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Hike Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii

When you live somewhere, you figure you’ll get around to visiting the important places eventually—no hurry. That’s how Mr. Excitement and I managed to visit Honoulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, three times and live there for three months without hiking Diamond Head, the omnipresent extinct volcano that is a symbol of that city.

Diamond Head behind Waikiki Beach in Honolulu

The iconic profile of the Diamond Head crater behind the tall hotels of Waikiki Beach in Honoulu, Hawaii.

When we lived in Honolulu in 2014, we always figured we could climb Diamond Head next weekend, and then I got sick, and then we had a family tragedy, and then it was time to leave, so it just never happened. Consequently, on our most recent visit to Honolulu, climbing Diamond Head was at the top of our list of things we planned to do. After all, we’re geezers, baby boomers not getting any younger.

Walking is our favorite way to explore new places, but we live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on a coastal plain, so in our daily lives we don’t walk up any hills worth mentioning. In 2002, we managed to go on a 4 day hike in New Zealand that involved climbing over a mountain and we survived, but we were younger then, so we approached Diamond Head with at least a little trepidation.

Getting to the Trail to Hike Diamond Head

We took an approximately $10 taxi ride from our hotel on the far end of Waikiki Beach to the trail head which is actually within the Diamond Head crater.

You can also reach Diamond Head by public bus.  However, the bus will leave you on the public street, adding a substantial uphill walk to the trail head before you even start hiking. Part of that walk is through a narrow, car and bus exhaust filled tunnel. I would recommend driving or getting a ride to the main visitors’ parking lot of the Diamond Head State Monument within the crater.

When to Hike Diamond Head and What to Wear

There is very little shade on the Diamond Head trail. Therefore, it is best to start your hike up Diamond Head in the early morning before it is too hot. We arrived at about 9:00 a.m.

Inside the Diamond Head Crater, Honolulu, Hawaii

There is no shade on the trail inside the Diamond Head Crater.

I wore my hiking pants with zip off legs (don’t judge ), and converted them to shorts at our first rest stop. There are some scenic overlook places where one can get off the trail and if it’s not too crowded, find a place to sit. We also prudently brought water, sunblock, sunglasses and hats.

The Diamond Head hike is only 1.6 miles round trip. First constructed in 1908 by the military, the trail is inside the crater and climbs 560 feet to an altitude of 761 feet.

The very first two tenths of a mile of the trail is paved. However, it soon becomes an uneven tuff rock composed of the ash and other particles deposited during the single explosive eruption that formed the crater some 300,000 years ago. I was able to walk comfortably in sneakers.

Some teenagers hike Diamond Head in short skirts and flip flops because — teenagers.

To Hike Diamond Head You Must Climb Stairs

There are switchbacks that lessen the steepness of the grade, but there are also flights of stairs. I was too busy concentrating on breathing to count, but according to one source, the four sets of stairs have the following numbers of steps: 99, 76, 43 and 54. The third set is a metal spiral staircase.

Unfortunately, if you’re more than slightly claustrophobic, this hike is not for you. There are two narrow tunnels, one of which is 225 feet long. I didn’t enjoy that part. I kept flashing back to how I felt in an MRI machine.

There is also a place near the top where you have to bend under a low overhang to exit what was a gun emplacement bunker that could prove challenging for people with balance problems.

Including rest stops and scenery viewing, we did the round trip in about 70 minutes. Some people run up and down every day in less than half an hour for exercise and some take over two hours. We saw hikers with toddlers in tow and others who seemed to be nearing age 85.

Between the parking lot and the trail head, there are restrooms and picnic tables, but we chose not to eat there.

We returned to the park entrance where there was a line of waiting taxis. For old times sake and because we figured we deserved a reward for getting our old bones up and down Diamond Head, we returned to our favorite ocean-side frozen yogurt place on Waikiki Beach.

In addition to the frozen yogurt, our rewards for climbing Diamond Head were the lovely views from the top and the satisfaction of having made it.

View from the top of Diamond Head looking down on Waikiki

The view from the top of Diamond Head looking back at Waikiki Beach.

Before you Hike Diamond Head

Consult the Diamond Head State Monument website for up to date information about conditions, the entrance schedule and fees. During our visit, the area was open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; however, the latest you are permitted to access the Diamond Head Summit Trail is at 4:30 p.m. There was  an entrance fee of $5.00 for cars and $1.00 for pedestrians.

Have you experienced the climb up Diamond Head? Have you embraced any physical challenges during your travels?

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, Boomeresque. Instagram: Boomeresque2

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