Diamond Head Hike: A Complete Guide to Hiking this Famous Trail in Oahu
The Diamond Head hike is one of the most popular and easy hikes on Oahu.
It’s a great way to see beautiful views of Oahu’s south shore, and it’s not too difficult for beginners.
If you want to take in some fantastic views but don’t have much time, this is the perfect activity!
This trail will give you an up-close look at a lot that Honolulu has to offer. Plus, if you’re looking for something fun and easy to do with your friends or family, then this should be right up your alley!
Before we get started, here is some important historical information about Diamond Head. Feel free to use the table of contents to skip around.
History of Diamond Head
Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu and is known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi.
Diamond Head is believed to have been formed between 400,000-500,000 years ago. It is part of the system of cones, vents, and shield volcanoes that are collectively known to geologists as the Honolulu Volcanic Series—eruptions from which built much of the island of Oahu 3 to 4 million years ago.
Diamond Head is a defining feature of the view known to residents and tourists of Waikiki alike. The crater, which today is a State Monument, was originally purchased by the Federal government in 1905 so that it could be used as a defensive military base. While it was completed and ready to defend Oahu during WW1, not a single piece of artillery was ever actually fired from Diamond Head during the war.
The “Diamond” name comes from when western sailors thought the crystals from the rocks on the slope of the crater were diamonds. Since then, it’s been referred to as Diamond Head.
Diamond Head Parking
There is paid ($10.00 per vehicle) parking available on site. Residents with a Hawaii State ID do not need to pay the fee. Please note that there is also an additional $5.00 admission fee per person to enter the hiking trail.
As a note, the onsite parking lot fills up quickly, and it’s limited. I would suggest arriving early or late in the afternoon to ensure you have parking. Please note that the above note only applies to residents if visiting on or after May 12, 2022. This won’t apply to non-residents since reservations will now be required.
Taking the bus or shuttle/Uber is also another option if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of parking.
Note: Payment is through credit card only, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Diamond Head Reservations
If you plan to visit Diamond Head on or after May 12, 2022, reservations will be required. The state land officials announced that visitors can start making reservations online beginning on April 28, 2022. Reservations can be made within 14 days of your scheduled visit. We recommend making your reservations 14 days out to ensure you get your desired day/ time slot.
If you are a Hawaii resident, you do not need a reservation.
According to state land officials, these new rules were put in place to control congestion, on hiking trails, damage to the environment and infrastructure, and heavy vehicle traffic.
Diamond Head is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Hawaii with thousands of visitors each day. In 2019, Diamond Head received a record 6000 visitors per day.
I know most of us are not big fans of reservation systems but in this case, it makes sense. Reservations will ensure that visitors are spread out across the day and the park will be less congested.
Click here to make your reservation.
Diamond Head Hours
The hike is open from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm daily. Gates close at 6:00 pm, so make sure to be out of the park before this time.
If you plan on getting there late in the day to avoid crowds, we recommend getting there at least 15 minutes before 4:00 pm. One time we got there around 4:00 pm, and we were turned away.
Also, Remember hours might change depending on when you go and current events, so always check the Division of State Parks website to confirm.
How to get to Diamond Head
There are multiple options to get to Diamond Head.
Drive there yourself: This is our favorite way to get around the island of Oahu as it gives you the flexibility to do whatever you want at whenever time you feel like doing it. Having a car allowed us to explore the windward side of Oahu and so much more after hiking Diamond Head.
Uber/Lyft/Taxi: If you don’t feel like driving or don’t have a car, these are all great options to get to Diamond Head.
Take the Waikiki Trolley: This is an excellent option if you don’t want to worry about parking and is also a great way to see Waikiki and some of the other areas on the island.
Take the Bus: Bus #23 goes from Waikiki to Diamond Head. This bus will drop you off at the bottom of the Diamond Head State Monument stop. It’s a short walk from there to the start of the trail.
Diamond Head Trail Information
Distance: About 1.6 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 452ft
Route Type: Out & back
How Long Does it Take: 1-1.5 hours round trip
Highlights of the Trail: Gorgeous views of Waikiki and the south shore of Oahu
Hiking Diamond Head Trail
The Diamond Head trail is a top hike in Oahu that takes you around 1 to 1.5 hours to complete depending on how fast you hike and how often you stop to enjoy the gorgeous views.
This is one of Oahu’s most popular hikes, so be prepared to share the trail with many other hikers and tourists.
We have hiked many trails in Oahu, and Diamond Head is one of the most touristy locations we have ever hiked.
In my opinion, I think it tops the famous Lanikai Pillbox Hike and the Koko Head Hike in terms of traffic.
The Start of the Trail
The start of the trail is located a few feet from the parking lot. It starts right after you pass the security officer.
It starts out paved, easy to follow, and is a great way to warm up for the rest of the hike.
Don’t let the beginning of the hike fool you; it gets a bit steeper and is not fully paved after the first few hundred feet. Don’t let that scare you though, as Diamond Head is still one of the easiest hikes in Oahu. Just pace yourself, take your time, and enjoy the views along the way.
One of our favorite things about this hike is that it’s perfectly marked so that you won’t get lost. It’s also an out and back hike, meaning that the same way you got up is the same way you will have to come back down. This makes everything so much easier.
