hike the trails at $1 per person. You pay at the gate entrance and drive directly to park entrance or park if you are driving. There is a visitor center with souvenir stand, restrooms and even a food truck for cool drinks and fresh pineapples that you can visit and relax before you begin your Diamond Head hike.
Covid Update – Diamond Head State Monument is open daily except for Wednesdays and if driving into the park each person needs to pay incuding parking in the state park grounds.
How to get to Diamond Head Crater
There are a few key ways to get to Diamond Head and the main entrance area which is on the northeast end of the park entrance. Here’s the main options on easily getting to the park and doing the Diamond Head hike.
- Take an Uber – easy access on your phone app to book a trip to Diamond Head, it’s hassle free to book directly with Uber. The difficulty tends to be the return trip and price increases due to less availability when you are waiting for a return trip.
2. Go by bus – taking the bus to and from Diamond Head is definitely the affordable option at $2.75 per direction. You just need to check the schedules on when the bus goes in either direction to the bus stop right at the entrance to the park grounds.
3. Drive yourself – if you have access to a car then driving to the park is fast and easy and parking per car is only $5 for the whole day. The is also a per person entry fee of $1 per person.
4. Walk to the entrance – A very long walk from Waikiki, it is doable but definitely takes a bit of time and you have a lot of walking to do right from the start of the park entrance
5. Take the cable car buses – these regular trolley buses plying through the Honolulu and Waikiki areas stop directly at the park entrance. You can book a day pass directly with the Waikiki trolley lines for trips to most attractions in the Honolulu area.
History of Diamond Head State Monument
Created between 400,000 to 500,00 years ago, the Diamond Head crater was created from the Ko’olau volcano which is over 2 million years old. Diamond head was created during the same time frame as the Punchbowl and Koko eruptions were also happening on Oahu. Ancient Hawaiians used the site as a place of worship and did animal and human sacrifices on the slopes of the crater. The Hawaiian’s called the site Le’ahi for the shape representing an ahi (fish) forehead.
The name Diamond Head was given to the crater after early western explorers and traders visiting the area mistook the the crater’s calcite crystals for diamonds and the English name Diamond Head stuck.
In the 1900s Diamond Head was converted into a military base with bunkers and artillary and other buildings in the base inside the crater and bunkers and lookouts built on the tops of the summit area to protect the island. Eventually the Military deeded the property to the state which turned it into a state monument and park in 1965 for the public to enjoy and climb to the top for an only in Oahu experience at the rim of Diamond Head.
Hiking up Diamond Head Crater
There is a Diamond Head trail marker past the restrooms that shares the history of Diamond Head and how it was used in the past to present day. The trails are paved and easy to follow from the start and then change into gravel and sand when the trail starts uphill. It gets narrow at this point and traffic does get busy for both uphill and downhill climbers.
The average time to do the Diamond Head hike is about two hours round trip, more if you take more time for pictures and time frame that you are busy. The best time to visit is earlier in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds and excessive heat going to the top.
Look out points at Diamond Head
Along the way to the top of Diamond Head are many lookout points to the crater floor and views to the east side and coastal views. At the the mid point, you’ll hit your first set up stairs which then leads to a long dark tunnel and eventually a circular staircase that is a real work out so take your time. Those that are physically challenged should take plenty of rests with benches located throughout the trail areas.
Tip – if you don’t want to enter the tunnel and circular climb, you have an option to do the route from the left side to nice views and a slower climb to the top without doing the circular stair case.
Entering the long dark tunnel at Diamond Head towards the summit area
After the tunnel area, you enter another climb with a circular stair case to the top of Diamond Head and the bunker areas. (You can choose to go on the left side option after the first stairs if you choose not to go up the circular stairs). Take your time going up the stairs because it is used for climbing and also descending.
Reaching the top of Diamond Head Crater
After you pass through the staircase you finally get to the opening with nice views of the areas below, but there is another short staircase with a viewing platform created from an old bunker that is very busy so can your time enjoying the views and doing your selfies of gorgeous Waikiki and Honolulu.
You’ll see a variety of bunkers situated around the rim areas of the Diamond Head summit areas. These areas are typically off limits for visitors to hike to.
Check out this video of Diamond Head for inspiration to visiting below.
Descending Diamond Head
You have an option of climbing back down the circular staircase but the best route back to the Diamond Head crater valley is to take the slow declining route on the left side with nice views of the east side coatline, beaches and the ritzy areas of Diamond Head, Lanikai, Portlock and Kahala.
Check out this beautiful light house below
The trails connects back to the main trail and stairs down to the crater floor and in no time you get back to the restrooms and visitor center.
Tips on visiting Diamond Head Crater
- Bring plenty of water or you can purchase at the vending machines when you enter the park.
- It is very hot and busy mid day so if you want to avoid both go early or later in the morning
- You can take various transportation modes and the cheapest is the bus coming from Waikiki and costs $2.75 one way
- Wear good shoes, the climb is over 560 feet over mixed terrain
- Bring sunscreen, the sun is harsh mid morning to later afternoon
- Diamond Head is not ADA compliant and a challenge for non active visitors
- There are no bathrooms at the top of the lookout areas.
Love photography – check out these tours
If you love to capture some of the best photographs of Honolulu and Oahu consider some of these cool tours to take.
Check out these other posts on visiting Oahu
Visit the Hawaii Kai district in Eastern Oahu
Road trip to Haleiwa town in the North Shore
Please pin this Diamond Head post for later
Conclusion to visiting Diamond Head State Monument
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