There is no sight more iconic or more closely associated with the island of O`ahu than the majestic prow of Diamond Head crater rising above the skyline of Honolulu and framing the sunny beaches of Waikiki. The mountain quietly stands guard over the thousands of visitors who relax in Kapiolani Park or frolic in the waves and battle the surf in the sea below.
The Greatest Trick at Diamond Head Oahu
Lē`ahi, as Diamond Head Oahu is known in native Hawaiian, presumably gets its name (“brow of the tuna”) from its distinctive shape, with the nearly perfect circular rim rising to a prominent bridge on the ocean side. The tuff cone (an offshoot of the main volcano) was formed over 300,000 years ago (estimates vary). The eruption was particularly explosive and violent – that’s saying something for volcanic eruptions – and the result was Diamond Head’s relatively large crater compared to its rim (very visible when you arrive by plane). While not extinct – the last eruption was 150,000 years ago – it is unlikely to erupt ever again.
Diamond Head Oahu got its English name from 19th century British sailors. While in port they mistook worthless calcite crystals dotting the crater’s slopes as diamonds (we suspect they may have been on shore leave). The mini “diamond rush” was embarrassingly short-lived, though the name persisted.
Head of the Class
Visitors are welcome to enter the crater and take a Diamond Head tour for a small fee ($5; open until 6pm, last entry at 4:30pm), and the hike to the summit is the island’s most popular. After crossing the sunbaked crater floor, a worn path snakes up the interior crater wall, rising through cacti and native shrubs that thrive in the dry heat even as they cling desperately to the rock walls. Higher up, in less accessible sections of the rim, you can glimpse burial caves carved out of the volcanic rock to serve as resting places for ancient Hawaiian ali`i (the royal elite).
The hike ascends to the WWII-era military fortifications that commanded the coastline and protected against any threat of invasion. You will move inside and climb a series of ladders and 99 narrow stairs. Once you emerge, however, any sense of confine is quite literally blown away. Here, 760 feet above the Waikiki beaches below, the views are spectacularly unencumbered 360-degree panoramas of the bay, the beaches, and the city beyond. The sun warms you as the trade winds gust past, and all is right with the world.
One of the relatively easier hikes on the island (1-2 hours), the Diamond Head tour is an excellent family outing or quick solo hike. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring water, and be careful on the steeper, uneven sections. This is our most popular hike for a reason, and we urge you not to miss it during your stay with us!