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Best Hikes on Oahu: Diamond Head Crater Trail

Basic Trail Information

  • Name: Diamond Head Summit Trail
  • Where: Oahu, Hawaii
  • Distance: 1.6 miles round-trip
  • Difficulty: moderate (560 feet gain in altitude)
  • Time: 1.5 hours round-trip
  • More Info: Diamond Head State Monument website

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Topographic Map of the Diamond Head Crater Trail:

diamond head map2

Narrative

Hawaii has many recognizable landmarks, but there is probably not one view more iconic than the one of Diamond Head Crater from Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.  What few people realize though is that Diamond Head is actually a large volcanic crater that was once an important military base.  The crater is no longer an active military base, but the old fortifications around Diamond Head are now a popular hiking destination for visitors to the island:

diamond head map1

There is a road that drives up the side of Diamond Head and passes through a tunnel to enter the inside of the crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Getting parking later in the day can be a challenge so be prepared to wait.  Like just about everywhere else on Oahu to avoid crowds get here early.  After finding parking my family and I walked across the large flat grassland which fills the inside of crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

Here is a panorama picture of the inside of the crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

All this land provides plenty of room for Honolulu residents to play catch with the football or throw a Frisbee around.  However, my wife and I didn’t drive up to Diamond Head to throw a Frisbee around; we came to hike up the mountain.  Before heading up the mountain though we stopped to learn a little more about the crater.  There is a visitor that has plenty of signboards around for those wanting learn more about Diamond Head Crater’s history:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Here is one signboard that shows the various military bunkers that composes the trail to its summit:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Here is a signboard that explains the military history of the crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Here is a couple more signboards that explain the natural history that formed this crater:

Picture from Diamond Head CraterPicture from Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head Crater was created 300,000 years ago when a massive volcanic blast along the base of the Ko’olau Mountains rocked the island.  When the ash and gas stopped what was left was Diamond Head crater which geologists often call this type of crater a Tuff Cone.  Koko Crater on Oahu was formed during the same volcanic blast as Diamond Head.  When the first Hawaiians arrived on Oahu about 1,500 years ago they named this striking crater Le’ahi, which means “wreath of fire” which was from the navigational fires the ancient Hawaiians used to light from the crater’s summit.  In the late 1700’s western explorers misidentified volcanic crystals located around the mountain as being diamonds, which gave this striking crater its western name of Diamond Head.

After getting our history lesson about the crater my wife and I followed the paved trail up to the summit.  The trail was paved pretty much the whole way and had many benches to rest on, which was a good thing considering how steep the trail was.  Considering the number of older and out of shape people I saw on the trail, the benches were put to good use:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

This trail was built in 1908 by the US Army Corps of Engineers to aid in the construction of the various bunkers located around the summit of the crater.  This trail saw an army of mules haul up supplies to build the various concrete tunnels and bunkers:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Now this trail just sees a daily army of tourists hiking to the summit of Diamond Head to get that iconic views of Honolulu and Waikiki.

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Here is a view looking back down the trail towards the crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Due to the steep sides of the crater and the amount of foot traffic it receives there are a lot of signs warning visitors of falling rocks:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

As we gained altitude we eventually had some good views of the nearby Ko’olau Range to include of the beautiful Manoa Valley:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

The Manoa Valley is home to some great hikes such as the ones listed below:

 

Picture from Diamond Head CraterPicture from Diamond Head Crater

On the way up the mountain I noticed this beautiful bird in a tree:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

I anyone knows what this bird is please leave a comment. As we climbed up the mountain the vegetation was mostly dry though there was some scrub brush and a few trees that were able to draw enough moisture from the lava rock to survive:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

As my wife and I ascended the mountain we eventually had to climb a long staircase:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

At the end of the staircase we then entered into the first tunnel complex:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

As we exited the tunnel the various bunkers along the summit of the crater came into view:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

These bunkers were used as positions to defend Oahu from air attack during World War II and later as a radar station. After some climbing up some stairs we entered into another tunnel complex:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

The trail ends inside one of the bunkers where visitors can climb out of the bunker and join the hordes of tourists on Diamond Head Crater’s summit:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

The actual summit of Diamond Head is located up a staircase that leads to the top of the bunker:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

From the top of the bunker there are some incredible views of Honolulu:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

Here is the view looking down into Diamond Head crater from where we started our hike:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

We also had some nice views from the summit of a lighthouse right below us:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

As well as views on the Honolulu neighborhoods built on the slopes of the extinct volcano that formed this island:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

Of course the most popular view is of Waikiki Beach:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

Here is a panorama of the view from the top of Diamond Head Crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Here is a wider angle panorama picture:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

There are more than just beautiful natural views to see from the summit because there are plenty of beautiful women who liked to go up this trail as well:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

The trail from the summit loops around the bunkers we previously passed through in order to prevent a bottleneck.  This side trail had some really nice views of the inside of the crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Here is another view of the inside of the crater:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Here is an even wider angle of the view:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater

Conclusion

Overall, we had a great time climbing to the top of the crater and taking in the views.  It takes only about 45 minutes to walk up to the summit so it is not a big time commitment to undertake if time during a visit to Hawaii is limited.  I would rate this as one of the must dos for anyone visiting the beautiful island of Oahu.

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