The trail is also very well maintained, so you don’t have to worry about anything else and can just enjoy the hike.
The Middle Section of the trail
The second part of the trail is where the hike starts to get a little steeper. You will begin to go up some steeper hills and some stairs.
There are railings on the side, and we definitely recommend using them as needed.
This is also where the views start to get really good. It’s absolutely beautiful and definitely worth the hike.
The Final Part of the Trail
As you make your way to the top, the trail gets a little more challenging. You will be going up a lot of stairs, and it’s essential to take your time if you need it.
There is also a fun tunnel that you will go through as you make your way to the top.
Once you make it out of the tunnel, you can decide to go right towards the long staircase or go to the left. The latter is the easier route, but we prefer taking the stairs on the way up because we love the little challenge.
Regardless of which route you choose, you will be greeted with the same views on top. Plus, you can always take the other way on your way down.
Once you reach the top, you will be able to see 360-degree views of Waikiki, Honolulu, and Oahu’s south shore. It’s definitely worth it to take a break here and enjoy the view.
Be advised that it might be super crowded on top depending on what time you go. The first time we went to Diamond Head we started the hike around 4:00 pm, and there were fewer people on the trail.
Recently, we hiked the trail around 10:00 am, and it felt like the zoo when we got on top. There were just too many people, and it was hard to take a photo without other people in the shot.
My favorite time to hike this trail would be around 6:00 am and just before 4:00 pm due to there being less traffic.
Tips for Hiking Diamond Head
Bring Plenty of Water: This is an important one, especially if you hike the trail in the afternoon.
There is no water available on the trail, so make sure you bring enough with you.
We talked to one of the park rangers for a bit and we were advised that most of the rescues at Diamond Head are due to dehydration.
It gets pretty hot once the sun comes out, so plan accordingly.
Wear Sunscreen: The sun can be brutal as the trail is mostly not shaded. Make sure you have reef-safe sunscreen on to protect yourself. Another option (the best option, in my opinion) is to wear a rashguard as an alternative.
Bring a Hat: A hat is also a great way to protect yourself from the sun. Make sure to add this to your Hawaii packing list.
Bring Snacks: There are no food vendors on the actual trail, so make sure you bring a snack with you.
Wear Appropriate Shoes: I wore trail running shoes and they did just fine. If you want to learn more about the best hiking shoes for Hawaii, click the link.
Park Rangers are Friendly and Helpful: The park rangers are more than happy to help if you have any questions. They are also very friendly and knowledgeable!
What Else is There to Do in the Area?
There are so many things to do close to the Diamond Head Hike. Below are some of our favorite things to do on Oahu:
Get some shave Ice: Our favorite thing to do after hiking Diamond Head is to reward ourselves with shave ice. You have two close-by options: Shimazu Shave Ice and Monsarrat Shave Ice. Both of these options made it on our list for the best places to get shave ice in Oahu.
Get some Food: Be sure to visit some of Oahu’s best eats, such as the South Shore Grill, Diamond Head Market, and Da Cove Health Bar and Cafe.
Go to the Honolulu Zoo: The zoo is a great place to take the family and learn about some of Hawaii’s native animals.
Check out Waikiki: There are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore in Waikiki. It’s a great place to spend the day.
Visit Iolani Palace: If you are interested in learning about Hawaii’s history, Iolani Palace is a great place to start. It was the last royal palace of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Check out the Waikiki Aquarium: The aquarium is a great place to learn about the marine life in Hawaii.
Check out Halona Beach Cove: This beach is often overlooked by many. Be sure to stop by for an amazing beach day.
Check out Manoa Falls: If you are looking for a waterfall to check out, Manoa Falls is a great option.
Visit one of Oahu’s best Botanical Gardens: The Queen Kapi’olani Botanical Garden and Koko Crater Botanical Garden are located within a reasonable distance.
See Also: 15 Best Beaches in Oahu You Should Visit
Diamond Head Frequently Asked Questions
Is Diamond Head a difficult hike?
The hike is not difficult, but there are some steep sections and long staircases.
How long will it take me to hike Diamond Head?
It usually takes people 1-2 hours to hike Diamond Head.
What should I wear for the hike?
Wear sunscreen, a hat, comfortable shoes, and shorts if possible as it gets pretty hot once the sun comes out.
How much does it cost to hike Diamond Head?
For nonresidents, it costs $5.00 per person. Parking is an additional $10.00 per vehicle.
Is hiking Diamond Head worth it?
Definitely! Yes, yes, and yes. This is a must when in Oahu.
Is Diamond Head hike open?
Yes, the hike is now open. Be sure to check the Division of State Parks website for updates on any closings.
Diamond Head Hike: The Wrap Up
So there you have it! The complete guide to hiking Diamond Head. If you are looking for a great hike to do in Oahu, Diamond Head is definitely the hike for you. The views from the top are absolutely amazing!
Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks with you, as there are no food vendors on the trail. Sunscreen and a hat are also strongly advised.
We hope you found this post helpful and that you have a great time while hiking Diamond Head. Mahalo!
See Also: Kuliouou Ridge Trail