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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: Hiking Diamond Head

The Need to Knows:
  • Diamond Head State Monument is located off Diamond Head Road in Honolulu, specifically here:
  • It costs $5 per car to park in the lot and $1 if you walk in.  Some people prefer to park outside of the crater (or get dropped off by The Bus) and walk to the trail head, although I'm not sure what the parking situation is like outside.
  • The park is open from 6 AM to 6 PM, and the last hikers are let in at 4:30 PM to be able to get up, down, and out in time for closing.  They start turning hikers away after that time and the gate is locked by 6 PM.
  • The trail is very clearly carved out for you (and if you go later in the day, just follow the herd of people!) but it can be uneven and rocky.  Wear proper footwear!     
  • It isn't stroller friendly (due to uneven terrain and stairs) and it isn't dog friendly either.
  • There isn't shade on this trail, so I highly recommend sunscreen, a hat, and a bottle of water.
  • The trail is just shy of a mile each way.  We personally budget about 1-2 hours to spend climbing, admiring the view at the top, and making our way back down.
  • Trash cans are around, but there aren't restrooms.  There are normally food trucks near the parking lot waiting for you to finish the hike and satiate your hunger and thirst though!

If you're planning on visiting Oahu, one of the things that's probably already at the top of your to-do list is to climb the famous Diamond Head crater.  I know it was at the top of my list when Mr. L and I first arrived here!

Diamond Head, also known by it's Hawaiian name, Le'ahi, is a 150,000 year old volcanic tuff cone and arguably the most famous landmark in all of Hawaii.  People all over the world recognize its iconic shape, especially when it's the backdrop for nearly every picture ever of Waikiki Beach.  Can you blame people, though?  It's pretty beautiful!

Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head via t.yukishita on Flickr
After you park your car or walk past the parking lot, you start off at the beginning of the trail with not much of a view, but that soon changes as you ascend upwards and eventually make it to the first lookout.

Trail beginning
Dirt trail before it becomes a rocky pathway
View from first lookout
Pillboxes on Diamond Head
Final destination!
 After leaving the first lookout and heading onwards for a bit, you'll eventually make it to a decision point -- a crossroads, if you will.  You can either choose to go around a longer path with a gradual incline and some stairs to make it to the top, or you can climb these bad boys instead:

We opted for the stairs, and let me tell you, I was glad to have them behind me when we reached the top!

The good news was that we were almost there!  We made our way through the tunnel and up the windy staircase to be greeted with these stunning views:

The crater in the foreground and Koko Head way in the back
Love the lighthouse!

View of downtown Honolulu

View of Waikiki -- the pink building is the famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel
I love how the houses lining up the sides of the mountains look.  So pretty!

We were able to see for quite a ways all around us.  It was so awesome to be able to see from Koko Head to the lochs at Pearl Harbor!

The view of the reefs directly in front of us were stunning as well.  Makes you wonder how many millions those houses are worth!  (Answer: WAY too many, at least for my bank account, haha).

We also got to see a ton of boat action out in the ocean.  If you look at the picture below, you can see the famous Atlantis submarine going out for a spin:

And then if you look reeeeeally closely in this photo, you can see a REAL submarine going out for a spin =)

I can definitely see the appeal this hike holds for so many visitors that come to this beautiful island.  It's relatively short with a great payoff in terms of the view, but it can get really crowded really quickly.  We did this hike maybe around 8 or 9 in the morning and it already felt like there were too many people up at the top.  Jostling around and bumping into people just to get pictures isn't fun!  My advice is to absolutely go early, like as soon as it opens early.

We did it!  Ignore the red face, haha.
On this day, we also took a little side trip to see the lighthouse we'd seen from the top -- Diamond Head Lighthouse, which is located just south of the monument at 3399 Diamond Head Rd.  It's gated, so you can't actually access the lighthouse itself, but it sure makes for some beautiful pictures!

We probably will pass on doing this particular hike again on our own time since we have so much left to see, but we'll definitely do it whenever friends and family come into town to visit us.  After all, it is a "must-do" on Oahu, and we couldn't let them miss it, now could we?!

What are some "must-sees" for your neck of the woods?


  1. I have to say I didn't love this hike, the views are spectacular but it was SO crowded when we went.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Hopefully the next time we go (when my parents come to visit) we'll be able to avoid the majority of the crowds. We'll see!



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