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. This 3km out-and-back trail is one of the most ‘must-do’ activities for visitors staying in Waikiki!
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DIAMOND HEAD CRATER HIKE
In this blog post, I will share with you all of the details you need in order to enjoy the Diamond Head Crater hike such as distance, incline, best viewpoints along the way, where to park, the best time of day, photo opportunities, and other attractions nearby.
Diamond Head Crater Hike Details
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 2.9 km or 1.8 miles but don’t forget to add on your mileage if you parked outside of the crater.
- Hike Duration: The hike will take you just over 1 hour up and down.
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 452ft or 138 meters
- Hike Difficulty: This hike is one of the easiest on the island of Oahu due to the paved path and relatively short distance. Brace for a few stairs and a narrow tunnel but nothing dangerous. Compared to many of the intense and wild hikes on Oahu, this is one for families and all levels of fitness.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
Where is Diamond Head Crater Hiking Trail?
Diamond Head Crater is just next to Waikiki and the hiking trail actually begins inside the crater. You can simply walk through the tunnel of the crater wall or drive and pay for the parking inside. I’ve included a map of the Diamond Head Crater Hike Trailhead below.
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Can you walk to the Diamond Head Hike from your hotel in Waikiki?
It is most definitely possible to walk from your hotel to the trailhead. However, Waikiki isn’t small so depending on which end of the district your hotel is at could make a big difference.
If you are staying down the eastern end near Kapiolani Park such as the Aston Waikiki Beach or the Queen Kapiolani, you are quite close. It will take just over two miles. However, if you are staying at the western end in a hotel such as the Hilton Hawaiian Village, you will be looking at a four-mile walk just to the trailhead. Keep in mind, there is quite an incline just to reach the trailhead before the real trail even begins with 130m of incline.
Therefore unless you are looking for a pretty hefty workout, it is best to take the Waikiki Trolley, Uber, or rent a Biki bike to reach the trailhead. It’s not as close as it looks.
Note: You can’t hike up onto the crater rim from the outside, this is prohibited.
Diamond Head Crater Hike Parking Lot(s)
There are a number of ways to park before beginning the Diamond Head Hike. Some are free and some will cost you. Let’s start from furthest to closest.
- Free Parking on Monsarrat Avenue: This is a good free option but you will need to walk up the hill and then inside the tunnel before beginning the hike. It will add a couple of kilometers onto your total mileage. A popular option among loals.
- Parking just after the turn-off for the tunnel: Just after the turnoff to head into the tunnel, there is a small parking lot. It’s closer than parking at the bottom of Monsarrat but still involes a short walk.
- Parking just before the tunnel: There are a very limited few parking spaces just before the tunnel. Turn in the same as you woud to drive to the trailhead but park just before the tunnel and then walk the 500m through the tunnel to the trailhead saving you $10 in parking.
- Park at the paid parking in the secure lot: Right at the base of the trailhead and next to the ticket office is the official parking. It’s often busy but you are right where the action starts. Parking costs around $10 per vehicle and all passenger must still pay the $5 entry fee for the hike.
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. The 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 $5 but if you prefer to join a guided tour there is one that really stands out. This is because it combines two hikes in one day and includes all the transport, which makes it worth it. The Diamond Head & Manoa Falls Combo Tour combines the two most popular hikes near Waikiki into one day!
Book your tour: Diamond Head Manoa Falls Guided Tour (with hotel pick/up)
Diamond Head Crater Hike Audio Tour
If you aren’t keen on an entire tour and want to do things at your own pace, I suggest purchasing the Audio Tour with headphones. As of 2022, it is just $4. Along the hiking route, there are many plaques with a number and you simply play the corresponding audio. The audio tour gives you information on the historical, geological, and ecological significance of Diamond Head. You can purchase the audio tour at the ticket office inside the crater.
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 in Oahu, Hawaii.
More than 200,00 years ago Koʻolau Volcano erupted, forming a 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 $5 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 costs ten dollars no matter how many occupants are in the car. Drinks, shave ice and other foods are 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 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.
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 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.
VALUABLE TIPS FOR HIKING DIAMOND HEAD CRATER
- Catching Golden Hour: The gates open and close at 6am and 6pm so if you want to catch golden hour, it has to be for sunrise. Often the sun is rising just after 7am, so if you get there right on the dot and start hiking you will be at the summit to watch the sun rise with views of Waikiki and beyond.
- The gates close at 6pm: The last hikers can set off around 4pm otherwise there will be latecomers returning to the parking lot each day. That means for most months of the year you can’t watch the sunset from the top.
- Early morning is best: I suggest doing the hike in the monring because even at 4pm the sun is still very strong. I always prefer to be back to the parking lot having finished the hike by 10am. There is very little shade on the trail and by 10am the Hawaiian sun can be HOT!
- This hike is crowded: Sometimes it’s so busy you move at a snails pace through the narrow path with people coming up and down. If you are looking for an easy hike on Oahu or a less trafficked one you can check out my article about the best hikes on Oahu.
DIAMOND HEAD CRATER HISTORY
Geological History: Diamond Head formed 500,000 years ago when the 3-million-year-old Ko’olau Volcano erupted. Diamond Head isn’t a volcano but rather a crater of the Ko’olau Volcano. The crater was formed at the same time as the Punchbowl Crater and the Koko Head Crater.
Cultural History: Diamond Head isn’t actually the real name of the crater. It’s known to Native Hawaiians as Lē‘ahi and is a site of worship. Historically, it has been a place of religious ceremonies, animal sacrifice, and even human sacrifice.
Lē‘ahi means the forehead of the fish based on the shape of the crater. Whereas Diamond Head came during a big mistake from western explorers who thought the calcite found in the crater was actually Diamonds.
In 1983, the Hawaiian Monarchy was overthrown but there was a significant battle on the slopes of Diamond Head in 1895 between the government and royalist rebels.
Military History: You may notice the pillboxes, lookouts, and tunnels throughout the hike. They are all military infrastructure. The trail to the summit was built by the military in 1908 as a coastal defense system. The U.S. Military had full control of Diamond Head Crater until it was transferred to the Territory Hawaii in 1955.
Modern History: If it wasn’t for the activism of local residents, this site would have been turned into residential apartments and high-rise buildings. However, due to public resistance, the plans never came to fruition and the Diamond Head State Monument was established in 1962. In 1965, Diamond Head was listed as a historic site. Furthermore, in 1975, Diamond Head was handed into the management of the State’s Park Divison and public access became the focus of the crater region.
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 with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
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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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- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
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- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU
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HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST
Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you at least have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rain jacket, and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need. Below are my four Hawaii hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.