diamond head, header

Visiting Diamond Head State Monument on Oahu in Hawaii

From The
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Updated: November 1, 2021

The volcanic cone known as Diamond Head represents one of the most beautiful and well-known landmarks on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The peak, its 300,000-year-old crater, and its magnificent surroundings rate as one of Hawaii’s most popular destinations. Visitors can enjoy a tour, take hikes, and photograph stunning views and fantastic scenery from a vista where they can see Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.

Before you head off on your visit to this remarkable site, it helps to do some research to make sure you’re well prepared to appreciate it fully.

Facts About Diamond Head Crater

Standing 762 feet above sea level, Diamond Head represents one of Oahu’s most stunning natural features. Located close to Waikiki and Honolulu, the geological feature is part of the Ko’olau volcanic range that began forming more than two million years ago. Geologists believe that the crater formed around 300,000 years ago due to a single eruption.

The crater is actually larger than the rim due to the explosive nature of its creation. The distance from the crater floor to the peak is 560 feet.

After the explosion that formed the crater, Diamond Head’s volcano has remained dormant. For this reason, geologists classify it as a monogenetic feature.

Diamond Head’s Historical Significance

Diamond Head served as a military reservation and defense system along the Hawaiian coast. The U.S. Government built Fort Ruger on the surrounding land in 1905. The military base functioned as part of the defense system for the islands during World War II, designed to protect areas like Honolulu.

Officials in the Hawaiian government upgraded the systems after the war. Some of the military installations remain, and you can explore them on your walk up the trail.

Diamond Head and Hawaiian Culture

Diamond Head is not the original name of the crater. Native Hawaiians call the volcano Lēʻahi. This term translates to “brow of the tuna.” The name refers to the ridgeline of the crater, which looks like the dorsal fin of a fish.

British soldiers first started using the term Diamond Head to refer to the area in the 19th century. They saw sparkling calcite crystals on a nearby beach and assumed the stones were diamonds. Unfortunately, as they discovered, the calcite crystals did not have the same value as diamonds.

Nevertheless, the name Diamond Head stuck, eventually being adopted by those who conquered Hawaii.

Things to Do at Diamond Head State Monument

You have many options available if you plan to visit Diamond Head Monument. Many visitors chose to hike, take a tour, or have a picnic.

diamond head state monument hike

Take a Hike

The Diamond Head Crater offers the most popular hike in the area. You can climb the summit trail after entering the crater through the Kahala Tunnel. You can find parking inside the crater; however, the parking lots generally fill up quickly.

Once you’ve handled your parking, you can begin the 1.6-mile round trip hike, which involves a lot of vertical movement. You’ll take a dirt trail up a series of switchbacks that bring you to a tunnel and a set of stairs with 99 steps that lead to a WWII-era bunker. You must ascend 54 more steps to reach the crater’s rim.

The rim of the crater offers panoramic views of Oahu, the Diamond Head Lighthouse, a Coast Guard facility, and the Pacific Ocean.

You’ll also find historical displays, a picnic area, and restrooms at the top of the trail, allowing you to rest after your strenuous stair climb. You can explore a number of other features either on your way up or your way down after taking a break.

Organizers constructed part of the trail to allow construction workers to easily reach the site of a prospective fire control station. You can also explore this piece of history when you see Diamond Head.

Go on a Tour

You can also explore Diamond Head Crater with a tour, either with a guide or as a self-guided audio tour that provides information about the volcanic tuff cone. Some tours are also available to take you to other sites around Hawaii.

Have a Picnic

You and your family or traveling companions can enjoy a relaxing picnic after you climb to the summit of Diamond Head. We know that hiking can work up an appetite! Rest on the rim of the volcano and enjoy the stunning view, especially if you come on a clear day.

view of diamond head from the Sheraton Waikiki

When to Go to Diamond Head

Diamond Head provides you with beautiful views year-round, no matter what the date. However, many people prefer to visit the site in the spring and winter, avoiding the heat of summer and the inclement weather associated with autumn.

You can visit Diamond Head park any day of the week. The entrance opens at 6 a.m. every morning and closes for the day at 6 p.m. Keep in mind that the monument starts denying people entry at 4:30 p.m.

