Car park at Diamond Head National Monument (Kahala Lookout)
Car park at Diamond Head National Monument (Kahala Lookout)
People usually visit Honolulu for two reasons. First its a stopover point to and from mainland USA or second you have chosen this as a destination for a tropical holiday. Either way if you have the time, and feel like doing at least one of Honolulu’s many walks then the Diamond Head Summit Trail should be the top of this list. Without a doubt this is the most popular walk on Honolulu seeing around 3,000 visitors a day. As a result, you can’t just turn up and instead you need to book in advance (Booking website up to 30 days prior). The cost is USD $5 per person and your booking will provide you with a time window.
The hardest part of this walk its getting to the trailhead which involves some form of vehicle transport from the central tourist district and this can be done by tourist bus, taxi, hire car or Uber. We chose the Uber option and while the tourist bus is cheaper, we wanted to go at a time of our choosing and preferred not to be in a fully loaded tourist bus. Just as an aside, we are big Uber travellers in when in Australia, and found the Honolulu Ubers a great option for getting about.
Arriving at the trailhead you’ll pass an external car park just before the entrance tunnel – this is where we were dropped off. We took in the great views from here before proceeding through the tunnel on the dedicated walkway adjacent to the car lanes and continuing to the trailhead proper. To some extent this explains the trail distance that we have quoted because if you go on the offical trail website it quotes a distance of 1.3 miles (2.1km) total distance whereas our GPS measured it at just on 2.7 miles (4.3km). Given the time it took us, I think our measurement is more accurate.
Given the sheer number of people who walk this trail, I would suggest you start early to beat the bulk of the crowds and if you can manage it, turn up as early as you can (this site opens at 6:00am). The other benefit of doing this walk early is that you beat most of the humidity and heat which is something that impacts me and saps my energy.
Once you pass through the tunnel and the permit only car park, you will need to show you entry permit. On the day we walked, a couple tried to ‘pay on the day’ but were turned away because the site was fully booked. Best not to wing it so book ahead. At the trailhead there are toilet facilities, picnic tables, and a little shop where you can buy snacks as well as hire an audio guide. There are also snack and drink machines at the rear of the toilet facilities as well. I suggest downloading or printing the trail brochure here which provides good background to this walk.
There is good trail signage at the trailhead and along the trail itself but given the large number of people doing this walk, it’s hard to stop and take in all the information. This is were it helps to have the brochure with you in printed or electronic form.
The trail tread is constructed path that included solid surface along with natural trail and given this is more of a ‘walk’ rather than a ‘hike’, there is no chance of getting lost. Follow the trail up towards the summit, taking in the views as you go. As you near the summit, the top of the crater (its an extinct volcano) opens up and you start to get views over the island and out to the ocean. As you hit the high point of this walk you end up with 360 degree views including back to the city.
At the summit you will come across a series of military infrastructure in the form of pill boxes that were used as lookout points and as gun emplacements that were constructed over 100 years ago. While no longer in use, they provide insights into the military history of these islands. If you have the brochure then you realise that in constructing this infrastructure, the hills have been hollowed out to an extent. After reaching the high point on this trail, you can return the way you came or if you aren’t claustrophobic you can return down by entering into the upper pillbox and make your way back down a narrow set of spiral stairs, looping your way back to the decent point.
Speaking of claustrophobic you have no alternative but to reach the main summit by walking through a low tunnel for around 50 metres. If you have a bit of height pay close attention to the ceiling to avoid hitting your head. The walk back down is pretty much all downhill, you just need to navigate the crowds that continue streaming up to the summit.
Animal life is very limited on this walk and in fact apart from the occasional bird, we didn’t see anything else. We stopped at a shady seating around close by the toilet facilities and came across lots of birds and while we didn’t see any there was a sign warning us not to feed the Mongoose; go figure.
A great walk all up but next time I’ll start even earlier to avoid the crowds.
Car park at Diamond Head National Monument
Entry tunnel to Diamond Head
Inside the entry tunnel at Diamond Head
Diamond Head visitor centre
Diamond Head toilet facilities
Diamond Head trailhead signage
Pathway at the trail start
Trail example at Diamond Head
View down into the crater at Diamond Head on the ascent
Old infrastructure on the trail
Inside the walking tunnel at Diamond Head
View from the Diamond Head Summit looking over another pill box and back towards central Honolulu
The main pill box at Diamond Head
Looking into the piil box at Diamond Head
Looking out of the pill box at Diamond Head
Spiral staircase inside Diamond Head
Looking back up the decent stairs that I’ve just come down from the pill box. The stairs allow you to do a loop at the summit
Back out the tunnel
Down we go at Diamond Head
Lots of people on the Diamond Head trail going up and coming down. There is a bit of a glut at the start time of each entry window
Almost back to the trailhead at Diamond Head
On the way out at Diamond Head
Out the car tunnel at Diamond Head
Waiting for a pick up at Diamond Head
This short video contains photos and videos to show you the walk from start to finish
Google map to Diamond Head Summit walk 5.6km (3.3 miles).
This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker