The centerpiece of the Waikiki “skyline” akin to the Empire State Building in New York or the Sears Tower in Chicago, Diamond Head crater is a natural wonder that cannot be missed. Nestled on the shores of the Pacific on the island of Oahu, Diamond Head and its surrounding areas offer visitors the change to hike, swim, sunbathe, and experience the best that Hawaii has to offer.
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Diamond Head History
The Diamond Head crater is one of the many geological leftovers from the Honolulu Volcanic Series of eruptions from the Ko’olau volcano which began between 800,000 and 30,000 years ago. With a diameter of 3,520 feet, it is a massive addition to the Hawaiian landscape located on the eastern end of Waikiki. Though the Ko’olau volcano itself has been dormant for 1.7 million years, its aftereffects, which include the eruption flows of the Honolulu Series, formed most of the landscape of what we know today as the Hawaiian Isles. Diamond Head, as its most emblematic creation is therefore a true marvel of geology.
Known as Lehai in Hawaiian, lae for “bowridge” and ahi for the shape of the ridgeline which looks like the dorsal fin of a “tuna,” Diamond Head got its English name from British sailors around the 19th century. The sailors mistook the calcite crystals that are embedded in the rocks that make the peak for diamonds.
In the modern era, Diamond Head serves the dual purpose of home to government antennas, which are in areas off-limits to the public, and an iconic aspect of the Honolulu tourist life. It is located right on the beach and is in close proximity to many of the island’s most patronized vacation resorts. The peak has also been used as a popular cultural icon for Hawaii, seen as an emblem of the islands. It has also served as a filming location for a 1970s game show called The Diamond Head Game and as a backdrop for the television series Lost, which was shot exclusively on Oahu.
Diamond Head: The Main Attraction
Diamond Head itself offers its visitors the chance to hike and enjoy the beautiful views of the Waikiki coastline. The total distance from base to the rim of the crater is .75 miles, or 1.5 miles round trip. Locals advise that the hike takes anywhere from 1.5-2 hours round trip and is best completed early in the day, before the sun is too high in the sky. Other than one tunnel, there is no shade along the trail, so an early start is really essential. No part of the trail is especially difficult to traverse, though, regardless of travel time, it is advisable to take lots of water and a flashlight for the navigation of the tunnel.
In addition to the hike itself, Diamond Head Beach Park is a great place to spend the day in the sun and surf. More of a locals spot that nearby Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Beach Park doesn’t present great opportunities for swimming because of its coral reef, but it is a surfer and snorkeler’s p
aradise. The park, in total, is about 2 acres and includes sea cliffs along with a narrow beach. It is located on the southern slope of the crater, between the Diamond Head Lighthouse and Beach Road, on a dead end street. There are no facilities or lifeguards on duty at Diamond Head Beach Park which is why it is a more popular location for locals and serious surfers.
Why Diamond Head is a Must-See
Anyone who visits Waikiki cannot help but “see” Diamond Head; it is a central part of the layout of the area and an emblem of Hawaii itself. However, to really experience Diamond Head is quite a different thing. The impressive crater represents the remnants of the ancient explosions that created these Hawaiian Isles and investigating it is worth the trip for that history as well as the spectacular views.
Where to Buy It
There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.
Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Diamond Head Hike either online or in person.