The hike to Diamond Head is a popular trail on the island of Oahu. The trail is steep, hot, and so popular that it requires timed tickets to hike. Despite those drawbacks, it is a beautiful climb to the tip-top of the island to look out over the entire surrounding area of Honolulu. If you have the stamina for a steep hike, Diamond Head is a good trail.
Diamond Head State Monument is its own little park. Without a timed ticket, though, you can’t enter because it is so popular. You can easily get tickets at this website, as long as you plan in advance. We saw several people turned away because they came without securing tickets in advance.
One nice thing about the tickets is, parking is not usually a problem. If you get through the gate, there is almost always a stall for you. Just down from the parking lot is a small information kiosk, restrooms, and a waterbottle filling station. Make sure to fill up, because the hike is hot and not shaded until you reach the tunnel.
For us Utahns, Hawaii is decidedly green and lush. However, the Diamond Head trail was much drier than we expected. Most of the vegetation was yellow and reminded us of home. Still, we saw some animals including mongooses and several species of colorful birds.
The trail begins on a paved path and winds through the yellow grass, growing steeper and steeper. Narrow switchbacks allow two people to pass, but plan on hiking in a line, as two abreast won’t be able to pass hikers in the opposite direction. The hike to Diamond Head summit is 1.6 miles roundtrip and it is a climb the entire way to the top.
After multiple switchbacks, you come to a small overlook. This looks back over the second highest point of the mountain. It is just a few steps off the main trail, and a great place to take a breather. From the overlook, the Diamond Head trail turns into a set of stairs. There are a lot of stairs, and then the stairs are followed by a dark tunnel. The tunnel is well-lit enough that you don’t need flashlights but dark enough that it is difficult to recognize other faces.
At the end of the tunnel, the trail splits into a counter-clockwise loop, so turn left and head up another staircase toward the summit. After that long stairway, turn right and you come to a sort of military lookout shelter. You can venture inside, but first, go all the way to the top summit up the last set of short stairs. This is the view you climbed that distance for.
When you’ve had your fill of the cool wind and the spectacular views, go back down the short stairs and enter the lookout. Toward the back, a tunnel and spiral staircase will take you down to the end of the loop. From there, you’ll descend the same way you came up. The trail is paved the entire way, but there are sections that are uneven, and because it is so steep, we would not recommend this for any type of wheels.
A visit to Diamond Head State Monument isn’t for everyone, but it is really nice hike for those who don’t mind a little climbing. It is also a trail that most Hawaii visitors like to check off their list. We loved visiting Oahu so much that we mad a list of our own. Check out our Things to do on Oahu for other ideas.