Stairway To Heaven
Hiking Diamond Head
The World’s Most Recognized Volcanic Crater
Visitors travel thousands of miles to get a first-hand glimpse of Diamond Head crater, one of Hawaii’s most recognized icons. Having hiked Diamond Head several times, I’ve never heard anyone say that it wasn’t worth the effort. The usual response, in fact, is just the opposite: “Wow! I’m glad we did this!” There’s just something empowering about walking up the side of an extinct volcano. More than 3,500 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit, Diamond Head in Waikiki is perhaps the world’s most recognized volcanic crater. It is a lasting remnant of a volcanic explosion that occurred about 500,000 years ago. Ancient Hawaiians called it Laeahi, which translates to “brow of the tuna.” The name “Diamond Head” can be traced to the 1800s, when British sailors mistakenly thought there were diamonds lodged in the crater’s soil. The “diamonds” turned out to be calcite crystals embedded in the lava rock.
Tip: Go in the early morning or late afternoon if you want to avoid potential crowds.
The 0.7-mile hike up Diamond Head is considered a moderate climb.
It’ll take about an hour to reach the summit, and half that time for the return. The trail climbs the inside slope of Diamond Head for about 0.6 miles. It’s a switchback trail with the mountain on one side and a railing on the other. After a lookout point that doubles as a rest stop, the trail takes a steep upward ascent through a series of stairs and tunnels. The last set of stairs is a 99-step climb—just take it slow and steady—that eventually leads to a World War II bunker. From there, the stairs reach an end and you step up to some of the finest panoramic views on Oahu. Take a short walk around and savor the moment. On a clear day, you see forever. Standing atop the lookout, viewing Oahu’s entire leeward side, feeling the trade winds and hearing waves crashing far below, one can’t help but feel humbled to be on this glorious island.
Park hours are from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
There are no facilities at the summit.
Bring a bottle of water and sunscreen—and don’t forget your camera.
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