Diamond Head Hike: Hike to the top of an old volcano…how cool is that!
Hiked on Saturday, November 17, 2012; Reviewed November 24, 2012 See this review on TripAdvisor or Every Trail.
My wife and I hiked Diamond Head on a Saturday morning in mid November. The weather was a little iffy with overcast and a few rain showers in the area, so we felt that we did not have to be too early to beat the crowds (well at least getting a parking spot). We pulled into the crater at a little past 8:30 AM, paid our fee ($5) and found a place to stow the rental car. Do be careful driving through the tunnel that provides access to the crater as cars and pedestrians share the road here, and there is really no walkway in the tunnel.
We were on the trail at 8:50. I had made this hike during my first visit in 2008, so I knew what to expect. It is about a 0.8 mile climb to the top of the crater. The trail starts off as a wide concrete sidewalk that gently climbs from the crater floor through a few trees until the transition to a narrower, rock and dirt trail that really has you climbing through a series of switchbacks to gain on the crater rim. Note that the elevation change from the parking lot to the observation area on the rim is about 600 feet and it is a steep hike in places. We did get rained on at one point; so I was glad to be wearing a wide-brimmed hat as that took care of most of the precipitation. But the problem with the rain is not getting wet so much as it is the trail getting slick. I think this trail requires a study pair of hiking shoes or at least good athletic shoes, something with support for the foot and a good griping tread. We saw many folks with flip-flops, sandals (not hiking sandals) and even high heels and platform shoes (c’mon ladies, this ain’t a fashion show. If you twist or break and ankle here, it will be tough getting off the trail).
There was as addition to the trail made since I was last here. After climbing the first set of steps and exiting the tunnel, the trail splits. Someone had actually scrawled “easy way” and “hard way” on the wall at the tunnel exit. The hard way is a set of very steep concrete steps then a spiral staircase that takes you into the old observation bunker. This is the original route to the bunker. We decided to check out the easy way. This was a new part of the trail which was paved and had a much more gradual slope to get to the observation bunker area. This trail begins at an overlook into the crater and to the east and works gradually up the slope to a second overlook that provides a nice view toward Koko Head and over the ocean then turns up the crater rim to the observation bunker. This is a great upgrade to the hike and probably makes it much more accessible for many people.
The best views of course are from the observation bunker viewing platform. It was still overcast, so the views were not as great as they could have been, but there were nice vistas back to Waikiki and up to Koko Head. Well worth the effort.
We made the return trip the old or hard way, by climbing into the bunker and heading down the spiral staircase and the longer, steep flight of stairs, so we did a bit of a loop at the top of the trail. So the easy way is longer than but not nearly as strenuous as the hard way. Making a loop using both the easy and hard ways is the way to go. Which direction you take is personal preference (do you want to climb steep stairs or descend the stairs?). Overall the hike came out to about 1.8 miles and took a little over an hour. We made it to the top in about 30 minutes with minimal stops on the way up as we opted just to keep the momentum going and make more photo stops on the return trip.
We paused back at the trailhead on the crater floor for a rest and ended up sitting at a picnic table and watched the birds for a while. Red-Vented Bulbuls, Java Finches, House Finches, Pacific Golden Plovers, Common Waxbills, Zebra Doves and Spotted Turtles Doves were there in droves. The smaller birds were a little jittery, but as long as we sat fairly still, they came up pretty close to the table, so we got some decent photos. The larger birds (doves and bulbuls) were fearless and walked right under the table looking for crumbs or handouts (just don’t feed the wildlife).
I really enjoyed the hike. To me it was easy to moderate due to being steep in places, but it is really not that difficult. The crowds on the trails are the biggest issue and it is difficult to pass due to the narrowness of the trail and the oncoming traffic. Just take your time and you will be fine. Do remember to get to the trailhead early as the parking lot does fill up. Take water, wear a hat and remember the sunscreen as the hike is steep and exposed. Sturdy hiking or walking shoes are a must. Oh, and take a camera so that you can try and capture the views.
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