Normally, on a beach vacation in Hawaii, about the furthest you ever want to walk is from the resort to the beach. So it’s surprising that I’m about to recommend you ditch Waikiki Beach for a couple of hours and hike to Diamond Head.
Why in the world would you do a crazy thing like that? Well, there’s one very good reason why it’s worth the effort: the view of Honolulu from 762 feet (232m)…
Diamond Head is the English name for the volcanic cone that stands sentinel above the Hawaiian city of Honolulu, so named because British sailors in the 19th century mistook the shiny calcite crystals on an adjacent beach for diamonds. More fool them; the poor beggars probably thought they were rich.
To the native Hawaiians, however, Diamond Head supposedly resembled the forehead of the ahi fish, so they named it Lēʻahi.
But the volcanic cone pre-dates both of these names. It’s believed to have been formed about 300,000 years ago during a single, explosive eruption.
These days it’s Hawaii’s most famous landmark, a United States State Monument, a National Natural Landmark, and a hugely popular tourist attraction.
At the time of writing, Diamond Head costs $1 to walk in, or $5 per car.
How long does it take to walk to the top of Diamond Head?
The trail to the summit of Diamond Head was built in 1908 as part of the US Army Coastal Artillery defence system. From the trailhead to the top is a 0.8 mile hike (1.3km) and takes less than an hour – depending on your level of fitness and how often you stop to take photos.
For a round trip, the Diamond Head hike should take roughly 1.5-2 hours to complete from the carpark.
However, if you’re relying on public transport to get to the Diamond Head hike, then you should factor in a walk of about 20 minutes or so (past some public fitness equipment up a slight hill and through the Kahala Tunnel) to the Diamond Head toll booth.
The gates lock at 6pm and reopen at 6am, so the latest you can start the hike is 4.30pm. If you’re relatively unfit, then I recommend you embark on your hike before 4pm if possible, so you won’t have to hurry.
How difficult is the Diamond Head hike?
I’m no hiker, so you can trust me when I say that the hike up Diamond Head isn’t too difficult. Sure, you’ll work up a little bit of a sweat – but so will walking down the street in this hot Hawaiian climate.
The key is to do the hike during a cooler part of the day, and to wear appropriate footwear (see my Diamond Head hiking tips below).
Unless you’re in a mobility scooter or you’re using a walking stick to get around, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting to the top. On the way up Diamond Head, I saw a few clowns (not literally) in high-heels or flip-flops, and I’m sure even they made it up there – eventually (although I wouldn’t recommend you follow their example).
Parents of very small children or babies may want to give it a miss, though. I saw one stroller that had been ditched by the side of the trail, half way up.
If you’re unfit, take your time and stop to rest more often. There are no prizes for getting to the top the quickest – even if I totally got to the top of Diamond Head before Mrs Man vs World did!
Diamond Head hiking tips and extra info…
- It costs $1 to enter, or $5 per car.
- Once you’ve paid, they’ll hand you a map (not that you’ll need it) and some information about Diamond Head.
- Bring a bottle of water. There’s a drinking fountain at the start of the trail, but otherwise this is just about the only place you won’t find an ABC Store.
- There was a food truck in the Diamond Head carpark, serving up hotdogs and chips (untested). Perhaps they sell water also?
- Diamond Head is busiest during the middle of the day, so avoid the crowds by going early or late in the day.
- It’s also a good idea to do it when it’s cloudy. The photos may not be as spectacular, but screw doing the hike in the hot sun.
- Sports shoes or hiking boots are a good idea. Don’t wear jandals/thongs/flip-flops/heels.
- It can get pretty stinking hot on the trail, so I’m glad I just wore shorts and a t-shirt.
- There’s a tunnel along the way, which I’m assuming could be pretty challenging if you’re claustrophobic.
- The only restroom is at the bottom of the hike.
- Don’t forget your camera.