One of the most recognized landmarks in Hawaii, Diamond Head State Monument in downtown Honolulu is my own personal Mount Everest — one that I successfully climbed! Climbing to the top of Diamond Head's crater rim is a popular activity for visitors as well as a favorite workout loop for locals. It's not every day you can brag about hiking up the side of a volcano in a capital city, let alone one with incredible panoramic views, but it happens every day here.
Diamond headit is part of the Honolulu Volcanic Series system of cones, vents, and eruptive flows. Luckily, there's no chance of an eruption at this state park these days! However, the crater and crater walls that are dormant offer visitors stunning views and one of the most exciting hikes in the state.
The curious name, Diamond Head, was given to the area by 19th century British soldiers who believed that the nearby sparkling calcite crystals were much more valuable. But the native Hawaiians call the landmark Leahi, fromlaefor "back" andahfor the "tone". If you use your imagination, you can see how the rim of the crater looks like the dorsal fin of a tuna. Today, Diamond Head is protected as part of itDiamond Head State Monument. Encompassing approximately 475 acres, it is one of the largest green belts in an American capital.
If you're feeling ambitious, it's entirely possible to walk to the gates of Diamond Head State Monument from Waikiki. Depending on where you start, it can take up to an hour — and then you have to explore the park! But more people do than you might think, especially fitness-oriented locals.
Most visitors, however, prefer to save their energy for the hike to the top of Diamond Head, and there are several ways to get to the park using other forms of transportation. For example, theWaikiki TrolleyThe Blue Line includes a stop at the gates of Diamond Head State Monument. However, it only makes financial sense to buy a trolley pass if you plan to ride the trolley to other attractions and do some sightseeing.
The most frugal option is totake the city bus, which costs about $3 for adults. Bus 23 from Kuhio Avenue (to Diamond Head) is the most direct route via public transit. While you'll likely spot the State Monument sign, let the driver know where you're going to be on the safe side. Tickets are usually good for 2 hours, so if you're a fast hiker and frugal traveler, keep your transportation slip and the return trip via Waikiki might just be free.
Of course, you can always drive (there is plenty of parking) or take a taxi or Uber. Diamond Head State Monument is not far fromHonolulu Zoo, TheWaikiki Aquarium, andDiamond Head Beach Park. If you plan to visit these attractions during your trip to Oahu, it makes sense to do so after visiting Diamond Head while you're still in the neighborhood.
2. Reservations are essential
Diamond Head State Monument is open every day of the year, including holidays, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. The latest you can enter the park to hike is 4:00 p.m. since the round trip takes from 90 minutes to 2 hours. On peak days, the park welcomes more than 3,000 people. Therefore, beginning May 12, 2022, all out-of-state visitors must have advance reservations to enter Diamond Head State Monument.
Reservations can be madeup to 14 days in advance at present but the long term plan is to change the system so that bookings can be made up to 30 days in advance. Guests are requested to arrive within 30 minutes of their reservation time. However, you must leave by the end of your reservation time. So if you're a slow stroller, make sure you're there early!
3. Best time to hike: in the mornings
If you're visiting Hawaii from mainland North America and jet lag has you up early and early, visit the park and hit the hiking trails before the crowds arrive. We started our hike shortly after the park opened and I'm so glad we did. The temperatures were relatively cool, there weren't too many people (although we weren't alone) and it was nice to see so many locals getting their workouts in. It helped me realize that Diamond Head is much more than a tourist attraction — it's a beloved part of the community.
4. Pay online — But bring cash
Beforenew reservation system,Admission to Diamond Head State Monument was $5 per car (regardless of how many people were in it) and $1 for pedestrians, and it was cash only. But the new system changes everything! Now the reservation system means you pay $5 per person in advance online, via credit card. You can also pay the $10 parking fee if you want to park. If you have ID that proves you are a resident of Hawaii, admission and parking are free.
I highly recommend bringing a few extra bucks to buy some refreshing shave ice after your hike. There's usually a food truck selling it in the trailhead parking lot, and in my opinion, it's the best way to treat yourself after your adventure.
