DIAMOND HEAD CRATER HIKE IN HONOLULU ON OAHU, HAWAII
The Diamond Head Crater Hike is one of the most popular walking trails on the island and although it is paved the whole way it is still a steep challenge and a hike with amazing views of Waikiki and the southern coastline of Oahu, Hawaii.
Where is Diamond Head Crater Hiking Trail
Diamond Head Crater is just next to Waikiki and the hiking trail begins inside the crater. You can’t hike up onto the crater rim from the outside, this is prohibited. It’s only 5-10 minutes from Waikiki by car. I’ve added a map to the bottom of this post to help you find it. To enter the trail costs only a couple of dollars.
If you are staying in Waikiki, you should definitely make the effort to get out to Diamond Head Crater because it gives you an epic view of the region you are staying in and is one of the most popular attractions on Oahu.
How To Get to The Diamond Head Crater Trail
You will enter on Diamond Head Road and there are a few parking spots outside the tunnel. These are the only free parking spots and then you need to walk through the tunnel. Otherwise, you drive through the tunnel into the crater and pay for parking. It’s only a few dollars for parking but thought you might like to know that tip. You can walk to the trailhead from Waikiki and it will take you about 20-50 minutes depending on which end of Waikiki you are staying at. What you can do is put your hotel name into google maps and then select the walk option and see how long it predicts for you to reach the trailhead. Keep in mind the hike is pretty steep so you may want to save your energy for the hike rather than doing a 30-minute walk just to get into the Diamond Head Crater.
Diamond Head Crater Opening Times
Diamond Head Crater hike is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm, every day of the year including holidays. Last entrance to hike the trail is at 4:30 pm. The gates are locked at 6:00 pm daily and all visitors must be out of the park by this time. This means you can’t really do sunrise or sunset but if you get there at 5:50 am and start jogging up you will get some great golden hour lighting, which several people usually do each morning. You will avoid the crowds this way too!
Diamond Head Crater Hiking Tour
The entrance fee is just $2 but if you prefer to join a guided tour to show you the way, explain the history and share stories with you, I can recommend this top-rated tour.
Book your tour: Guided Hiking Tour (Morning)
Diamond Head Crater History
Diamond Head Crater is also known as Leahi in Hawaiian, which means ‘brow of the tuna’. It was named Diamond Head in the 19th century by the British sailors who believed they had discovered diamonds on the slopes of the crater. They weren’t diamonds, they were just calcite crystals worth absolutely nothing.
Today, the crater is used as a military looking and is a National Natural Landmark as of 1968.
My Experience Hiking The Diamond Head Crater Trail
My legs hang over the edge of a pillbox, once used as a coastal defense lookout, the wind is whipping hair over my eyes, but nothing can break my hypnotic gaze out over Waikiki. Perched 560 feet above sea level, I find myself in awe of the tourist mecca bustling with the action below me. The Diamond Head trail took us only 25 minutes to ascend and is the perfect way to begin your stay on Oahu, Hawaii.
More than 200,00 years ago Koʻolau Volcano erupted, forming Diamond Head Crater on the southern shore of Oahu. The Crater was home to Fort Ruger in 1909, the first military base in the Territory of Hawaii. Today, the dormant volcano has the most popular hiking trail on Oahu, originally built in 1908 as part of the Oahu coastal defense system.
Diamond Head trail is the most popular hike on Oahu and the best thing to do in Honolulu if you have no transport but want to go hiking. It is located within walking distance from most Hotels in Waikiki, making it the first choice for most tourists. The historic hike is also simple enough for most ages and people with minimal hiking experience to enjoy.
A one-dollar admission fee is all we had to pay once inside the crater at the beginning of the trail. To park a car inside the crater at the admission gate cost five-dollars no matter how many occupants in the car. Drinks, shave ice and other food is available at a food truck and toilets and drinking fountains can be found at the beginning of the trail but not along the hike nor at the summit.
The first section of the trail warmed up our legs with a relatively mild incline. Thick foliage lined the winding cement trail and we soon found our walking pace. I suggest sunscreen and water for this hike as most of the trail is exposed to the searing sun. It was amazing to look up at the former military pillboxes and imagine the feeling of watching out over the horizon waiting for intruding vessels and aircraft.
We left behind the cement path and began winding our way up the mountain on the exposed rock. Each time we turned a corner we could look back down at the path we had just walked up, which was good motivation for us. Along the way we saw glimpses of the east coast and it would prove to be an appetizer for the spectacle waiting for us at the summit.
A short pit stop along the way to enjoy a viewing platform was a good chance to catch our breath and appreciate the history of the hike. A winch that used to transport materials up to the pillboxes from the bottom of the crater sat on the edge of the cliff face and once again I was imagining a different time-period and a different set of circumstances in which the platform and trail were once being used.
We continued on our journey up the trail and were soon greeted by an intimidating flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs was a musty old tunnel that had me feeling like we were in a war, staying out of enemy sight. At the end of the tunnel to our dismay was another enormous flight of stairs.
We pushed through and reached what we thought was the summit. To our pleasant surprise, it was another a winding staircase, similar to what you would find inside a lighthouse. Clambering up the stairs we caught a glimpse of sunlight and realized we had made it to the top. We crept out of the pillbox and caught our first glimpse of the ocean and the 360-degree views of paradise.
This is really a great way to start your vacation or stay on Oahu as it gives you a view of the entire city, helping you get your bearings and better understand what your temporary home actually looks like. This is why I think it is the first thing you should do in Honolulu.
At the summit we found multiple pillbox lookouts, several had small fences saying do not climb. Many other people were out on these off-limits pillboxes so we climbed over the fence and edged our way out to our own private pillbox.
Sitting down with my friends, the city at my feet, my eyes unable to escape the lure of the ocean’s glimmer, I was left me with a feeling of absolute freedom. I felt on top of the world, overlooking a travel mecca or in my case a paradise that I am lucky enough to call home.
Diamond Head Crater Hike Map
As you can see on the map below the big green section is the Diamond Head Crater. There is only one entrance to the hike which starts right in the center of that green area where the red pin is on the map below. You will enter on Diamond Head Road and there are a few parking spots outside the tunnel. These are the only free parking spots and then you need to walk through the tunnel. Otherwise, you drive through the tunnel into the crater and pay for parking. It’s only a few dollars for parking but thought you might like to know that tip. You can walk to the trailhead from Waikiki and it will take you about 20-50 minutes depending on which end of Waikiki you are staying at. What you can do is put your hotel name into google maps and then select the walk option and see how long it predicts for you to reach the trailhead. Keep in mind the hike is pretty steep so you may want to save your energy for the hike rather than doing a 30-minute walk just to get into the Diamond Head Crater.
Where to stay on Oahu
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show.
Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.
Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.
Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.
Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.
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I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
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