If you have seen images of picturesque Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu, chances are you have seen the verdant and striking summit of Diamond Head, Hawaii, in the background. The fantastic thing about the Diamond Head Trail, is that it can be done in a day, and it is in such close proximity to the heart of Honolulu and Waikiki, that there really is no excuse not to view the famous Hawaii scenery from above! Here is everything you need to know in order to tackle the best of Oahu hikes and get the most from your Diamond Head hike experience!
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Table of Contents
Guide to Hiking the Diamond Head Hike
This guide covers the following information on the Diamond Head Trail:
- Background on Diamond Head, Hawaii
- What to Know Before You Go
- Full Trail Report on the Diamond Head Hike
Background on Diamond Head, Hawaii
Diamond Head is actually a crater, situated on hundreds of acres of Diamond Head State Monument. The trail leading to the crater summit offers stunning panoramic views of Waikiki Beach, the lighthouse on the shoreline below, and the Pacific Ocean. It is also steeped in military history, with evidence still actively on display for hikers, such as the old military bunkers and fire station, which appear almost symbiotically melded into the top of the summit.
The trail was actually initially established as part of the island’s defense system in the early 1900’s, and is now enjoyed as one of the best Oahu hikes not only for its beautiful views, but its historical significance.
Know Before You Go
Location: Diamond Head, Hawaii, is located on the island of Oahu. It is located southeast of Honolulu. (Google Map)
Hours: Open daily from 6 AM – 6 PM (except Christmas Day and New Years). The last entry for hiking the Diamond Head Trail is 4:00 PM. Gates are locked at 6 PM daily.
Fees: $25 per vehicle, or $5 per pedestrian. Entry and parking reservations are required for non-residents.
Parking: there is parking at the trailhead
Facilities: there are bathroom facilities at the trailhead, as well as vending machines and water.
Best Time of Year to Visit: Year round! The Diamond Head hike is great year round, but start early in the summer to avoid the hottest parts of the day. The Diamond Head Trail has limited shade.
Pet Policy: Pets are not allowed on the Diamond Head Trail.
Diamond Head State Monument is open daily from 6am to 6pm, however, the last entry to hike the Diamond Head trail is at 4:00pm. The gates will be locked and visitors will be asked to exit the park by 6pm.
Entry to the monument is $25 per vehicle, or $5 for pedestrian entry. Yes, you can literally walk to Diamond Head State Monument from Waikiki Beach, but plan on adding an extra one hour each way minimum to your hike if you do. The walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head will take you past older homes and charming neighborhoods, so it is completely worth it if you have the time and energy.
Pets are not allowed at Diamond Head State Monument, with the exception of service animals.
There are facilities in the park, including restrooms, water, and vending machines.
Location of the Diamond Head hike and surrounding area
Full Report on Hiking the Diamond Head Trail
Quick Facts on the Diamond Head Trail:
Length: 1.9 miles roundtrip out and back
Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour
Elevation: 761 feet
Elevation Gain: 515 feet
Upon entering Diamond Head State Monument and paying the entrance fee, visitors will be greeted with a lush, tropical setting at the onset of the trailhead, nestled in the heart of the crater. Gazing up at the summit, it may feel intimidating at first, but Diamond Head is a completely doable day hike for almost all fitness levels, including children. No advance training is necessary, or technical gear, just know yourself and use intentional pacing as necessary.
Due to certain steep sections of the Diamond Head hike and some areas of loose gravel, hiking footwear with sturdy support and good traction is highly recommended. Admittedly, you will encounter those who are hiking this trial in flip flops, but due to the terrain, I believe a solid hiking boot or trail running shoe, like my Hoka One One Speedgoats, is a much more prepared and safe option.
Though the Diamond Head hike is a short trail, the sun is largely unobstructed and it can get hot, so carry plenty of water with you. Even better, avoid the hottest part of the day if you can and start early. Not only will you encounter less direct sun, but you will also have more of this hike to yourself. This is a very popular hike, so starting later in the day will likely find a significantly more congested trail. With a gate opening time of 6am, you can literally do this hike with time to catch breakfast in Waikiki afterwards!
Plan to give yourself at least an hour to complete this hike, plus any breaks and time spent enjoying the summit! Below are some additional facts regarding the Diamond Head hike:
The trailhead can be found on the west side of the crater, and initially starts from the parking lot area on a paved path for approximately 0.2 miles, then proceeds over several sections of steeper switchbacks. After the switchbacks, hikers will encounter the first set of stairs, right at 74 steps, which lead to the first lookout.
Following the first lookout, hikers pass through a dark tunnel, before ascending the second set of stairs that lead to the bunkers. This second section of stairs, nearly 100 steps, is what I consider one of the more challenging aspects of this hike. But getting a chance to explore inside the old bunkers at the top is worth it!
This was and may always be the only time I will ever have the chance to step inside an old military bunker, and the experience is definitely a memorable one! Though empty now and largely stark, you can still feel the significance behind these buildings.
There is one final set of stairs after the bunkers, that take you to the last lookout at the summit. The 360 degree views are arguably among the best of Oahu hikes!
For me, having the chance to explore the military remnants was absolutely fascinating, and coupled with the breathtaking views and challenging incline, was the highlight of this unique and one of a kind hike, and undeniably earns the Diamond Head Trail a spot at the top among Oahu hikes!
So what hiking training exercises can you do now to get ready for the stairs and uphill climb on the Diamond Head hike? Check out these 6 hiking training exercises you can do no matter where you live!
Interested in some other scenic, summit day hikes around the country? A few of my favorites are the hike to the Wheeler Peak summit in New Mexico, the Humphrey’s Peak hike in Arizona, or the Guadalupe Peak hike to its summit on the top of Texas!
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