Diamond Head crater is the first thing you see in Honolulu as you head towards landing at the airport. Hiking Diamond Head was on the top of my to-do list. I wasn’t planning on waking up as early as I did for this hike, but I’m glad Michelle and I were out the door by 5:46am. This is everything you need to know about hiking this famous trail.
A Little History
Diamond Head is probably O’ahu’s most recognizable landmark, it’s also known for its breathtaking views, and military history. The crater itself was formed about 300,000 years ago during a single explosive eruption. The trail to the summit was built in 1908 as apart of a coastal defense system. At the top, you’ll see bunkers and a lighthouse that was built in 1917 and used for navigation. Today, it is an incredibly popular tourist destination not only for the hike but for the reward at the top, the views.
The trail is about 1.6 miles round trip, depending on how full the path is, how fast you walk and how much time you spend admiring the views it can take a few hours so plan accordingly if you have other plans for the day.
You start your climb with numerous switchbacks going up the steep interior slope of the crater wall. The terrain is uneven dirt and rock so wear appropriate footwear. You will soon reach a set of steep concrete stairs, 74 to be exact, take your time here these stairs are no joke. After the stairs you will have to go through a narrow lighted tunnel that is 225 feet long, this was probably my least favorite part. It can get incredibly claustrophobic, just take a deep breath and power through.
After the tunnel, you have an important decision to make, right or left. If you go right, you’ll come across a second stairway consisting of 99 stairs another tunnel and a spiral staircase. This is the old way and because I don’t like enclosed spaces I chose to go left while Michelle went right.
If you go left, as I did, you will see a rest stop with a couple of benches to catch your breath. You can go all the way down the trail and come to a rest stop, that offers views of Koko Head Crater, and if it’s a clear day, you can even see Maui, Moloka’i, and Lana’i. If you just want to head up to the summit, from the rest stop you’ll climb 82 metal stairs take a short walk, to you guessed it, more stairs. This second set only has 54 metal stairs, and then you have reached the top! I don’t regret my decision to go left on this newer trail, it was all open air, and I loved having the ocean breeze on my face.
Once at the top, enjoy the views get as many pictures as you can and if you can find a spot to sit and stop for a snack as we did. We stayed at the top for at least 20-30 minutes just enjoying the view, which was only one of our rewards after this strenuous hike.
When you’re ready, decide which way you’re going and head back down for your second reward, fresh fruit or a delicious fruit smoothie! You’ll see the red food truck in the parking lot, they sell fresh fruit and smoothies as well as shave ice, or if you’re in the mood for a hot dog or hamburger, they have you covered. This food truck is cash only, so be prepared. I went with the Piña Colada smoothie, and I highly recommend it as a refreshing way to cool down after your accomplishment.
-Stay on the trail and don’t go over any barriers for a better view or picture
-Because this is a popular tourist destination, it gets busy and crowded, plan accordingly.
-The entry fee is $5 per vehicle or $1 per walk-in visitor
-No Dogs are allowed unless they are service animals
-The only water fountains are located at the bottom of the trail, so make sure to bring a water bottle with you
-This is a State Park, be respectful and don’t litter
-The gates close at 6pm, and they stop letting people in at 4:30pm. Gates open at 6am every day.
The original plan for us was to be out of the hotel by 6am, get coffee and a snack then walk to Diamond Head, do our thing and walk back to the room while making shopping stops along the way. I woke up at 5am and Michelle shortly after so we decided to try to catch the sunrise at the summit.
We walked from our hotel to Diamond Head, which was 3.1 miles one way, it took a little longer than we thought so we missed sunrise from the summit but still got to enjoy it. The trail was already booming with people. Actually, we passed a couple tour groups on our way up. Then walked the 3.1 miles back to the hotel, this took a lot longer because I was tired and already feeling the soreness.
We did this hike on a Sunday morning, thinking everyone would still be asleep and boy were we wrong but I’m glad we got up as early as we did because our hike down was a lot more crowded than the way up.
Have you hiked Diamond Head before? How was your experience? If you’re heading to O’ahu soon, is Diamond Head on your to-do list? Let me know in the comments. Mahalo for reading!