What is Diamond Head?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Diamond Head is a geological feature on the Hawaiian island of Oahu which has become famous, thanks to its proximity to the city of Honolulu. The distinctive profile of Diamond Head appears in many postcards from Oahu's famous Waikiki Beach, and it is a popular tourist destination. Many visitors to Oahu like to set aside a morning to hike Diamond Head, as the view from the top is said to be quite incredible.

Like many of Hawaii's distinctive features, Diamond Head is volcanic in origin. This famous Hawaiian landmark is part of a larger network of volcanic cones and vents. Diamond Head itself is totally dormant, and therefore safe to hike; in fact the volcano is so safe that the United States military actually established Fort Rutger inside the volcano's walls. The crater also houses an old Hawaiian burial ground.

The name “Diamond Head” came to this dormant volcano in the 19th century, when British sailors mistook the glittering calcite in the soil for diamonds. The Hawaiian name for the volcano is Laeahi, which means “brow of the tuna,” presumably a reference to the humped shape of Diamond head on the skyline. The height of the volcano is around 760 feet (232 meters), making it stand out against the lower surrounding ground.


The hike up Diamond Head is relatively easy, and it features a range of views. As people work their way up the mountain, they can see Honolulu and the surrounding areas, and when they reach the top, they can look into the massive crater and catch views of Molokai, a neighboring island. Visitors can also see the remains of Fort Rutgers, along with an assortment of tunnels which can be explored with the aid of a flashlight.

Visitors to Diamond Head may want to remember that shade is often limited, and it is therefore a good idea to hike early, before the heat of the day sets in. Hikers should bring plenty of water along with a few snacks, and they should expect a hike of around an hour and a half to the top, with the trip down taking about half that time. The hike up features varying terrain, ranging from paved walks to stairs, so sturdy shoes are advised.


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Post 1

The hike to the top of Diamond Head is hot, rather steep, and has numerous switchbacks. From the trail head to the summit of the crater the distance is .8 miles or 1.3 kilometers with 560 feet or 171 meters elevation gain.

There are two sets of steep stairways on the trail, with 74 and 99 concrete steps. On your way you also pass through a lighted tunnel, 225 feet long. There are bunkers on the summit of the crater, built in the beginning of the 20th century.

This was an ideal location for coastal protection of the island of Oahu. Diamond Head is National Natural Landmark, and is one of the best known places in Hawaii.

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