It’s what basically every local and traveller alike will tell you to do if you only have time for one thing in Honolulu, but despite visiting the island half a dozen times over the last few years, this is my first time making the quick and scenic ascent up Diamond Head Crater! And I’m immediately disappointed that I hadn’t done it sooner.
As far as hikes go, the walk up Diamond Head is short and moderately graded (but the views would make even 5x the effort worthwhile), so it’s easily enjoyed by anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of that stunning Hawaiian coastline. Best of all, though, is the proximity of this hike to Honolulu. We found ourselves exploring Oahu sans-car for a few days, which severely limited our access to some of the other highly recommended hikes on the island, but you can actually walk to the crater’s trailhead in about 45 minutes (or take an Uber for $15 from central Honolulu if you are directionally challenged and don’t trust yourself without Google Maps). Have a 6 hour layover in HNL and plan to spend it sipping Starbucks in the terminal? Just grab a taxi out to the crater!
Once at Diamond Head (Le’ahi to the Hawaiians), you’ll have to pay a $1 entrance fee before you can start motoring on up the hill. No one ever said it was Hawaii’s best kept secret, so we enjoy our fair share of jostling other tourists on the dusty track, but it is well worth it for the inescapable views over the ocean and the crater itself.
It’s about 20 minutes to reach the first set of viewing platforms, and then another 5 minutes further uphill through narrow-staired tunnels to reach the summit and bunker. After a few more stairs, you’ll finally pop out at the highest point, overlooking all of downtown Honolulu, the rugged coastline, and the 300,000+ year old volcanic crater below.
All in all, the trail is barely over a kilometre long and ascends a modest 170m, all on designated pathways or stairs. You’d be hard-pressed to spend a better half-hour in Honolulu! With more time, and the help of a car, tick Diamond Head off your list and then continue zipping around the tiny but jam-packed Oahu to explore lesser known trails and waterfalls all over this tropical island paradise. Aloha!