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You know a hike must be pretty easy when you see several women trotting along in heels. The ever-popular trek up Diamond Head Crater attracts hundreds of locals and visitors on a daily basis. Not sure why anyone would hike in such footwear, but sadly, I’ve seen this all too many times. Either they just came from a party and spontaneously decided to go on a hike, OR they weren’t properly informed prior to their visit. I’m thinking it’s the latter, so to prevent you from (1) spraining your ankles and (2) looking silly, I write this post with them in mind.
Explore the inside of Diamond Head Crater on this hike.
The 0.7-mile hike has partially paved sections, a somewhat gradual incline and breezy resting spots. It takes you from the floor of the crater to the windy lookout, and while I wouldn’t suggest wearing heels, I have to be honest with you; I’ve done it in slippers before and didn’t have a problem. But to be safe, wear close-toed shoes. Parts of the crater trail that are not paved consist of an ashy gray dirt and weathered rocks on which you could easily stub your toe.
In addition to the panoramic views of the 475-acre crater and long stretch of sandy shoreline, you’ll find the hike is rich with geological and military history. After a series of switchbacks that traverse the crater interior, a steep set of stairs takes hikers to the entrance of a 225-foot tunnel. This was the old Fire Control Station, completed in 1911, that directed artillery fire from Waikiki and Fort Ruger. Old WWII jail cells and bunkers and a navigational lighthouse can also be found at the Diamond Head summit.
(Top) One of many picturesque resting spots. (Bottom) The nearly-dark tunnel.
Getting back to those steep stairs…they are STEEP and close together, which makes it tricky to navigate up and down. It could almost qualify as a ladder for how vertical its 99 steps are. Be sure to use the handrails provided on both sides. Usually hikers are pretty considerate and wait for you to pass before stepping foot on the stairs; otherwise, you have to squeeze to one side. The state just repaired the trail, so overall, it’s very safe.
The lookout at the top makes it all worth it, though. There are several platforms at different raised heights for viewing, so you never have to worry about taking home a photo of the back of someone’s head. During the winter months, keep an eye out for humpback whales, which pass through the ocean anywhere from Koko Head to Waianae.
(Left) One way in; one way out. Hikers take on the ultimate stair master. (Right) What a view! Wrinkled ocean waves below.
But let’s not forget how this beautiful hike all came about; More than 300,000 years ago, an explosive eruption sent ash and fine particles bursting in the air. As the materials settled, they cemented together into a rocky tuff. This episode in history resulted in the crater we see today, glistening in the sun from almost anywhere on Oahu’s southern and western shores and seen around the world on postcards.
DIAMOND HEAD SUMMIT TRAIL • Honolulu, HI 96815 • Opens daily (including holidays) 6am-6pm • Entrance fee: $5 per car, $1 per pedestrian • Easy-medium, marked, partially-paved trail • 808-587-0825
Photo Credit: Kelci Renshaw (Diamond Head from afar); Kahealani Enoka (all others)