What is Diamond Head? Things To Know Before Visiting Diamond Head Hawaii
Diamond Head is the most visited Hawaii State Park and is a volcanic cone on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The Hawaiians call it Lahi (brow of the tuna) because the ridgeline resembles the dorsal fin of a tuna fish. British soldiers visiting the area in the nineteenth century mistook the sparkling calcite crystals on the neighboring beach for diamonds.
Diamond Head provides stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu and can be reached by hiking to the edge of the 300,000-year-old crater.
*ONLY CREDIT CARDS*
- Hawaii residents get in free with a Hawaii ID or driver’s license.
- Non-residents of Hawaii = $5
- Children under the age of three are eligible for free
- No Charge with ID for Residents
- Non-residents are charged $10 per vehicle.
Fees for commercial vehicles:
- 1-7 passenger vehicles = $25
- 8-25 passenger vehicles = $50
- 26 and up Passenger Vehicles = $90 (
- RESERVATIONS REQUIRED FOR NON-RESIDENTS)
What is Diamond Head?
Diamond Head is a volcano in the Ko’olau Range that first erupted below sea level over 2.6 million years ago. The crater was formed by a single eruption around 300,000 years ago.
The crater is 350 acres in size. Because it was formed explosively, the crater is much larger than its rim. A tuff cone is a type of formation like this.
Diamond Head has a height of 762 feet above sea level. Diamond Head Mountain stands 560 feet tall when measured from the crater floor.
Diamond Head is monogenetic, which means that it only erupts once. The volcanic tuff cone’s last eruption was most likely 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. It has been dormant ever since.
What is Diamond Head’s Military Importance?
In 1905, the United States government purchased the Diamond Head Crater and some of the surrounding areas, developing around 720 acres into Fort Ruger to strengthen the country’s coast artillery defense. It was the state of Hawaii’s first military reservation. Batteries and guns were placed on the crater’s slopes and within it. The facilities were upgraded after WWII, including the addition of anti-aircraft batteries to the crater’s rim.
Some of these installations are still standing today. Battery 407, which was designed to house guns salvaged from the USS Arizona, Birkhimer Tunnel, a bunker-style battery, a National Guard emergency operations center, and the Hawaii State Civil Defense Headquarters are among them.
Several agencies have used the seven tunnels built into the crater’s outside slope. Tunnel 0 is used for communication, while the others (Tunnels 1–6) are used for storage. Many of the tunnels are equipped with ventilation systems.
What activities are available at Diamond Head State Park?
There aren’t many places on Earth where you can hike to the crater of a volcano. This is possible thanks to the Diamond Head Trail, which culminates in panoramic views of Oahu, the famous Diamond Head Lighthouse, a United States Coast Guard facility featured on a U.S. postage stamp, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. On a clear day, you can also see Molokai, a nearby island.
The trail, which was built in 1908 as part of the army’s coastal artillery defense system, climbs the inside slope of the crater for 0.6 mile. It’s a switchback trail with a railing on one side and the mountain on the other. The dirt trail was built to allow people and mules hauling materials for the construction of a fire control station to move around. The Kahala tunnel, which serves as the crater’s entrance, was built in 1940.
There will be a rest stop at a lookout point before continuing on through tunnels and stairs. Climb 99 steps to the second lookout point, which features a WW II bunker. A further 54 steps will take you to the crater’s summit.
A picnic area, restrooms, drinking fountains, and information and historical displays are located on the crater rim.
The volcano is close to a number of beaches and parks.
How long does the hike to Diamond Head take?
Diamond Head hike takes about 1.5-2 hours (1.6 miles (2.5 km) roundtrip).
Your hike will be safe and convenient thanks to the paved surface and handrails. Still, some parts of the trail have uneven rock, so walk carefully and don’t lose your footing. Take note that you must walk through a narrow tunnel to reach the summit. If you’re claustrophobic, this may feel a little unsettling, but you’ll be out soon and rewarded with breathtaking views!
Also, be cautious as you ascend the 99 steps at the end of your hike. Wear sturdy hiking boots. Bring a flashlight with you to help you keep track of your steps.
When is the best time to go to Diamond Head?