After 4:30 p.m., you would no longer have time to complete the hike to the summit. Many people find hiking more pleasant in the early morning hours before the day gets very hot.

We recommend going to the Diamond Head Visitor Center to learn more about the hours for specific tours within the crater and getting up-to-date information.

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What to Bring to and Wear at Diamond Head

The temperatures reach their peak from June to August. You may discover rainy weather or even snow if you visit Hawaii during the fall months. Make sure to bring clothing appropriate to the time of year that you visit the park.

A raincoat or jacket is helpful if you visit during the fall or winter months. Bring along sunscreen or a hat if visiting during the spring or summer.

Make sure to bring water to avoid sunstroke while on the Diamond Head trail, and you may want to bring snacks if you’re hiking but not picnicking.

You must also walk through several tunnels during your trip, such as Birkhimer Tunnel (which is an old military battery). You may want to bring along a flashlight for exploring these manmade features.

Additionally, make sure that you wear good walking shoes to protect your feet and ankles when you ascend the Diamond Head trail and stairs. The trail includes handrails, but some parts are uneven, and the steps may prove difficult for some guests.

We understand the urge to wear flip-flops or sandals, especially on very hot days. However, the trail leading up to the top of Diamond Head can prove treacherous in places, so you’ll need to have good footing. 

Cost to Enter the State Monument at Diamond Head

An entry fee applies to all visitors who stop by Diamond Head. The location charges $1 for visitors arriving on foot. You can also pay $5 if you want to bring your vehicle and leave it in the parking lot.

You may want to arrive early if you need parking, as the lot fills up quickly.  Entry tickets allow you to walk up the trail and explore other attractions at Diamond Head. 

How to Get to Diamond Head State Monument from Waikiki

You have several options if you want to reach Diamond Head from Waikiki.

You can very easily walk from the city to the old volcano. Expect it to take about an hour to complete the walk, even if you start near the center of Waikiki.

You may also want to save your energy for the hike by driving from your hotel or home. You’ll know you’re getting close when you reach Diamond Head Road.

waikiki to diamond head by car

You can also use the bus system to reach your destination. A bus represents your best option for saving money on your way to the summit, plus you won’t need to worry about parking, and you’ll save money on the entrance fee. Bus Stop 4538  and Stop 4591 bring you very close to your destination while allowing you to prepare for a day of hiking.

Finally, you can take advantage of the trolley system. The Green Line allows you to reach your destination, sometimes in less time than the bus. However, unlike the bus system, you may end up paying higher fees to ride the trolley.

Things to Do Near Diamond Head

You can find numerous other attractions in the area around Diamond Head. Once you finish exploring the crater floor and complete your hike, you may also visit some beautiful nearby sights.

Honolulu

The lovely city of Honolulu is not far from Diamond Head. Be sure to go into the city to explore shops and restaurants; then many people like to hike out to the beach and play in the ocean. Many activities are available, such as:

  • Helicopter tours
  • Parasailing
  • Snorkel adventures

You can also take tours to learn about the history of the island. Craft your trip to see all the sights that interest you the most.

Beaches

Hawaii’s reputation for having stunning beaches is well deserved. Take a break after your hike by stretching out on the sand or playing in the surf.

Pearl Harbor and Other Hawaii State Parks

Several other Hawaii State Parks are nearby, including Puʻu ʻUalakaʻa State Wayside Park and Tantalus Lookout – Puu Ualakaa State Park. These parks detail the history of the islands and provide other trails to explore.

Consider taking a loved one on a date to some parks that are farther away, like Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park or Heʻeia State Park. Taking a bus ride to these locations allows you to explore the island on a budget.

You can also check out the infamous site of the 1941 Japanese bombing, Pearl Harbor, right in the city. This historic site allows you to learn more about the impact of World War II on the Pacific Front.

Waimea Waterfall

Waimea Falls is a bit of a drive, but it offers you a lovely one-mile hike through beautiful botanical gardens, ending in a look at the falls. You can no longer jump off the waterfall as they did years ago, but you can still cool off by swimming in the water. You have permission to swim all the way up to the falls, if you wish.

Learn More About Diamond Head

Are you looking for more information about Diamond Head State Park? Be sure to reach out to us to find out more about the history and geography of Diamond Head. Allow us to help you learn about the features of this area.