Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Link to my YouTube of this hike can be found here
When on O’ahu, Waikiki particularly, the short hike to the Diamond Head Crater is a must-do. Not because it’s epic but because I think you’d regret it if you didn’t.
The crater is a tuff cone, formed from lava flows less than half a million years ago. The crater itself is a state monument. Known to Hawaiians as Le'ahi, thought to be due to the outer ridge resembling the dorsal fin of a tuna, ahi meaning tuna. The Diamond head name originating from British sailors mistaking an abundant mineral for diamonds on the adjacent beach!
There are so many tourists in Waikiki, I knew it would be busy at the crater so decided to get there for sunrise as the facility opens at 6am. Alas it wasn’t such a great strategy as there were many bus loads of tourists there already!
From the town centre it’s around a forty minute walk to the park entrance. You could drive or get a bus there. It’s cheap to get in and to park. Being uphill most of the way, with the addition of the hike itself, if you’re unfit, it’s probably best to get a ride there.
My hike, in early February that is mid-winter in Hawaii, from the hostel to the crater, was in the dark. The streets are lit as it’s mostly on the street sidewalks, so not a problem. I left at around half five. There was a fantastic electrical storm a short way out in the Pacific ocean all my way there, which kept me entertained.
You have to pass through a tunnel cut through the crater ridge wall to access the entry point to the park. The actual walk up is on the crater ridge, so you are looking down on the crater, the entry and visitor center is in the crater itself.
Once on the walk up the crater ridge, you cannot go off piste, the way to the top is on formed walkways. We had a lot of rain in the days before my hike, so the rocky surfaces were a little slippery. Footwear-wise, flip-flops wouldn’t be suitable but trainers are fine. There are various surfaces, many of which are uneven, some natural rock but not loose rock.
Nearly all the way up the sunrise is visible, so little of it is missed. There are some good views of the inside of the crater, which is covered in greenery. The views onto the Pacific, surrounding towns and the bay are beautiful and it looks so tranquil, I’d recommend going at this time of day, if you can tolerate the crowds. The latest you can enter the park is half four in the afternoon, so no sunset walks are not possible as it closes at six.
With the storm continuing whilst I made my way up, it gave added interest to the hike. Strangely the storm was restricted to one large cloud, adjacent to that was an un-clouded view of the sun rising, such a contrast, mother nature at her finest.
I didn’t find the hike taxing at all physically, the stairs aren’t dangerous as such, the biggest difficulty, if you’re like me and want to go flat chat everywhere, are your snail-like meandering fellow tourists and the unfit, spluttering ones that you need to pass, as well as dodging people on their way down.
Overtaking is possible. There are also quite a few sets of steep stairs to climb. The last few stairways and viewing areas were jam-packed with stationery tourists, so it was a bit of a squeeze to the ex-military lookout at the top. It wasn’t a good view from up there and a decent photo was impossible due to the amount of people, I only did it to satisfy my ego! Even if you don’t get to the very top you can see the whole crater.
The walk down is easy, to be expected as it’s all downhill, as is the walk back to town, except for a short uphill part. Just be careful of slipping or tripping on the uneven surfaces.
The walk back into town is also quite interesting, with parks on the way, that have some unusual trees and colourful birds. And some nice views of the other volcano ridge lines in the distance.
I was back at my hostel by 9am, so it’s only a short outing, but thoroughly worth the effort. I’m sure you could make a day of it if you took your time and explored the crater interest points, had a picnic etc. All in all, if you have a family it would be a cheap day out.
There’s only two seasons in Hawaii, the weather being pretty similar all year round.
Summer from May to October and
Winter from November to April
My hike was in February, it was around 27°C with some cloud and rain at times.
Entry fees $1 per person
Parking on-site $5 for a car
Picnic tables and pavillion
Look-out viewing platforms along the trail
Food there’s limited food available
Cold drinks only
Water There's a water fountain at the start of the trail only, so take water with you