5. Minimal equipment required
Apart from some money, you should bring your own water bottles (there are water fountains at the start of the trail, but none as you go up), a hat and sunscreen, and good walking shoes. I have to say I saw quite a few people wearing everyday flip flops and they weren't put off by the loose gravel and switchbacks. To each their own, but I'm glad I had my sneakers with me on the hiking trail!
6. Expect stairs and gravel
The causeway to the summit was built in 1908 as part of Oahu's coastal defense system. The hike itself is only 0.8 miles each way, but you gain 560 feet in elevation along the way. The trail includes a concrete walkway, loose gravel and dirt, a 225-foot tunnel (it looks pitch black as you approach it, but is dimly lit inside), and many, many steps. In addition to the loose gravel, there are quite a few narrow and difficult sections of the trail, and your ankles will appreciate the extra support that tennis shoes provide.
Since I didn't realize there were so many stairs - I assumed I'd be climbing a slope, not steps - I have to admit I was worried the Diamond Head hike would beat me to it! The stairs themselves weren't incredibly difficult, but they were more difficult for me because I wasn't expecting them. Now that I know what to expect, I don't find the ride so scary. The hike to the top of Diamond Head is definitely a workout, but it's manageable and worth it for the great panoramic views. A little pre-trip planning goes a long way.
7. Great views and incredible history
Without a doubt, the most impressive thing you'll see at Diamond Head State Monument is the incredible view. Locals like to say that on a clear day, there is nowhere else on Earth you can see this far from land. Based on my very unscientific observations, I agree! At the top of Diamond Head, all of Honolulu opens up before you. For early risers, I can't imagine a more exciting place to enjoy the sunrise.
However, the land view pales in comparison to the ocean view. From sweeping, deep blue waves to subtle shades of turquoise lapping at the shore, this is the Hawaii of your dreams — nothing but sun, sky and surf. During the winter season, you might just see humpback whales frolicking in the distance. And at the base of Diamond Head, you'll notice a cute white lighthouse. A United States Coast Guard facility, the lighthouse was built in 1917 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. If you think it looks familiar, that's because it appeared instamp in 2007! Unfortunately, you can't visit it, so you'll have to enjoy the view you get from Diamond Head.
While I was expecting incredible views - and I wasn't disappointed - I noticed something else that I found just as interesting. There are many artifacts along the way that point to the crater's history as a military observation post. The land around Diamond Head Trail was part of a military base for decades, and artillery cannons, cement bunkers and an observation deck were built into the crater. You can still see remnants of Diamond Head's former life as you complete your hike. With a strange mixture of curiosity and sadness, I watched chunks of concrete and wire slowly disintegrate and rust on the ground. How long will it be before Diamond Head swallows its own history whole?
If you're interested in learning more about the fascinating history behind Diamond Head, you can visit the park's interpretive pavilion. The staff members are extremely knowledgeable and always willing to answer questions.
Rest assured that the trip down Diamond Head is faster and easier than the trip up, but you should be careful on the steep areas and keep your eyes open for traffic jam spots full of tourists holding scammers selfie sticks!
Planning a trip to Oahu? check itthe best things to do there, conHonolulu's best free and budget-friendly activities. And be sure to make time forPearl HarborandNorth coast.
7 Things to Know Before Visiting Diamond Head in Oahu, Hawaii? ›
I would say that the Diamond Head hike is worth doing. It's one of the top tourist attractions in Honolulu for a reason. The views at the top are incredible. However, if you're looking for a more a challenging hike, there are better options.What do I need to know before going to Diamond Head? ›
- Sun protection. Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. ...
- Real shoes. ...
- Go early to beat the heat and crowds, but know that it'll still be hot. ...
- Bring lots of water. ...
- Not ADA accessible, nor suitable for strollers. ...
- Follow all warning signs. ...
- Bring some cash.
