Diamond Head Crater Hike - In-Depth Guide

October 5, 2022

Catch the best panoramic views of Honolulu and visit one of the most popular natural wonders on the island!

Diamond Head Crater, also called Le Ahi in the native tongue, is Hawaii's most iconic volcanic formation, formed over 100,000 years ago! Even if you’ve never been, likely, you’ve already seen the crater’s picturesque sight from postcards and pictures of the Aloha state.

Aside from its breathtaking views, it’s also interesting to note that Diamond Head Crater has a rich military history dating back to 1908 as part of the fortification of the island. Tunnels, batteries, bunkers, and heavy defense systems were installed inside the crater to turn it into a military base. The Crater was a perfect lookout point for soldiers because of its 360-degree views of the horizon.

These days, however, most of Fort Ruger inside Diamond Head has been transferred back to the state of Hawaii’s care, making it an open attraction for visitors from near and far!

With this in-depth guide to the Diamond Head Crater hike, you’ll be able to plan your trip and appreciate one of the most beloved and beautiful hikes in the world.

What to Expect While Hiking Diamond Head Crater

Ready to hike Diamond Head? Read this first, so you know what to expect!

Hiking to the top of the Diamond Head Crater is one of the most popular activities in Oahu. In fact, the Diamond Head hike is the most popular hike on the island. On a good day, thousands of people make their way to the top for panoramic views of Honolulu. Needless to say, you certainly will not have the trail to yourself. Expect to join around 300 people during the high season near the summit. 

Most of the trail at Diamond Head Crater is paved. The hiking trail begins on the crater floor as a wide paved path that passes through the thick foliage. Expect a pleasant walk during the first half of the hike, but the real challenge is the long stair climbs and a narrow tunnel.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the Diamond Head hiking trail is 560 feet above Honolulu?

Tourists enjoying the beach at Diamond Head State Monument - Oahu, Hawaii, USA

The number of stairs you’ll have to climb is worth considering. We are not exaggerating; it's nearly 200 stairs. Visitors often note the steep stairs, one flight of which you have to climb through a gap in one of the military bunkers. As for the narrow tunnel, there is no lighting inside! It is pitch black, so you'll need flashlights or your phone to guide the way.

The Diamond Head trail is adventurous and can be challenging. But the 360-degree views from the crater’s summit are amazing and make it all worth it! 

There are also tons of opportunities to take a moment and catch your breath while enjoying the views, just like the first lookout after the first flight of stairs. When you reach the top, there are multiple picnic areas that provide shade, where you can stay for a while to take in the most breathtaking sights. Expect blue skies, white clouds, ocean views in every shade of aquamarine blue, and that iconic view where the Honolulu skyline meets the coastline.

Diamond Head Crater Time and Prices

Diamond Head hike Hawaii is open from 6 AM to 6 PM. However, the trail’s cut-off time is 4 PM. The entry costs $5 per visitor, while the parking fee per vehicle is $10. Both parking fees and entrance fees are currently credit cards only.

Hawaiian residents can access the hike for free, but entry depends on parking availability for those with vehicles. A park ranger will check everyone’s tickets or ID if they are Hawaiian residents. 

Important note: All out-of-state visitors must book an advanced reservation to enter Diamond Head State Monument. Reservations can be made up to 14 days in advance at the state park website. Hawaii residents may enter the hike without reservations.

Aerial View of Diamond Head Crater - Oahu, Hawaii, USAThe Best Time to Hike Diamond Head Crater

Dreaming of a sunset Diamond Head hike? Diamond Head Crater closes at 6 PM, which means that visitors have to hike back down before the sun sets. However, you can look forward to catching the golden hour in the morning instead! Often, the sun rises in this part of Hawaii just after 7 AM. So if you begin your hike when the park opens at 6 AM, you just might be able to reach the summit and watch the sun rise over beautiful views of Waikiki beach. Plus, going early is the best time to hike Diamond Head crater if you want to beat the crowds! 

Heading to the Paradise of the Pacific in the winter? You will still be able to enjoy the view from atop Diamond Head Crater during winter. In addition, you might be treated to views of humpback whales as this is a time for migration in search of warmer tropical waters. Whatever the season, be sure to charge your cameras because you will take many beautiful pictures!

View of Waikiki Beach from Diamond HeadHow long is Diamond Head Hike?

The Diamond Head Crater hike length is approximately 1.6 miles roundtrip. If you’re wondering right now, “How long does it take to hike Diamond Head?” the average adult will take about 45 minutes to reach the top of the Diamond Head hike, then another 30 minutes to descend.

If you’re wondering about the Diamond Head hike difficulty, the challenge is not in length but rather the steepness of the terrain as well as the stairs that one has to climb throughout the trail! On rainy days, the path gets extra slippery, making it more challenging to traverse the steep stairs. For this reason, we recommend not bringing small children or toddlers with strollers. 

We have an entire guide dedicated to more kiddo-friendly activities in Oahu! Check out Things to Do With Kids in Honolulu: A Parent's Guide!

Aerial view looking over Waikiki Beach towards Diamond Head State Monument on a sunny day with bright blue water in Oahu, Hawaii, USAHow to Get to Diamond Head Crater

Getting to Honolulu hike Diamond Head is easy! There are various transportation methods available, including ride-sharing apps, buses, taxis, or even by walking if your hotel is near enough to the Diamond Head Crater Visitor Center.

Read our In-Depth Guide to Getting Around Oahu for more information on transportation!

The following best Oahu hotels are less than 15 minutes away from Diamond Head Crater:

Waikiki Resort Hotel

Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa

If you are planning to bring your vehicle, there is a Diamond Head hike parking lot. However, the parking lot is small, so driving your car requires a bit of planning. 

For an affordable way to see Diamond Head and other great Waikiki attractions, the Waikiki Trolley is excellent!

View looking at Diamond Head State Monument with the Pacific Ocean below on a sunny day in Oahu, Hawaii, USAWhat to Bring

Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen to the Diamond Head Crater hike. A hat also comes in handy if the sun is intense.

Bring cash as well. There are souvenirs for sale at the Visitor Center and food trucks that offer smoothies and fresh fruits.

If you’re thinking about wearing sandals, don’t! Instead, wear good hiking shoes and pack your sandals if you want to wear them after the hike. 

Check out our Ultimate Hawaii Packing List: What to Bring and What to Skip to ensure you're totally prepared for your Hawaiian adventures!

Save Big with the Go Oahu Card

Hiking the Diamond Head Crater is typically a half-day Oahu activity. If you still have the energy and are eager to explore, enjoy more Oahu activities during your trip with the Go Oahu All-Inclusive Pass.

The Pass lets you save up to 65% off top Oahu attractions, activities, and tours. And yes, the Diamond Head hike is included in the attractions you can save big on with the Go Oahu card!

Have You Conquered Diamond Head?

Have any insight to share? Leave a comment below!


Nicole sitting on rocks with waves in background

Written By Nicole

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely exploring the great o ...

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