Diamond Head Trail is one of the most rewarding Oahu hikes, a must-do for any visitor. It offers amazing 360-degree views at the top of this dormant volcano. While it may look challenging, it only takes about 40 to 60 minutes to reach the 760-foot summit when you start at the Trailhead.
December 2016 and 2017
Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawaii USA
5km (3m) return walk from Waikiki Beach
Diamond Head is part of the Honolulu Volcanic Series, a system of cones, vents, and their associated eruptions which created many of Oʻahu’s well-known landmarks, including Punchbowl Crater, Hanauma Bay, Koko Head, and Mānana Island besides Diamond Head around 500,000 to 400,000 years old.
British sailors gave it its English name in the 19th century when they mistook calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds. But it most resembles its Hawaiian name, Lēʻahi, a combination of the words lae (promontory) and ʻahi (tuna) because its ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin.
From a walker’s perspective, you cannot help being drawn to its imposing presence at the eastern end of Waikiki as you relax on the beach or at a poolside bar drinking delectable mai tais and sampling the local delicacies. Its proximity beckons you to try the rim climb, at least once, during your vacation.
How long does it take?
Walking from Waikiki to Diamond Head is very doable. At around 5km (3 mile) return, even the slowest walkers or families with younger children should be able to cover it in four to five hours. Just be aware they allow no strollers on the main Diamond Head Crater Trail.
I recommend you wear runners or other suitable enclosed shoes, not flip-flops straight from the beach, if you want to make good time.
Walk in an easterly direction along the foreshore along Kalakaua Ave with Kapi’olani Regional Park on your left. At the end of this road take a right-hand turn to Diamond Head Rd and follow this all the way to the park entrance. Note this road does curve away from the coastline at some point. A good check, to confirm you are still on Diamond Head Rd, is if you can see the Hawaii Department of Defense building on your right. Continue along this road, crossing 22nd Avenue. Walk past a sign for Lēʻahi Millennium Peace Garden on your left and take the next street left after this sign. A steepish road takes you to Diamond Head Tunnel, which you walk through, before you arrive at the car park and entrance booths to the Diamond Head Crater Trail.
From the main northern entrance, it took me around 20 minutes to reach the peak, and 15 minutes to descend, walking swiftly at a reasonable pace. I recommend visiting MaiTravelSite.com here for more detailed information on the Diamond Head Hike. They estimate most people can complete it in an hour. The only time this doesn’t apply is during peak periods when slower single-file walking, due to the narrowness of the trail, can restrict your pace.
How difficult is the hike?
They grade the Diamond Head Crater Trail as moderate. Anyone in average physical condition can try it, although please note they do not allow strollers for younger children who may tire. It took me two hours to complete. I consider myself to be in good shape. If you walk at a slower pace, expect it to take you four to five hours to return to Waikiki Beach.
There are steep climbs up the stairs near the end as you approach the rim and you walk through a black tunnel. It takes time for your eyes to adjust and children will either love or hate this section. You may wish to bring a small torch or use your phone for illumination.
Anyone of average health and fitness should have no problem reaching the top, although I strongly recommend you bring more water than you think you will need and sunscreen if you are considering attempting this walk in the middle of the day. The walk has no cover except for the small tunnel section. Hawaiian sun is hot year-round, and dehydration is a real possibility.
Sun exposure is one of the major reasons many hikers choose to sit out the midday heat and treat themselves to a dawn or sunset walk. Personally, I find the best time to hike Diamond Head is early morning with fewer crowds. Diamond Head Park opening hours are from 6am to 6pm, with the last hikers admitted to the start of trail head at 4.30pm.
Being fortunate to have had two recent visits to Honolulu, I did the Diamond Head Hike several times during my stay. I never tire of it. The hike is a good workout, the sweeping views of Waikiki Beach and the mountainsides are exceptional, and every holidaymaker can enjoy it. How long does it take? The answer. As long as you want it to take. Set your own pace.
If you cannot spare four hours and you have a hire car, it costs $10 to park your car at Diamond Head State Monument Park.
Alternatively, take bus number 22, 23 or 58 and get off at the Diamond Head State Monument bus stop. The bus ride will take around 10-15 minutes. Ask the bus driver to tell you when you have reached your destination if you are not sure. You will have a short walk up through the Diamond Head Tunnel to reach the Diamond Head Crater Trail. At the entrance booths, walkers arriving by foot, pay only a US$1 park contribution.
Afterwards, for those without a car, I suggest calling a taxi or Uber to return you to Waikiki Beach or walk back, grateful you only had to walk one way. I found finding a regular return bus service difficult.