I would say that the Diamond Head hike is worth doing. It's one of the top tourist attractions in Honolulu for a reason. The views at the top are incredible. However, if you're looking for a more a challenging hike, there are better options.Is Diamond Head hike easy or hard? ›
Many hikers go in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hot Hawaiian sun as the only real shade on the switchbacks is to be found in a 225-foot tunnel near the summit. Weekday mornings are the best time to go, though there are usually some people already lined up when the park opens at 6AM.How many flights of stairs is Diamond Head? ›
Pay to park in the lot at the foot of the volcano. It's worth the $5. The trail is rocky and uneven, but isn't terribly steep.Can a beginner hike Diamond Head? ›
Hiking Diamond Head is one of the top things to do in Oahu. For being such a short hike, you're rewarded with some of the most incredible views on the island making it one of the best hikes in Oahu for beginners.Does Diamond Head have restrooms? ›
Hiking the Diamond Head Summit Trail. The trailhead starts next to the parking lot. There are restrooms here as well as a few food and souvenir stands.Is Diamond Head crowded? ›
Like most attractions, Diamond Head is most busy between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Going early or late will help you avoid these mid-day crowds. If possible, don't drive.How long is the Diamond Head crater Walk? ›
How long does it take to hike Diamond Head? The trail is around 1.6 miles in total, and you will ascend 560 feet. It's an easy hike, and most of the path is covered in stairs. Most tourists take about 1.5 hours to hike Diamond Head.
What should I wear to Diamond Head hike? ›
- Carry Hat and Sunscreen- Trust us, you'd be needing a hat and a lot of sunscreen, especially if you're attempting to undertake the Diamond Head Crater hike during the summer season. Although the hike isn't long, you'll be exposed to the Sun throughout the hike.
- Bring Snacks and Water-
It costs $5 for a single-entry vehicle ticket to the parking lot (or $1 to walk in). One of the best times to climb Diamond Head is for sunrise, when temperatures are still relatively cool and the sun shines from behind your back on the crescent of Waikiki Beach far below.Where do I start the Diamond Head trail? ›
Diamond Head Summit Trail
Entrance to the parking lot is off Diamond Head Road between Makapuu Avenue and 18th Avenue in Honolulu. Hours: Trail is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., and gates close at 6 p.m.
Diamond Head State Monument is the third park in Hawaii to require advance reservations, joining Haena State Park in Kauai and Waianapanapa State Park in Maui.Can you watch sunset from Diamond Head? ›
What better way to embrace the sunset at Waikiki Beach than gazing at it from scenic views on a sandy beach? The Kuilei Cliffs Beach Park at the foothills of Diamond Head is the perfect location. Park your car on the south side of Diamond Head Road and hike down to the ocean, enjoying the breeze as you go.Can you swim at Diamond Head hike? ›
It is sometimes referred to as Diamond Head Beach Park. As you walk down the paved pathway, take note of the sea cliffs and narrow beach. While the beach is not a good place to swim because it is rocky, it is an ideal place for surfers to enjoy the waves in a less crowded space.Can seniors hike Diamond Head? ›
The Diamond Head hike difficulty is relatively low. It is suitable for children, the elderly, and almost anyone who does not participate in regular exercise.Is Diamond Head a hard walk? ›
In general, the Diamond Head hike is not hard, but it is also not an easy leisurely walk! Diamond Head is not an easy hike because of all the stairs and because you need to hike up the crater. It is officially listed as a moderate difficulty hike by the State of Hawaii.Can you walk through Diamond Head tunnel? ›
Diamond Head Crater is just next to Waikiki and the hiking trail actually begins inside the crater. You can simply walk through the tunnel of the crater wall or drive and pay for the parking inside.Can a 4 year old hike Diamond Head? ›
This is a kid-friendly trail that leads through the rainforest to a beautiful waterfall. It's a great hike for beginners, too! How much does the Diamond Head trail cost? It's $10 to park your vehicle and then $5 for everyone ages 4 and older.
