Distance: 1.6 miles (.8 miles up and down)
Elevation Gain: 560 ft (170 m)
Terrain: Paved, slightly rocks, dark tunnels, normal stairs
Cost: $1 per person or $5 per car with parking (limited)
Hours: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. (4:30 p.m. last entrance)
Completion Time: 1.5h to 2.5h
Difficulty: 2/5 (steps and a lot of people)
Diamond Head is a great hike for families and tourists. There’s pavement, slightly rocky paths, many turns, a dark tunnel, a long flight of stairs, and a little pillbox-like thing you can crawl through. It’s an easy hike. You can try and find parking here for $5 a car, but parking is limited. On weekends, when it’s busy, I recommend parking at Kapiolani Community College and walking up. It’s definitely the most popular hike on the island.
There are no real views going up. At the top, you have various views of Waikiki, the ocean, parts of Honolulu and the University of Hawaii. It’s somewhat interesting due to the varying terrain, but not very challenging. The hiking path is very narrow for 2-way hiking traffic, so avoiding bumping into people is part of the challenge. There are also 2 sets of stairs that should tired you out a bit. In terms of amenities, this place receives nearly a perfect score from me: Diamond Head has bathrooms, a water fountain, parking (limited), a visitor center, a listening tour, benches, signs, recycling bins, audio tours, tourist trinkets for sale, hand rails, lights for the dark tunnel, and a stand to buy drinks and pineapple smoothies. No other hike on the island has amenities like this.
It’s a hike for all.
Pineapple smoothie… ten bucks!?
To get to the Diamond Head hike, you can walk or drive from Waikiki. Simply head towards the Honolulu Zoo and look for Monsarrat Avenue, a road that starts where Kapahulu Avenue and Kalakaua meet, near the ocean. Monsarrat is in the middle of the two (bisects them). Continue on this road until it becomes Diamond Head Road. Turn right when you see the brown and yellow sign that says “Diamond Head State Monument.”
A Local's Advice
If you’re staying in Waikiki during your trip and are not renting a car, Diamond Head is one of the few hikes that are accessible for you in Honolulu. According to Google Maps, walking from the Zoo to the entrance of the hike takes 50 minutes. Or catch the #2 bus on Kuhio Avenue and walk 12 minutes to the entrance.
The Bus Directions
In Waikiki, you’ll have two busses: #2 and #3. If you’re near the Hilton Hawaiian Village, you can catch the #3. If you’re in the heart of Waikiki or closer to the zoo (on the opposite end of the Hilton Hawaiian Village), you can catch the #2, which goes through Kuhio Avenue. The busses you want are heading East. For both, listen for “Diamond Head State Monument” or look for the brown sign by the bus stop. Get off there and walk up 12 minutes to the entrance.
The Hike Up
This is the walk up from Diamond Head Road to the entrance. I think it’s worth finding parking at the Kapiolani Community College (you’ll see it across the street from the Diamond Head State Monument sign) and adding the walk to the entrance as part of your hike. It’s about an additional 12 minutes from the parking lot to the entrance.
The Hike Begins
The hike begins at the entrance booth. If you drove, you’d pay $5 per car for entrance (for everyone in the car) and parking. If you’re walking, it’s $1 per person. The parking sounds like a good deal, but on weekends, it’s usually busy and there’ll be a wait line. When I went, for example, I was there at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday and the booth people said it’s maybe a 15-25 minute wait for parking!
As mentioned before, there are a lot of amenities here. This is a state monument, so you can expect this hike to be very polished, well-maintained, and with many overpriced goods for sale, including the infamous $10 pineapple smoothie :). They also offer listening tours (ask about them at the Visitor Center). They have a water fountain, a bathroom, and many benches lying around.
You can follow the path and it should take you forward. There are a couple of little side-stops along the way where you can take pictures or rest. The path in general is fairly narrow for a 2-way hike and you will be avoiding people during buys days (it’s part of the fun, I guess!).
Then you will come across a set of stairs and a dark tunnel.
At the end of the stairs (see the picture below), you can go left (which I recommend),and you will walk a little up a hill a staircase. Or you can go right, where you will go up another set of stairs, go through another dark tunnel, and then climb up a dirty staircase, and then squeeze out into the top.
The stairs are not steeper than a staircase in a building, but there are many of them:
The View at the Top
Once you are at the top of the hike, you will see there are multiple places to take photos or enjoy the sights from. My favorite one is the pillbox-looking platform, with no guardrail, allowing for full panoramic photos.
Here is a video I recorded while I was at the top.
The Hike Down
There are no special instructions for hiking down — simply reverse your path. The path is not steep. Simply try to focus on not bumping into people if it’s busy.