Diamond Head Hike: Everything You Need to Know

Visiting Hawaii


 
Planning to take on the Diamond Head hike during your visit to Oahu?

There are a few things you need to know before heading out to Oahu’s most popular state park.

For starters, Diamond Head now requires reservations for visitors.

So if you want to soak in the incredible views from the summit of Diamond Head Crater, read on for everything you need to know to enjoy your Diamond Head hike.

Details About Diamond Head

Officially called Diamond Head State Monument, this popular park encompasses about 475 acres on the southern shore of Oahu.

Diamond Head (Lē‘ahi, in Hawaiian) got its name in the late 1700s, when British sailors thought they had discovered diamonds on the slopes of the crater. In fact, what they found were calcite crystals, but the name “Diamond Head” stuck nonetheless.

Diamond Head is a volcanic crater, rising some 762 feet above the ocean just east of Waikiki. Its unique profile is easy to spot, whether you’re in town, out on the ocean, or flying overhead.

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources estimates about 3,000 people visit Diamond Head State Monument every day, making it one of Hawaii’s most popular overall attractions and topping 1 million visitors per year, on average.

(Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo)

Diamond Head Hike: Trail and Payoff

Diamond Head is popular for a reason: the crater itself is beautiful, providing lush scenery and ample space to relax and picnic before you hit the trail.

But that trail is the primary pull for most visitors, with Diamond Head’s summit offering sweeping views of Waikiki Beach, Honolulu and its surrounding shorelines.

Diamond Head’s primary route is a 0.8 mile trail with switchbacks. It is steep in parts, and the elevation gain is around 560 feet.

The trail starts off with a paved walkway that transitions to natural surface — read: dirt and rocks — after about 0.2 miles.

From there, you’ll encounter switchbacks and, eventually, the option to burn your quads on Diamond Head’s signature, steep stairs, or veer off on a slightly longer but gentler sloping trail up to the top.

Pace is everything here: while steep in parts, the hike is not particularly difficult, so if you’re concerned, just bring along the appropriate gear and go slowly.

The payoff at the top of Diamond Head is well worth the effort, in our opinion. But even a relatively simple trail requires some foresight and preparation, starting with the aforementioned reservation requirements.

Reservations are required for out-of-state visitors at Diamond Head (Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

Reservations are required for out-of-state visitors at Diamond Head (Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

Diamond Head Hike Reservations

As of May 2022, visitors will need a reservation to enter Diamond Head State Monument.

Make reservations well ahead of time to ensure you get the date and time you want. Don’t wait until you arrive on Oahu; book your tickets as early as you can.

As of spring 2022, reservations were available 14 days in advance, with plans to extend that timeframe to 30 days in advance.

The first time slot available each day is at 6 a.m., with the last beginning at 4 p.m.

The park closes at 6 p.m. daily.

Reservations cost $5 per person, and parking is $10 per vehicle.

There is no charge for entry or parking for Hawaii residents.

Make your Diamond Head reservations at the Hawaii State Parks official website.

An aerial view of Diamond Head Crater for the Diamond Head hike article.

(Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo)

Packing for Your Diamond Head Hike

Reservations aren’t the only preparation you’ll need before heading out on a Diamond Head hike.

Bring Plenty of (Reef-Safe) Sunscreen

Keep in mind that the sun can be deceptively intense in Hawaii, so pack and use plenty of sunscreen.

We recommend reef-safe sunscreen at all times while in Hawaii.

Reef-safe sunscreen is required by law before entering Hawaii’s waters, making it a good idea to use throughout your trip — you never know when you might want to veer off somewhere and hop into the water!

Pack Lots of Water

See our previous note about the sun’s intensity in Hawaii; you’ll want plenty of water for your Diamond Head hike.

Between the heat, physical exertion and elevation gain — and the fact that buying water inside the crater will cost a pretty penny — you’ll be glad you packed an extra bottle or two.

Bring Appropriate Gear

We’ve seen plenty of people hike diamond head in slippers (flip-flops), but we’ve also seen plenty of folks with twisted ankles or other injuries significant enough to either make the trek miserable or impossible.

You don’t want to have to turn around midway up and limp back to the parking lot, so start by wearing comfortable shoes and socks.

Hiking boots are not particularly necessary here, but they won’t hurt you, either.

As for clothing, cover up as much as you can without setting yourself up to overheat. A loose, long-sleeved shirt is ideal, especially if it has UPF properties, so you can receive both protection from the sun and relief from those famous Hawaii breezes.

Breathable hiking pants can be ideal for the same reasons.

If you do go with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, remember the sunscreen we noted above!

Stay on the Trails

This one should go without saying on any trail you might hit up throughout Hawaii, but stay on the developed trails when hiking up Diamond Head.

Safety is a primary reason for this; many visitors are injured every year on Hawaii’s hiking trails.

Preservation is another important reason to stay on approved trails while hiking Diamond Head. Erosion is a constant threat, and veering off paths can damage plant life, wildlife habitats and increase erosion.

Conclusion

Diamond Head is worth a visit during any trip to Oahu. Just make sure you:

  • Make reservations ahead of time
  • Bring sunscreen (preferably reef-safe)
  • Pack plenty of water
  • Wear sturdy yet comfortable footwear
  • Cover up for added sun protection
  • Stay on the trails!

With a bit of planning, you’ll be able to hike Diamond Head and enjoy the breath-taking views from the summit in no time!

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