Essential Honolulu: Diamond Head State Monument and Trail

In this second edition of Essential Honolulu, our next stop is Diamond Head State Monument.

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World-Famous Vacation Playground

With the wide, sandy beaches of Waikiki Beach, breathtaking views, luxury hotels, Pearl Harbor, the only royal palace in the United States, and all the expected trappings of a vibrant urban city, Honolulu has it all. The capital city of Hawaii is filled with history. But, while forever mindful of its past, Honolulu also embraces its future as illustrated by the revitalization of old neighborhoods that has spawned countless trendy boutiques and an endless plethora of restaurants serving an eclectic mix of amazing cuisine.  Sure, Honolulu may be located on Oahu, Hawaii’s most crowded island, but that hasn't stopped it from remaining a world-famous vacation playground literally unlike any other place in the world.

Last week, in part one of this series, we looked at Halona Beach Cove. The focus of this second installment of Essential Honolulu is another historic Honolulu landmark, Diamond Head State Monument.

The above image is a photograph of Waikiki and Diamond Head, as seen from the sea. The image gives you perspective on just how prominent a feature Diamond Head really is. It is visible from almost anywhere on Waikiki. 

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Diamond Head

This photo of Diamond Head was taken in the 1800s, but its history is, of course, far older than that. Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone on Oahu is part of the system of cones, vents, and associated eruption flows collectively known to geologists as the Honolulu Volcanic Series. The Honolulu Volcanic Series is a succession of volcanic eruptions that created many of Oahu's best-known landmarks, including Punchbowl Crater, Hanauma Bay, Koko Head, and Diamond Head. Diamond Head is estimated to be about 400,000 to 500,000 years old. Hawaiians called the crater Leahi (meaning “the brow of the ahi,” or tuna, referring to the shape of the crater). Diamond Head was considered a sacred spot. King

Kamehameha offered human sacrifices at a temple on its western slope. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Diamond Head got its modern name. A group of sailors found what they thought were diamonds in the crater. Later they learned they had found only some worthless calcite crystals, but the name stuck. Today, part of the Hawaii State Park system and also a U.S. National Natural Monument, Diamond Head is one of the most popular and heavily visited destinations in the state.

Diamond Head Trail

The view from atop the 762-foot-tall volcanic crater is not to be missed. The 360-degree view that stretches from Koko Crater to Wai’anae is well worth the hike to the top. It is a steep (560 foot gain in elevation), but moderate hike to the summit, a 1.5 miles round trip that takes about two hours.

Plan to wear some comfortable walking shoes and don't forget to take water for the hike. The trail opens daily at 6 a.m. It isn't necessary to go that early unless you just want to, but it's ideal to make the hike in the morning when it's cooler and before the sun is fully up.

The hike starts at Monsarrat and 18th Avenues on the crater’s inland side. From the intersection of Diamond Head Road and 18th Avenue, follow the road through the tunnel. There is a parking lot past the tunnel if you drive. From the trail head in the parking lot, proceed along a paved walkway up the slope.

Along the trail, you will pass World War I and World War II era pillboxes, gun emplacements, and tunnels built as part of the coastal defense network. You will pass through a lighted 225-tunnel before climbing quite a lot of stairs to reach the summit. At the top, you will arrive at the top observation post on Point Leahi. You will see bunkers on the crater rim and a navigational lighthouse that was built in 1917 along the coast outside the crater. The views from the there are nothing short of incredible.

The is an entry fee is for accessing the monument and trail. If you drive, it's $5 per carload. If you arrive by taxi or public transportation and walk in, the fee is $1 per person. Here are examples of the stunning views from atop Diamond Head.

Hope you will join me next week for another installment of Essential Honolulu. Our next stop is Punchbowl Crater.

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