Distance: 1.6 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 761'
Elevation Gain: 560'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.44
Round trip time: 50 minutes
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: $5 State Parks (cash only)
Diamond Head is an iconic short hike on Oahu. It looms over Waikiki Beach and while it is not very high, it grabs the attention of everyone in the area. As first time tourists, it was a nice way to wrap up our vacation and check it off the list in case we visit again. The Hawaiian name for the peak is Leahi. According to the state of Hawaii, the "Diamond Head" name originated in the 1700s when western explorers mistook calcite crystals in the rock for diamonds. The volcanic crater was used as a military installation during World War II and concrete bunkers still dot the rim that faces the ocean.
Leisa and I drove up to the visitor's center in the center of the crater, letting the kids sleep in. The park opened at 6:00 AM and even though we arrived a little before 7:00 AM, the lot was almost full. We got one of the last 3 parking spots. The visitor's center has restrooms, a snack bar, gift shop, and picnic tables. The trail starts on a paved sidewalk just left of the restrooms. We followed the throngs of people up the sidewalk. In a short distance, it turns into a dirt trail with hand railings and plenty of benches along the way. As we neared the top, we passed through a 225' tunnel that was unlit, except for people that had their cell phone flashlights burning. Streams of people poured into and out of the tunnel in ant like formations. I took a few photos inside the tunnel but they all came out blurred from the darkness and motion. At the other end of the tunnel, you can turn left for views inside the crater and a winding path to the top, or go right directly up a long flight of stairs. We took the stairs, then a final three flights of a winding metal staircase that dumped us out on the ocean side of the crater. A final couple of stairs got us to the high point and the benchmark. We had to jockey around to get in position for photos, but the views were great in all directions. There were too many people to really enjoy the summit, so we got in the conga line going down. As we drove out, there was a line of cars waiting to get in and groups of people walking up from below. This is an easy hike and totally family friendly, but I suggest starting early since it is ultra popular.
Diamond Head Summit Trail (State of Hawaii)