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Diamond Head Crater Hike | Oahu, Hawaii Hiking
Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head State Monument is one of the most popular hikes in Oahu, and the crater, itself, is touted as Hawaii's most recognizable landmark. The park has more than just a hike. If you visit, you'll be treated to spectacular views, history, and a visit to an early 20th-century fire control station and bunkers. The trail has a hard surface and is only .8 miles each way, but it is strenuous with switchbacks, lots of steep stairs, and a 225 foot tunnel. If you're planning a trip to Diamond Head, don't mistake developed for easy!
Diamond Head Crater
According to geologists, Diamond Head Crater was formed in a single, violently explosive volcanic event about 300,000 years ago. However, most of the vegetation and wildlife was introduced to the crater within the last 150 years. The summit trail was constructed in 1908 and, with some later stabilization efforts to protect the site and hikers, it is still the trail you can hike today.
The trail is open from 6 am until 6 pm every single day, including holidays. It is not like a restaurant - closed at 6 doesn't mean letting people on the trail until 6. It means the gates are locked at 6. Hikers are only allowed to begin the trail until 4:30. There is an admission fee, but it is fairly negligible. You must pay $5 for a car, which includes all of the car's occupants, or $1 per pedestrian. Commercial vehicles and tour buses cost more.
When you're getting ready to hike, make sure to apply sunscreen. Depending on the time of day you hike, you may not receive much sun on your ascent. However, the crater's rim is basically always sunny. Before locking your car, make sure to stow valuables out of site, preferably in the trunk. If you forgot your own, stop by a vending machine or the food truck for a bottle of water. You can use the restroom or fill a bottle at the water fountain near the parking lot, but there are no water fountains or restrooms along the trail.
The first portion of the trail is easy. Wide, gently sloping, and smooth cement, it is not typical of the trail's length. Overall, the trail is filled with switchbacks. It is also narrow, but has two-way traffic, including recreational runners, so make sure to pay attention to your surroundings! The trail is .8 miles to the top, so 1.6 miles, overall. It is fairly strenuous, rises 560 feet, and includes several steep flights of stairs (actually, the trail's last 1/10 of a mile is entirely stairs!). It also includes a narrow, but lighted, 225-foot tunnel. This tunnel is also two-way, so be careful!
Once you emerge from the tunnel, you can climb stairs to your right and enter a 1911 fire control center. Part of the island's defense system, it directed fire from batteries located outside the crater at Waikiki and Fort Ruger. You can also visit bunkers and see a navigational lighthouse. The views are amazing, and there are several different observation spots, so make sure you see everything before beginning your descent.
Getting to the top of Diamond Head CraterClick thumbnail to view full-size
What's your favorite time of day to hike?
Diamond Head Crater Hike
This hike is fun, and particularly beautiful in the early morning hours. If you arrive shortly before gates open and walk quickly, you can watch the sun rising from behind the mountains. Beautiful at any time of day, watching the shifting morning sky is particularly stunning. It is officially recommended that you allow 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the hike, but a reasonably fit person who walks at a steady pace can make the hike in far less time. Of course, don't let yourself rush too much - the beautiful views of Oahu are worth slowing down for.