The hottest months to visit Diamond Head are June, June, and August, with temperatures reaching 94.4 °F (34.7 °C) in the middle of August, making it a slow season for tourism. The peak tourist seasons are in the spring and winter. The fall weather is pleasant for visiting the volcanic formation, but rain and snow may interfere.
Are Diamond Head Tours available?
A tour that includes all of Oahu’s best attractions, including Diamond Head, can be both cost effective and time efficient. Sightseeing tours handle all of the details for you, so you don’t have to worry about transportation or parking.
Diamond Head tour prices can vary greatly depending on the type of experience offered and the tour’s inclusions.
Diamond Head tours range from sunset tours on electric scooters, bike tours, and audio hiking tours to guided group tours that take you to other attractions like Waimea Waterfall and hop-on, hop-off tours that cover Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, and Waikiki.
When does Diamond Head open?
From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the park is open. The early morning hours are quieter and cooler. Given the time it takes to complete the hike, you can enter Diamond Head at 4.30 p.m. The park is open every day of the year, including holidays.
7 Things You Should Know Before Going to Diamond Head On the Hawaiian island of Oahu
Diamond Head is part of the Honolulu Volcanic Series’ system of cones, vents, and eruption flows.
Fortunately, there is no danger of an eruption these days! However, the long-dormant crater and crater walls provide visitors with spectacular views and one of the most rewarding hikes in the state.
Diamond Head got its unusual name from 19th-century British soldiers who thought the nearby sparkling calcite crystals were far more valuable. However, the indigenous Hawaiians refer to the landmark as Leahi, which is derived from the Hawaiian words lae for “ridge” and ahi for “tuna.” Using your imagination, you can see how the crater rim resembles the dorsal fin of a tuna.
Diamond Head is now protected by the Diamond Head State Monument. It is one of the largest green zones in an American state capital, covering approximately 475 acres.
WAIKIKI COASTAL BUILDINGS AND DIAMOND HEAD CRATER OKIMO / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM PHOTO CREDIT
1. Travel by foot, car, or public transportation.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike from Waikiki to the gates of Diamond Head State Monument. It could take up to an hour depending on where you start — and then you have to explore the park! However, it is more common than you might think, especially among fitness-conscious locals.
Most visitors, however, prefer to save their energy for the hike to the top of Diamond Head, and there are several alternative ways to get to the park. The Waikiki Trolley blue line, for example, includes a stop at the Diamond Head State Monument gates. However, purchasing a trolley pass makes financial sense only if you intend to ride the trolley to other attractions.
“DIAMOND HEAD IS PART OF THE SYSTEM OF CONES, VENTS, AND ERUPTION FLOWS IN THE HONOLULU VOLCANIC SERIES.”
(IMAGES: JADESPHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
The city bus, which costs about $3 for adults, is a more cost-effective option. The most direct public transportation route is bus number 23 from Kuhio Avenue (toward Diamond Head). While you’ll most likely see the State Monument sign, let the driver know where you’re going just in case. Tickets are usually valid for two hours, so if you’re a quick hiker and a frugal traveler, save your transfer stub and your return trip may be free.
Of course, you can drive (there is plenty of parking) or take a taxi or Uber. The Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium, and Diamond Head Beach Park are all within walking distance of Diamond Head State Monument. If you want to visit these attractions while on Oahu, it’s best to do so after visiting Diamond Head, while you’re still in the area.
DIAMOND HEAD FROM ABOVE SVETLANASF / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM PHOTO CREDIT
2. Reservations Are Required
Diamond Head State Monument is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the year, including holidays. Because the round trip takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours, the latest time you can enter the park to hike is 4:00 p.m. On busy days, the park can accommodate over 3,000 visitors. As a result, beginning May 12, 2022, all out-of-state visitors will need to make an advance reservation to visit Diamond Head State Monument.
For the time being, reservations can be made up to 14 days in advance, but the long-term goal is to change the system so that reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance. Visitors must arrive within 30 minutes of their scheduled arrival time. You must, however, leave by the end of your reservation time. So, if you’re a slow walker, make sure you arrive at the start of your time slot!
3. The best time to hike is in the morning.
If you’re visiting Hawaii from the mainland North America and your jet lag has you up early, go to the park before the crowds arrive. We began our hike shortly after the park opened, and I’m glad we did. The weather was pleasant, there weren’t many people (though we weren’t alone), and it was encouraging to see so many locals working out. It made me realize that Diamond Head is more than just a tourist attraction; it’s a beloved part of the community.
