Diamond Head

Diamond Head, Oahu

Diamond Head (view panorama) is one of the most famous landmarks on Oahu and the entire state of Hawaii. It has once been an active volcano, but hasn’t spewed any ashes for more than 150,000 years. The extinct crater and lookout point at the peak of it is a popular hiking destination for many. In fact, Diamond Head is one of the most photographed and painted spots on Oahu, adorning many wall calendars and postcards.

Located at the eastern end of Waikiki and right on the ocean, Diamond Head has already made an impression to early sailors. In 1825, British sailors noticed small sparkling calcite crystals in the beach sand nearby the crater and named the mountain Diamond Hill. This name was later changed to Diamond Head. This is how the crater got its English name.

The Hawaiian name for Diamond Head is Le‘ahi, a contraction of lae, meaning point of land and ‘ahi, meaning yellowfin tuna. So Le‘ahi means “point (of the) ahi fish.” From a distance, the mountain looks like the dorsal fin of the ahi fish, hence its Hawaiian name Le‘ahi.

Diamond Head was purchased by the federal government in 1904 for $3,300. In the 1930s, a couple of gun emplacements for coast artillery defenses were built. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, further gun emplacements, pillboxes and foxholes were built on Diamond Head to be able to better defend Oahu in the future. Many of them still remain on the crater rim and one underground facility, the Birkheimer Tunnel, houses the headquarters for the State Civil Defense Agency. Today, the entire mountain and crater is a state park known as Diamond Head State Monument.

Diamond Head Crater measures 3,520 feet (1,073 m) across and 760 feet (232 m) in height. A hiking trail leads from the crater up to a lookout point. But be prepared to climb some stairs. In fact, there are two stairs, one has 99 steps and a second one has 76 steps. There’s also a 225-foot (69 m) hardly lit tunnel through which you’ll have to go. The tunnel is a remnant of the former military use of the crater. So you should be in good physical condition to do the hike. But it’s definitely worth the effort once you reach the top, after about 30-40 minutes if you’re in good shape. The view is spectacular, especially on a clear and sunny day.

Bring some water and sunscreen because it will get hot. In case you forget, there is a comfort station at the base of the otherwise undeveloped crater, where you can buy water (water fountains and restrooms are also there, as is a truck that sells hot dogs and hamburgers).

Diamond Head Overview

  • Diamond Head is an extinct volcano and a popular visitor attraction on Oahu
  • You can hike up to its 760-foot-high peak, but be prepared to climb stairs
  • Amazing views of Honolulu, Waikiki and the vast ocean await at the top; on clear days the neighbor islands of Molokai and Lanai can be seen on the horizon (view panorama)

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Reviews and Comments:
Awesome hike! Took our 5 kids ranging in age from 13 to 2 years old. Amazing views and cool stairs and tunnel to get there.
Jenni Burns, Sat Feb 02, 2019
An 'older' hiker, travelling solo, fan of Elvis Presley, but did this as a tourist, claimed to the top, 706K ft and received my 'Summit Reacher' certificate
Angela Simoes Fernandes, Tue Oct 10, 2017
Get there early, the parking lot fills fast and the weather isn't too warm. Take plenty of water, wear good shoes. Don't try it in flip flops or sandals. Take sunscreen and wear a wide brimmed hat. We were there in 2013. The trail was paved for about the first couple hundred yards, then it is gravel and rutted. Whatever you do DON'T pay for a tour. It only costs 5-6 dollars to park your car as opposed to a 25 or 30 dollar tour Having said that, when you reach the summit the view is worth the hike up.
Dirk McBride, Wed Mar 02, 2016
you gotta do it, once you reach the top it is awesome, breath taking, from all angles. the hike for me was no joke but I made it to the top, only if they had gift shop enroute or on way back down, I will do it again when I go back
lupina farmer, aug 2011, Mon Aug 10, 2015
Amazing hike the view was also great. There was alot of information and pamplets. They also had a great smoothie stand by the visitor center. I would suggest going early in the moring to avoid the crowd also the see the amazing sun rise from the summit
Elleah Wilding, Mon Apr 13, 2015
best place ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
kate, Sat Jan 31, 2015
You gotta, gotta ,gotta do this its the best, the hike is a bit hard on a hot day but did it another time on cooler day and it was fine, but no matter the weather and dark tunnels and stairs its Soooo worth doing it ,didnt want to leave the view is spectacular , I will do it again when we return, just do it, you only live once!!!
Suzanne, Thu May 10, 2012
Did my second hike up to the top of Diamond head in June this year,the previous 8 years ago enjoyed it all over again fantastic views,I had a knee replacement last year and did the climb ok so keep that in mind if you are thinking of doing it.
Paul Minton, Sat Oct 22, 2011
If you're in decent shape, this hike is fun and you'll enjoy great views once you reach the top of Diamond Head. On a clear day, you can even say the neighbor island of Molokai in the distance.
Naja, Jan 11, 2011
The hike was great and not too difficult. When I went, it was Easter's day, so it was busy. Next time i would go in a week day if I can,so hopefully there won't be so many people. If you go, get some water with you. The sun is very hot and it is easy to get dehydrated.
John, May 22, 2010
The walk up is long and hot so bring a ton of water. The view from the top is so beautiful it takes your breath away! It is so worth it! The walk down is also alot eaiser- remember that. Most of all its a great feeling to be able to say i hiked to the top of that huge volcano! How many people can say that?
Liz, Apr 20, 2010
Make sure you bring enough water. You should also be in decent shape. Even though it's a relatively short hike (about 30-40 min. one way), the trail up there is hot and sunny. When I hiked up there last year, a woman got sick and a helicopter had to come and air-lift her to a hospital.
Ella, Dec 23, 2009
Wow!!! My husband and I hiked to Diamond Head all the way from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotels. What a work out, but it was well worth it. What an amazing experience and the views were amazing. You have to see it to believe it.
Sarah, Nov 10, 2009
it's been two years since i've been to diamond head but the hike is long and very much a work out but it is well worth it!!! I went there with my high school band and i loved every minute of it. i'd do anything to go back!!!!!!!!!!! the hike is sooooooooooo worth the view!!!!!!!!!!!
Cassandra, Apr 16, 2009
|I really enjoyed the hike to the Diamond head, it was so much fun and the view is so amazing from the top of the Diamond head. It's a work out hiking up Diamond head but it's worth it. I didn't like the 99 steps but i made it to the top!!!
Paul, Jan 25, 2009