All About Hiking Diamond Head Crater in Oahu, Hawaii

Hiking Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

Diamond Head Crater punctuates the skyline of Honolulu, sitting on the far southern tip.  It rises up dramatically as a force of nature, contrasting sharply with the modern high rises of Waikiki Beach and the beautiful blue sea.  As the most visited site on Oahu, there are some things to know before you go.

Diamond Head Crater, as seen from Waikiki Beach

About Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head Crater, known as Lēʻahi in Hawaiian, was formed when an eruption sent ash and fine particles into the air.  When the ash and particles settled, they essentially cemented together creating a “tuff” which formed the rim of the crater.

Lēʻahi got its modern name, Diamond Head, due to explorers mistaking the calcite crystals on the rim for diamonds and the name stuck.

Diamond Head Crater also has a military history.  Purchased by the US Government in 1907, the crater was a strategic location for defense due to its panoramic view point.  Today you can still see a bunker at the top and even climb inside of it.

Planning Your Visit

COST:  Non-residents of Hawaii must make a reservation to visit Diamond Head.  Cost as of 2024 is $5 per person.  You can make your reservation here.

PARKING:  Non-Hawaii residents must make a reservation for parking as well at $10 per vehicle as of 2024.

OPERATING HOURS:  6 am to 6 pm daily.  The latest reservation to begin the hike is 4 pm.  Closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.

AMENITIES:  Restrooms are on site as well as a small Visitor’s Center.  There is a water bottle filling station and a water fountain at the base of the trail.  

HIKING DISTANCE:  0.8 miles from rim to summit, one way.  The park website recommends giving yourself 1.5 – 2 hours to complete the round trip hike.

How We Got Here

We were staying at Aulani in Ko Olina, which is about 30 miles from Diamond Head Crater.  I had a rental car and it took approximately 50 minutes to drive here.  It was an easy drive, however there was traffic, some slow and bumper-to-bumper.  I read ahead of time about Honolulu’s traffic so was prepared.  We left our resort just after 7 am and arrived at Diamond Head at about 7:50, just in time for our 8 am time slot.  The website also states that you must arrive within the first 30 minutes of your time slot in order to secure parking. 

Our Experience

We booked our time slot 30 days out and chose the 8 am slot.  We wanted to miss the influx of visitors who would be there right at opening yet get there before the big bus tours arrived.  This worked our perfectly.  We drove right up to the kiosk, showed our reservation QR code, and easily found parking. 

Ready to get our hike on!

The Visitor’s Center is a small building featuring a few plaques explaining the creation of Diamond Head Crater as well as its historical significance.  Some concession items and souvenirs are sold here.

The Visitor’s Center at Diamond Head

The paved path is well maintained, taking you up a gently sloping walk.  You pass dry vegetation if visiting in the summer like we did.  In the winter months it will be a much greener scene due to heavier rainfall. 

The beginning of the trail, a gentle upwards slope

The path continues to climb, with uneven slabs creating the trail, taking over from the previous smooth pavement.  

Here the path starts to change

You climb several switch backs following the trail up to the top.  There are a few spots to pull over and rest or catch your breath, some shaded, and there are handrails as well.

Can you see all the switchbacks?

Next up, lots and lots of stairs!

The yellow set of stairs take you to the cave, the final stretch.

Once you exit the cave, you can either turn right to take the flight of stairs up or to the left.  We followed the sign’s suggestion and turned left.  From there, we walked a short path and climbed a ladder up to the tip top.  We made it!  From up here, one gets incredible views of Honolulu below as well as 360 degree views of Oahu.  You also can see the inside of the crater that you just climbed!

How is this for a view?  Honolulu and beyond

Diamond Head Lighthouse

The views from above are stunning!

To the right is the military bunker with Honolulu in the distance

So Was It Worth It?

Absolutely yes!  I hiked Diamond Head with Braden and with my 12-year-old nephew, Drake.  While it was hot and we were tired once we reached the summit, they both said it was absolutely worth it.  As Braden put it:  It was a short distance to hike to get this great reward.  Yes it was hot.  Yes it was steep and we were tired and sweaty by the end.  But if you are in reasonable shape, all ages can do this hike.  You may take a little longer, and that is fine!  There is no rush to get to the top.  Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with the most incredible views.  You just hiked a crater!  And the reward is breathtaking.

Views of the crater – the building in the photos is the visitor’s center and parking lot

Such an incredible view

Know Before You Go

Sun protection is absolutely necessary.  You are exposed to the sun the entire time with very minimal shade.  A hat and sunglasses are also recommended.  Definitely bring plenty of water as well.  It was very hot at 8 am when we hiked in mid-June.  Also wear proper footwear such as sneakers or hiking shoes.

Read more!

As the most visited site on Oahu, Diamond Head Crater rightly so makes its way to most visitor’s must do lists.  However, Oahu is full of things to keep one busy while here!  

A visit to Pearl Harbor to pay respects to those who lost their lives on the USS Arizona is another must do while visiting Oahu.  We have an article on our website sharing planning and logistics information as well as our experience.  You can find it here:  Visiting Pearl Harbor:  Helpful Information for Your Visit.

One of our favorite Oahu experiences was visiting the North Shore.  We share all about having One Perfect Day On Oahu’s North Shore here.

For a full, one-week itinerary (perfect for a first time visit!), check out One Week in Oahu – Daily Itinerary and Guide.  

Check out our full review of Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa, in this article.

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