The Island of Oahu is home to our state capital, Honolulu, and has many famous attractions for visitors from around the world.
Of course, there is the vibrant nightlife and “shop til’ you drop” experience of Waikiki, but for many visitors seeing the natural geology is equally appealing. Lucky for you, if you like to hike and explore the natural environments, just head for Diamond Head State Monument. You can hike into a crater! And it’s only a fifteen-minute drive from Waikiki.
Diamond Head is the youngest of a series of cones and vents on the island; that is why it’s so striking. According to the Hawaii State Park’s information brochure the crater, called Lë‘ahi, is believed to have been formed about 300,000 years ago during a single, brief eruption. The wide crater covers 350 acres with its width being greater than its height.
Why is Diamond Head called “Diamond Head”?
This unique formation, known to geologists as a tuff, is just one of the fascinations for visitors to this historic site. This 760-foot tuff crater is one of Hawaii’s most famous landmarks. The crater was named, in the 19th century by British sailors who thought the shining crystals they discovered on the slopes of Diamond Head were diamonds rather they were shiny calcite crystals, which have no value.
The complete loop will take about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. However, there are great views all along the trail, so a shorter loop is just as worthwhile to consider. The full hike, from the trailhead to the summit of Diamond Head Crater, is 0.8 mile (1.3 km) one way and you will climb 560 feet (171 m) from the crater floor.
The well-traveled trail involves some uneven and steep terrain, so proper footwear and caution are advised. Some portions of the trail involve steep stairways – take your time. One part of the trail goes through a 225-foot long tunnel! It’s narrow, but it’s lighted.
There are only 78 parking spaces in the Diamond Head Crater, to avoid the busy morning period and parking delays, you may want to consider hiking during the slower times from noon to 4 pm.
The State of Hawaii in partnership with Pacific Historic Parks now offers a Diamond Head Narrated Tour for just $3.00. This highly recommended tour will explain the history, geography, culture, plant & animal life and scenery of the Diamond Head State Monument to each hiker. This new Narrated Tour is available for rent at the Diamond Head Visitor Center in English and Japanese.
More than just geologic history.
For history buffs, this hike will include observing many historical buildings and outposts. This was an important World War II look-out. In fact, the US Military made it the site of the first military reservation in Hawaii. The National Guard facility and Hawaii State Civil Defense remain active on Diamond Head today.
All along your hike, you will find remnants and preserved areas that were integral to military defense. Near the top of the trail, you will travel through a lighted spiral staircase that originally accessed the four levels of the Fire Control Station. Go up the 52 stairs to the third level where the original mounts for the observation equipment are still present.
This is a popular destination, so getting an early start is highly recommended.
• The weather on this trail can be quite hot! Bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
• Gates open at 6 am daily. The last entrance to hike the trail is at 4:30 pm. The gates are locked at 6:00 pm daily and all visitors must be out of the park by this time.
• Only certified service animals are allowed in the park.
• There are only 78 parking spaces in the Diamond Head Crater, to avoid the busy morning period and parking delays, you may want to consider hiking during the slower periods from noon to 4 pm.
And, like every other square inch of Hawaii, as you enjoy the abundance of beauty and the fragile environment on this ancient volcanic crater, please pack out more than you pack-in. Litter affects everyone’s enjoyment.
This is truly fun for the whole family or just a solo traveler looking for that special get away. We hope you have the opportunity to experience this Historic Hawaiian Landmark. To learn more, download the official brochure.
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