Hiking Diamond Head, or Lēʻahi, is one of the many things Oʻahu visitors can do during their stay because of its proximity to Waikīkī. Being that I felt like a tourist myself, it seemed only fitting to make the trek to the top with my sister and niece.
Diamond Head is an inactive volcanic crater located between the neighborhoods of Kapahulu and Kāhala. British sailors gave Diamond Head its English name when they saw specs of glitter atop its slopes and mistook them for diamonds. Its Hawaiian name, meaning forehead of the yellow-fin tuna (known as ʻahi in the Islands), is due to the crater’s shape, which looks like the head and dorsal fin of the fish when viewed from the east side.
Even though I grew up in central Oʻahu, this area of the island will always be special to me. Every Friday or Saturday evening during my childhood my family would visit my grandmother’s home in Kapahulu. She lived a few blocks away from the slopes of Diamond Head in the same house in which my dad and his siblings were raised.
However, it has probably been close to 10 years since I last did the 0.8 mile hike, and the improvements since then are remarkable. The trail starts off paved but turns to rock and dirt fairly quickly. The ground is mostly uneven with numerous switchbacks as you ascend the inside of the crater.
Near the top you’ll find a steep stairway to climb, a lighted tunnel and a second staircase that spirals you into a former military bunker. Paved and railed improvements create great photo opportunities with east Oʻahu in the background. Platforms and informational signs at the top have expanded the viewing area and explains the scenery and landmarks to visitors.
A negative change since I last hiked Diamond Head is the initiation of an entrance fee charged to cars and pedestrians. But, I suppose someone has to pay for all these new improvements, maintenance and upkeep of the area and the fees are quite reasonable. It costs $5 per vehicle or $1 per person for anyone without a car as many people catch the bus and walk into the crater from Diamond Head Road.
In the end, it was a great day with good company. My niece jogged to the top, which is incredibly common for people more fit than myself. My sister and I steadily made our way to the top and enjoyed ourselves. We stopped along the way for photos and to take in the wonderful views. As they say in the Islands, lucky we live Hawaiʻi.