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We are happy to present detailed information to prepare you to hike Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii. Yes, even out of shape travelers can hike this volcano. It's a great experience that is well worth the effort. You can even print out a "Certificate of Merit" to commemorate your achievement.

Hike Diamond Head

Diamond Head
Diamond Head is an extinct volcanic crater located in Honolulu, Hawaii on the island of Oahu. It is located a short distance from Waikiki. A hike up the crater provides good exercise and spectacular 360-degree views of the island.

Hiking Map
The map below has been modified slightly from the map provided by the Park Service. For your convenience, pictures and descriptions will reference specific points on this map.

While the park service suggests you allow 1.5-to-2 hours for a leisurely hike; the hike itself, round trip, takes less than 55 minutes for an out-of-shape 48-year-old male. (I speak from experience). This includes 8 minutes at the top for pictures, and 1 minute stops at 10 other locations for pictures.

If you are fit, you can easily do the hike in under 30 minutes. If you are in worse shape than me, allow an hour. If you are in terrible shape, wear open-toed shoes, are carting a backpack full of junk, and the park is busy, allow 1.5-to-2 hours.

Big Hint
Plan to arrive as early in the day as possible. Gates open at 6:00am (0600). It will be less crowded and much cooler if you begin your hike before 7:00am. For reference, the last entrance to hike the trail is 4:30pm (1650) and the gates close at 6:00pm (1800).

I recommend sneakers (tennis shoes) or hiking boots, a lightweight windbreaker (wrap it around your waist in case it is needed), a hat, a bottle of water (freeze it the night before if you can. It will be ready to drink when you get to the top), and a flashlight if you arrive early during the winter months.

You can easily do this on your own. If you drive in, the cost is $5 per carload. If you walk in, the cost is $1 per person. You can take The Bus to Diamond Head for $2.50 per person each way but you'll have to hike into the crater, pay your $1 fee, and walk through the small parking lot before you begin the actual trail hike.
Diamond Head Hiking Map
You can walk, drive, take The Bus, or arrive by taxi. The entrance to Diamond Head is from the back side near the corner of Diamond Head Road and 18th Avenue [A]. The spot marked "Bus Stop" is for the local city bus, called appropriately enough "The Bus".
main entrance to Diamond Head Park
You will curve left upon entering the road to Diamond Head crater. Prior to entering the tunnel that takes you into the crater, you will pass a popular lookout point [B] which overlooks East Oahu. Hint: due to the sunrise, pictures are best in the afternoon.
Diamond Head Park Entrance Lookout
Entering the Crater
You will make your way through the Kahala Tunnel [C] in the side of the crater to access the parking lot and park facilities inside.
Diamond Head Park Crater Entrance Tunnel
The Toll Booth
Once inside the crater, you will be greeted by a toll collector at the front of the parking lot [D]. Commercial buses and taxis drop off and pickup passengers in a turn-around at the toll-both entrance to the parking lot. The toll booth and turn-around are not marked on the map. (The map was made before there was a toll). If you drive in, the toll is $5 per carload. If you walk in, the cost is $1 per person. Cash only. [Commercial vehicles fees: $10.00 cars/vans, $20 mini-buses, $40 buses].
Diamond Head Park Turn-AroundDiamond Head Park Toll Booth

The Trail
The trail is 1.6 miles round trip and climbs 560 feet from the crater floor to an elevation of 761 feet. The trail starts out just past the Diamond Head State Monument sign [E] on the other side of the parking lot. It is next to a comfort station and an information booth. It starts out as a paved walkway, but most of the trail is pitted dirt and rock [between 2 and 3]. The floor of the crater is full of kiawe (similar to mesquite), koa haole (trees with pods), and wild grass. Cardinals, doves, sparrows, and geckos are the most common critters. It takes about 5 minutes to traverse the paved walkway.
Diamond Head State Monument signPaved and Unpaved Path
The Trail and the 74 Steps
About 9 minutes of dirt and rock trail brings you to your first lookout area (and rest area for some) [4]. You'll have a good look at the eastern side of the island. The sun rises from this side. 1 minute later you'll find yourself at the first set of stairs [5].
Diamond Head 77 Steps
The First Tunnel
74 steps lead you into the first, and coolest tunnel [6]. It is dimly---though adequately---lit, gently sloping, and runs for 225-feet. You'll emerge from the tunnel 4 minutes later.
Tunnel EntranceTunnel Exit
The 99 Steps
Looking to your right, you'll see the daunting 99 step stairway [7]. Look to your left, and you'll find another little rest area and lookout. You can trudge up the stairs in about 3 minutes.
Diamond Head 99 Steps
Short Tunnel and 3-story Spiral Staircase
Take a breath and proceed down a short tunnel to a spiral staircase [9] (photo looking up the staircase). Two minutes later, you exit on the 3rd floor of the staircase.
Spiral Staircase
Fire Control Station Lookout
Work your way to the concrete Fire Control Station Lookout overlooking the Pacific Ocean [10].
Fire Control Station

54 Steps
Duck your head and exit the station to your left. If you look down to your right, you'll see the Diamond Head Lighthouse. You're almost there! It takes but a minute to walk the remaining 54 metal steps [11] to the summit of the crater.
Diamond Head Observation Station
Now you can enjoy the brisk breeze and panoramic 360-degree views [12]. You'll overlook all of Waikiki, catch planes landing at the airport, and can see as far as the Waianae Mountain range in the West. You can also see the eastern side of the island overlooking Kahala, Maunalua Bay, and two mountains beyond: Koko Head, and Koko Head Crater (which is home to Hanauma Bay on the other side). You'll see the sun rise from this side. To the North is the University of Hawaii, and the Pali Mountains. To the South is the Pacific Ocean. My picture of Waikiki on a early morning before sunrise doesn't do this view any justice.
Diamond Head Observation Station
The Return Trip
In late 2011, the hiking trail was improved to alleviate congestion at choke points from #7 to #10. They built a new exit stairway [13] from the summit, and a path that will lead you back down to the tunnel [6]. An outlook [14] was also added.

Palapala Ho`omaika`i Certificate
Once you have completed the hike, feel free to award yourself with the Palapala Ho`omaika`i (Award of Merit) to commemorate your achievement. Download your certificate. It looks best printed in color. It's suitable for framing.

Other Notes
1. Allow about 25 minutes for your return trip.
2. If a snake jumps out at you while hiking, don't panic, it's only a stick. There are no snakes in Hawaii.
3. Strongly suggest close-toed shoes due to the rocky, pitted, uneven mountain trail. I have seen folks wearing slippahs (flip-flops), crocks, and high heals --- but I don't recommend it.
4. I once saw a couple pushing a baby carriage up the trail. I couldn't believe it. I don't recommend it.
5. You will likely see very fit folks jogging all the way up the trail and back down, perhaps even running up and down the flight of 99 steps. Pretty awesome. Due to my vertigo, I'm just happy to make it back to the bottom of the 99 steps without falling. (If you have vertigo, just take the steps slowly, hang on to the rail, and concentrate on each step).
6. In the winter, it is easy to arrive well before sunrise and watch from the summit. Just be sure to bring a flashlight as the trail can be very dark.
7. Of interest: just a half-block down 18th avenue is the Hawaii Film Studios lot and sound stages.

Have a great hike!

Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. The information presented is an opinion intended to assist travelers who may have an interest in hiking Diamond Head crater in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Feel free to contact me to correct any information in this article or to alert me to additional information one should consider.

© 2007 Topher
Updated 2019

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