Hiking in Hawaii: Oahu’s Diamond Head


After spending a couple days at the beach in Waikiki, splashing around in the water and laying in the sand started to get old.

I’d heard good things about the Diamond Head State Monument in Honolulu so that was where I headed. It’s a big ol’ crater made by volcanic activity about 300,000 years ago — turned military base — turned state park and popular tourist and hiking destination. Fun fact: In the 1700’s British explorers mistook the quartz crystals they found in the crater for diamonds, and since then it was named Diamond Head.

How to get there

You can hire a car and drive there from downtown Honolulu, by far the easiest option, especially if you’ve already got a hired a car in your possession (and are planning a road trip the next day), or you can hop on a bus or take the Waikiki Trolley. If you drive into the park there’s a $5 fee, but if you take public transport or a cab it’s only $1 per person. A very small price to pay if you ask me.


The hike

As for the hike itself it’s not very difficult. You can finish it in less than two hours, walking at a leisurely pace and making stops to take photos along the way. If you’re unlike me and more intense about your hiking activities it will probably take you closer to an hour or less.

It starts off quite tame with mostly paved footpaths, but the challenge increases as you get closer to the top with some steep and gravely parts and a dimly lit tunnel that may or may not feel claustrophobic inside, especially when you can hear the sound of heaps of people making heavy breathing noises all around you as they climb the steps behind you. Oh, and it will be scorching hot and there’s no shade to hide under going up or down so take that into account as well.

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As you near the summit you’re given a choice to take a set of 99 steps — a direct route to a bunker at the top — or a winding path around the side that takes a few minutes longer. For the record I don’t think I saw anyone go up those stairs.

Headed to Diamond Head anytime soon? I have some tips:

Try to go out as early as you can bear. The park opens at 6am, and while I didn’t make it quite that early, as long as you’re there before 10 or 11 in the morning you’ll beat the busloads of tour groups. You won’t be burned to a crisp in the sun either.

On that note, wear sunscreen! And a hat and/or sunnies. AND bring a water bottle. The crater is a hot, dry place. And like I said before, there’s no shade so you have no place to hide from the sun. Until you reach the bunker at the top, that is. Even then it will be sweltering inside there too.

If you like cheesy souvenirs… there’s usually a man at the top that sells certificates for completing the hike, and I believe all proceeds go to maintaining the facilities at Diamond Head, so that’s kinda nice.


No matter how you get there, the view from the top is pretty incredible. You can see Waikiki Beach and the Honolulu skyline in it’s entirety. The view of the Pacific Ocean isn’t too shabby either.  A moderate effort for a sweet view. Worth the hike? Heck yes.