What time does Diamond Head open? ›
6:00am – 6:00pm daily (Last entry period is 4:00 pm. Must enter and be on the trail by 4:30 pm.). Diamond Head State Monument will be CLOSED on Christmas Day (December 25) and New Years Day (January 1).How do you walk into Diamond Head? ›
All methods of entry take you through the Kahala Tunnel that goes through the eastern wall of the crater. The entrance fee is $5 per car or $1 per individual walk-in -- all paid in cash. Once you have arrived at the site, you are on the floor of the crater and only yards from the base of the 0.8 mile trail.Can you go to Diamond Head without a tour? ›
It is possible to hike to the summit of the Diamond Head crater, and it is totally possible to do this Oahu hike on your own without a tour. When you're planning to do the Diamond Head hike, you'll want to plan to allow a half a day for it.Is Diamond Head slippery? ›
After the initial concrete walkway it's carved out of the tuff rock of the crater. The footing is uneven, in places there may be 6 inches or more between high and low spots. In areas it's partially covered with loose dirt, gravel or rocks. And it can be slippery when wet.Does Diamond Head have a waterfall? ›
Diamond Head Crater & Hawaiian Waterfall Tour
Diamond Head Crater and Manoa Waterfall – Hike up one of the most popular craters in Hawaii in the morning to enjoy breathtaking views of Waikiki and breathe fresh jungle air and refresh under a waterfall in the afternoon.
Diamond Head is one of the best hikes on Honolulu, with one of the most stunning views of Waikiki that you can find. (Unless you're in a helicopter, probs.) The hike may be long, and it may be sweaty, but it's also 100% worth it. It's also a great activity if you're visiting Honolulu on a budget.Is Diamond Head a scary hike? ›
Don't let the beginning of the hike fool you; it gets a bit steeper and is not fully paved after the first few hundred feet. Don't let that scare you though, as Diamond Head is still one of the easiest hikes in Oahu. Just pace yourself, take your time, and enjoy the views along the way.Why is Diamond Head so popular? ›
Today, Lë'ahi (Diamond Head) is the most recognized landmark in Hawai'i. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968 as an excellent example of a tuff cone. The semi-arid climate, the steep rocky slopes, and the shallow soil of Diamond Head support mostly low shrubs and herbs.Can I drive up Diamond Head? ›
Although you can't make the drive to the top of Diamond Head, you can drive around it. A typical hike up to the top is only about 45 minutes, offering unparalleled views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.Can you take an Uber to Diamond Head? ›
Take an Uber – easy access on your phone app to book a trip to Diamond Head, it's hassle free to book directly with Uber. The difficulty tends to be the return trip and price increases due to less availability when you are waiting for a return trip.
How long is the Manoa Falls hike? ›
If you're like many people who either cannot hike the strenuous trails or you're exploring with kids, you'll be relieved to know that the Manoa Falls Trail definitely falls on the "walk" end of the walk-hike spectrum, with a roundtrip distance of just 1.6 miles and an uphill grade that isn't too demanding.Can you take a backpack to Diamond Head? ›
Backpack. It could be helpful to have a small backpack to carry things that you will be bringing on your hike.Does it cost money to hike Diamond Head? ›
Diamond Head offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu that you can hike to via a trail that takes you to the edge of the 300,000-year old crater. An entry fee of $1 per walk-in visitor and $5 per vehicle applies.Can you hike Diamond Head in the rain? ›
It rained everyday while we were on Oahu but decided to make the hike to the top of Diamond Head. It's a spectacular hike, even in the rain. Make sure you read the handout as you make the hike to understand how Diamond Head played a key role in the military's defense of the island.How many stairs are there in Diamond Head hike? ›
If you want to hike Diamond Head, you'll want to get an early start to avoid the sunniest part of the day (the park opens at 6:00AM), but still hydrate, wear sensible shoes, and don't underestimate the hiking trail—the 560-ft climb, including 175 stairs, over 1.6 miles roundtrip makes this a solid workout.What is the grade of Diamond Head? ›
Diamond Head Trailhead Hiking Details
Type of Vehicle: 2 Wheel Drive vehicle to car park. Car Park Size: Limited during busy times and larger vehicles cost more. Grade: Moderate level of fitness. Difficulty: Moderate, fixed path, but uneven ground, lots of stairs and some steep sections.
