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Hiking Diamond Head Trail

The salty air from the coast made our hike off the beach toward Diamond Head that much better. We walked pass the Honolulu Zoo filled with flamingos, past shops selling shaved ice, fish tacos, sushi, and sno cones to the trail head.

Inside a cramped, damp tunnel an old man jogged past us with his bandanna on his run to the summit. Made me look weak. We stopped to take pictures of the birds, then began our hike up the crater.


Diamond Head received its name when British Sailors mistakenly believed diamonds resided deep in the crater. (1) Even though not a single diamond was found, the name stands to this day. Anciently, Native Hawaiian’s called the landmark Leahi, or brow and tuna. If you look closely from a distance the ridge resembles the outline of a tuna’s fin. (2)

The crater came into existence over 300,000 years ago due to a volcanic eruption. The crater’s diameter at over 3,500 ft. could be one of the reasons some call it “the world’s most recognized volcanic crater”. (3)

The trail up to the summit was built in 1908 as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system. Bunkers positioned at the top (still visible today) and at various parts around the rim helped direct artillery attacks during times of war. Vegetation and birds not native to the island arrived in the early 1900’s. The 225-foot-tunnel was built in 1911 to give easy access to the fire control station (4).

Directions to Trail: The trail head sits 3 miles east of Waikiki beach. Assuming you don’t have a vehicle, the simplest way to reach the trail head is via The Bus. For turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps click here.

Guided tours of the area are available from TripAdvisor.

The Trail

After finding the parking lot and paying the entrance fee, look for the signs that point out the trail head.

From the trail head hike .25 miles to reach the first lookout. Stop to enjoy the beautiful crater below.

Shortly after the first lookout you will reach the first set of 74 stairs.
Directly after the stairs comes the 225-foot-tunnel.

After exiting the tunnel, hikers have two options to reach the summit: a steep set of stairs straight ahead leading to a spiral staircase, or a gradual increase along the new metal stairs to the left.

While this hike takes some time it definitely will not take up an entire day, and the view from the top is worth the climb! I would recommend visiting early in the morning before the crowds show up. What’s your favorite hike in Hawaii?

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