Hawaii Diamond Head (Lē’ahi) State Monument
Discover why so many people decide to hike the Hawaii Diamond Head State Monument, when visiting Oahu. Climbing up to the top of the rim will give you a stunning view of Honolulu, Waikiki, and the coastline.
Diamond Head Crater is a popular tourist attraction for the island. Is it worth all the hype you hear about? Yes, it is worth doing this hike at least once, especially if you are only going to visit the island this one time. Below is your guide for planning the perfect trip with what to expect, the history of it, how to avoid the big crowds, and more.
Table of Contents
History of the Crater
How Was Diamond Head Formed
The island of Oahu, like the other Hawaii islands were formed due to hot spots. Hot spots are areas on the Earth’s surface where volcanism occurs. Usually this will be around the mid-ocean ridges or in some cases, in the middle of tectonic plates. The creation of the Hawaiian Islands started million of years ago when lava started to push up through the ocean floor. Over time, this lava cooled and accumulate to become an island.
Now Oahu was formed in the same manner, but was created from the combination of three volcanoes. It has been thought that the two that made up Oahu were the Waianae and Koolau Volcanoes around 3 million years ago. New evidence shows that the two actually formed on top of an older volcano.
In fact, the rocks from the north west area of the island were always thought to come from the Waianae volcano. The under water ridges by this section has shown that the rocks are in fact, 1 million years older than the Waianae ones. So this means they used to be part of a volcano that had at one point a 1000 meter peak sticking out of the water. This lost volcano was named Kaena and thought to have cooled off around 5 million years ago. This receding peak had the other two erupting volcanos add to it, which over time created Oahu.
The Hawaii Diamond Head Crater was formed from the Honolulu Volcanic Series, about 500,000 to 150,000 years ago. Other famous sections on the island were formed during this time from quick eruptions like the Koko Head Crater and the Punchbowl Crater. Scientists think that Diamond Head is monogenetic, where it only had one eruption and thus will never erupt again.
Why It Was Named Diamond Head?
The original name, before Diamond Head, was Leahi (brow of the tuna) by the Hawaiian people. During the 1820’s British ships discovered this area and saw what they thought were shiny diamonds on the crater. Thus, they named it Diamond Head Crater. It wasn’t until later that they discovered that the shiny diamonds were actually calcite crystals, which are common around the world.
Military Decided To Move On In
With a perfect view over Oahu, it was not a hard decision for the U.S Federal government to use the land for defensive purposes. About 720 acres was bought for $3,300, which would be around $96,365 today.
After buying the land, the first step was to build Fort Ruger. To be able to defend all sides of the island, they built 5 cannon batteries. Each one housed a giant artillery cannon.
First was Harlow in 1910 on the north portion of Diamond Head, right by Fort Ruger. The next two, Hurlings and Dodge were built a few years later, in 1913. These two were positioned on the eastern front. Next, came the building of Birkhimer inside the crater in 1916. Lastly, Battery 407 was put into place on the south side, overlooking Diamond Head in 1943.
Hawaii Diamond Head State Monument was created in 1968. The hike up the crater uses the same route that was made in 1908 for the military. Imagine soldiers having to hike up to the bunkers everyday.
As you hike, take a look where the cannon batters were and the bunkers.
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Hiking Diamond Head State Monument
What To Expect
First, expect crowds if you do not go early or if it happens to be a busy time of year. The first part of the trail starts by the information kiosk. Make sure to use the bathrooms here if you need one, since it is the last opportunity until you come back down.
Diamond Head Hike has an uneven path that will slowly increase in elevation. The path is rocky and can be slippery with puddles when it rains. Towards the end is stairs that you would need to climb to get to the very top. Some people only go up to the stair part and no further due to the increased difficulty.
Do not let the beginning of the trail fool you with a nice paved path, this will only last for 350 feet or so before the route begins.
- Adress: Diamond Head Rd Honolulu, HI 96815
- Telephone #: (800) 464 – 2924
- Hours of Operation: Gates open at 6 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.
- Last Time to Start Hike: 4:30 p.m.
- Fees: Cash Only!
- Car: $5
- Person: $1
- Vans: $10
- Hike Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Parking: Free but it is a small lot so come early or you will have to park down the hill and walk in.
- Bathrooms: Located between the information booth and the trailhead. There is no other bathrooms on the trail or at the top.
What You Should Bring
- Hiking shoes or ones with a good grip.
- Water bottle or a hydro flask.
- A rain or wind jacket for the top portion, which can get windy and cold.
- Sunglasses for when it is sunny or windy.
- Hat, but make sure to take it off if it’s windy at the top or you will loose it.
- Breathable shirt that is quick dry in case you sweat.
- Shorts are great to help keep you cooled off.
Hiking The Crater
Start by heading up the paved path that follows the original 1908 route. As you walk up the concrete sidewalk, it will gradually increase in incline. Almost right away, you will start to hike the interior section. Prepare for an uneven, rocky, and sometimes slippery terrain. The trail is paved in a way but still very uneven.
Along the path, you will come across some benches you can rest at as well as a few lookout points. These are great to take a break or grab a picture of the view. Eventually you will come to a long tunnel that will have two ways to go at the end. Go left and you can enjoy the view from this lookout. There is a set of 76 stairs that will slowly take you up to the top of Diamond Head.
If you wish to do the more direct route up then go right after coming out of the tunnel. This will take you up 99 stairs and into another smaller tunnel. Follow this path, go right and up the spiral staircase. Next you will enter the bunker, which you will need to bend down to get out of. The view that awaits you is amazing and worth seeing. Follow the path to the very top of Diamond Head. It can be very windy up here so hold onto your hats.
The first portion of the hike will have a rocky, but paved path up the inside of the crater. Towards the top you will either have to climb 76 stairs or 99 stairs to get to the very top.
Common Questions Answered
Is it worth paying for a tour or doing the hike on your own?
For this hike, save your money and do it yourself. Admission is cheap and the hike will not take very long. So save your money to do a tour at another place that has more to offer with the islands culture history, ecosystems, and more. Grab a trail map before to read a bit about the Diamond Head Hike.
Can I bring a baby stroller?
Is there a place to store luggage while I hike?
Accommodations Close By
- Crowdy Bay National Park is the closest campground to Diamond Head.
- Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel is only 2 miles away from Diamond Head. A mid priced hotel that will run you anywhere from $150 to $300 per night.
- The Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach is another hotel close to Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Park.
Other Hikes Or Sites To See
The Lyon Arboretum and ‘Aihualama Falls is a great place to see Hawaii’s cultural and biological ecosystems close by.
Food Near By
- Lulu’s in Waikiki has some great American food that offers a great view of Waikiki. Open for breakfast and brunch, be prepare for big portions.
- South Shore Grill has a variety of foods, but the fish tacos with their wide array of hot sauces is the winner.
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Have you visited Hawaii Diamond Head State Park? Did you enjoy yourself and is there anything you would recommend? Have any other activities or places we should see, let us know in the comments section. From Phoenix? Hi neighbor! Thanks for taking a look at our site and don’t forget to subscribe for future articles and tips.