4. Use the Internet to Pay, but Bring Cash
Prior to the new reservation system, admission to Diamond Head State Monument was $5 per car (regardless of how many people were in it) and $1 for pedestrians, and it was only available in cash. However, the new system alters everything! The reservation system now requires you to pay $5 per person in advance via credit card online. If you want to park, you can pay the $10 parking fee. If you have proof that you are a Hawaiian resident, you can enter and park for free.
I highly recommend bringing some extra cash with you to purchase some refreshing shave ice after your hike. There’s usually a food truck selling it in the parking lot, and it’s the best way to reward yourself after your adventure, in my opinion.
DIAMOND HEAD STATE MONUMENT TOURIST WALKWAY (PHOTO CREDIT: JAMISON LOGAN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
5. Minimal Equipment Required
You should bring your own water bottles (there are fountains at the beginning of the trail but none as you ascend), a hat, sunscreen, and good walking shoes, in addition to some cash. I must say that despite the loose gravel, I saw quite a few people wearing casual flip-flops. To each his or her own, but I’m glad I brought my sneakers!
6. Be Prepared for Stairs and Gravel
The trail to the summit was constructed as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system in 1908. The hike is only 0.8 miles round trip, but you gain 560 feet in elevation. The trail features a concrete walkway, loose gravel and soil, a 225-foot-long tunnel (which appears pitch black from the outside but is dimly lit inside), and numerous stairs. There are several narrow and awkward sections of the trail, in addition to the loose gravel, and your ankles will appreciate the extra support that tennis shoes provide.
I was worried that Diamond Head would beat me because I hadn’t realized there were so many stairs involved — I assumed I’d be hiking up a slope, not steps! The stairs weren’t particularly difficult, but they were more difficult for me because I hadn’t anticipated them. I don’t find the route nearly as intimidating now that I know what to expect. The hike to the top of Diamond Head is strenuous, but it’s doable. A little forethought goes a long way.
DIAMOND HEAD STATE MONUMENT VIEW (PHOTO CREDIT: MICHAEL GORDON / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)
7. Fantastic Views and History
The incredible view is without a doubt the most spectacular thing you’ll see at Diamond Head State Monument. On a clear day, locals claim that there is nowhere else on Earth where you can see so far overland. I agree based on my very unscientific observations! From the summit of Diamond Head, you can see the entire city of Honolulu. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to watch the sunrise for early risers.
The land views, however, pale in comparison to the ocean views. This is the Hawaii of your dreams, with crashing, deep navy blue waves and delicate shades of turquoise lapping at the shore — nothing but sun, sky, and surf. During the winter, you may see humpback whales frolicking in the distance. A jaunty white lighthouse can be found at the base of Diamond Head. The lighthouse, a US Coast Guard facility, was built in 1917 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. If it looks familiar, it’s because it appeared on a postal stamp in 2007! You can’t go there, so you’ll have to settle for the views from Diamond Head.
“FROM CRASHING, DEEP NAVY BLUE WAVES TO DELICATE SHADES OF TURQUOISE LAPPING AT THE SHORE, THIS IS HAWAII OF YOUR DREAMS.” BENNY MARTY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM PHOTO CREDIT
While I expected spectacular views — and I was not disappointed — I also noticed something else that piqued my interest. Many objects along the trail attest to the crater’s history as a military observation post. For decades, the land around Diamond Head Trail was a military base, with artillery cannons, cement bunkers, and an observation deck built on the crater. As you finish your hike, you can still see remnants of Diamond Head’s former life. I watched chunks of concrete and wire slowly disintegrating and rusting on the ground with an odd mix of curiosity and sadness. How long will it be before Diamond Head completely consumes its own history?
If you want to learn more about Diamond Head’s fascinating history, you can stop by the park’s interpretive kiosk. The employees are extremely knowledgeable and eager to answer questions.
Although the journey down Diamond Head is faster and easier than the journey up, you should still exercise caution around the steep areas and keep an eye out for congested areas filled with tourists wielding rogue selfie sticks!
Topic: What is Diamond Head? Things To Know Before Visiting Diamond Head Hawaii
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By: Travel Pixy