Inside the cone used to be Fort Ruger, which was the first US military reservation on the islands. Additionally, a shuttered air traffic control center operated on the interior of Diamond Head until 2001. Today, the inside of Diamond Head houses the Hawaii State Civil Defense and a National Guard facility.Can I hike the incline without a reservation? ›
You only need to make a reservation for the time you wish to check-in to start your climb.Do you have to pay to hike Waimea Falls? ›
There is a small fee to enter the park. This is a worthwhile contribution, as the place is dedicated to the preservation of the incredible botanical and cultural features of the area.What time Manoa Falls open? ›
MANOA FALLS TRAIL OPENING HOURS
Manoa Falls trail officially opens at 8 am and there is really no reason to arrive earlier. Sunrise won't be of any interest this deep in the jungle. The trail closes at 7 pm.
Is Diamond Head all stairs? ›
The park facilities on the crater floor of Diamond Head are fully accessible to those with disabilities. The hiking trail to the summit is not ADA accessible, it is very steep and uneven in some areas. The last 1/10 of a mile is all stairs and especially steep.What time is golden hour in Honolulu? ›
Honolulu, United States - Position of the sun in the sky on May 21, 2023.
|Civil twilight||05:26 - 05:50||24 min.|
|Golden Hour||05:50 - 06:21||30 min.|
Remember that the sun sets in the West. So, the best sunsets in Oahu will be in the western-facing areas of the island. Meanwhile, if you're hoping to catch the sunrise in Oahu, areas on the East shore will be best. For example, Lanikai Beach, the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, and Makapu'u Beach Park are great sunrise spots.Will Diamond Head erupt again? ›
Diamond Head is believed to be monogenetic, meaning the eruption only occurs once. Therefore, geologists believe that Diamond Head will never erupt again.Can you snorkel at Diamond Head Beach? ›
On this relaxing catamaran tour off the coast of Oahu near Diamond Head, guests will have the opportunity to snorkel, explore the reef, and enter the world of the tropical fish, turtles, and dolphins that call this part of Hawaii home.Is Diamond Head trail safe? ›
It is definitely safe! I traveled alone to Honolulu last year and did the Diamond Head hike. I walked from my hotel to Diamond Head so I could be there by 6AM when the park opened. Maybe you aren't up for all that walking, but I would definitely get there as early as possible because there isn't much shading.What should I pack for Diamond Head hike? ›
Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen to the Diamond Head Crater hike. A hat also comes in handy if the sun is intense. Bring cash as well.How challenging is Diamond Head hike? ›
In general, the Diamond Head hike is not hard, but it is also not an easy leisurely walk! Diamond Head is not an easy hike because of all the stairs and because you need to hike up the crater. It is officially listed as a moderate difficulty hike by the State of Hawaii.How long does Diamond Head crater take? ›
It generally takes the average visitor around 45 minutes to reach the top of the trail. The trip can take longer if the trail is crowded when you visit. You'll want to allow at least 1.5-2 hours to really relax and enjoy the hike and the scenery while you're there.What shoes do I need for Diamond Head? ›
A decent pair of hiking boots would give you a proper grip on the rough patches of the crater. You may see people wearing flip flops and sandals, but we seriously advise against it! The trail is highly unpaved and uneven, and the best way to stay safe and avoid falling is to wear a good pair of hiking shoes.
What to bring to Diamond Head in Hawaii? ›
Wear good walking shoes and sunscreen.
You don't want to hike this trail in uncomfortable shoes And, since there is not much shade, you want to put on sunscreen before you make your way up. A hat helps, too. If you forget sunscreen, there is a small kiosk near the parking lot that sells sunscreen and other souvenirs.
The 0.8 mile hike from trailhead to the summit is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor. The walk is a glimpse into the geological and military history of Diamond Head.Is Diamond Head hike family friendly? ›
The Diamond Head Crater hike is essential to any active family's first visit to Oahu. And it's one of our favorite kid friendly hikes on Oahu. It is not the easiest hike on the island but is easy to reach from Waikiki and doable for most people who are reasonably fit.Can you go to Diamond Head without a reservation? ›
Diamond Head State Monument is the third park in Hawaii to require advance reservations, joining Haena State Park in Kauai and Waianapanapa State Park in Maui.