My eyes always went to Diamond Head when we traveled toward Honolulu.
I’ve seen it in all sorts of dramatic lights and enjoyed the view each time.
We visit it every time we return “home.”
Hiking Diamond Head then
While living at Pearl Harbor, we hiked the crater regularly, always taking visitors up for the spectacular view.
Twenty years ago, the hike required preparation.
You had to wear tennis shoes and carry a flashlight.
(Finding the flashlights were usually the most complicated part of the process.)
We toted our daughter up in a backpack in the early years and cheered when, at three, she made the hike, mostly, on her own two feet.
We drove to the crater, parked the car beside a dozen or so others, and started hiking.
There must have been some sort of restroom. We carried our own water
No fee, which made it the cheapest attraction on the island.
Hiking Diamond Head now
My daughter and I returned in March 2017 and found the hike more complicated.
The lot was full when we arrived at 10 o’clock to pay the parking fee.
Tourists milled outside the crater, through the tunnel, at the parking kiosk, on the Waikiki trolley and climbed out of taxis.
Our mouths dropped open in surprise.
There’s a fine restroom now, a tourist shop, water fountain and shaved ice trucks.
“What time should we return?” I asked.
The friendly man in the kiosk said, “after 2:30 but before 4:30 or by eight o’clock tomorrow morning.”
We went to the beach and returned the next morning at eight o’clock.
The state monument opens at 6 am and closes 12 hours later.
Buses of teenagers must have arrived early because as we strolled, they barrelled down the pathway, obviously returning from the top.
New this year, tall grasses, nearly as high as my elbow, rippled in the breeze.
I stopped in surprise. These were not native grasses, and sure enough, a sign asked us to be careful.
The view from the top is 200 feet above you, but it takes awhile to climb that high.
The cement walkway meanders through the meadow in a slow rise. Eventually it reaches the dirt/rock trail itself, which has a railing, but it’s steep.
The trail switchbacks up the hillside and is NOT smooth. You step up uneven terrain, rocks, slabs and the occasional pebble.
Two people can walk side by side, but not well.
Hikers coming down share the trail.
Many people huff and puff.
On that particular day, we passed lots of students, people poorly shod, families, international travelers and a few determined elderly people.
The steep steps
By the time even fast hikers start to feel winded, you reach the first stairway: 74 concrete steps straight up.
It’s narrower, you have to stop for people headed down, but when you finally get to the last step, you can pause for a great view of the crater.
And then you get to walk through a 225 foot long tunnel tilting up.
Twenty years ago it wasn’t lighted (thus the need for a flashlight). It is now.
It’s cool in the tunnel, lots of girls giggle as they stumble up the rough walkway.
You can see the light at the end, which encourages you.
Until you reach the sunlight once more and look right.
There are benches to sit on and catch your breath, with a view to the ocean, on the left.
My daughter, an EMT, waited for me at the top. I took my time.
Other people who didn’t expect this, may have sobbed . . .
Just when you’re applauding yourself for making it up the 99 steep stairs, you discover a narrow, dark, cramped spiral staircase.
It was tricky when she rode on our backs and we had to scramble out the bunker’s observation slits.
They’re still there and it’s still the exit to outdoors, but once up top the view is magnificent!
On our way down recently, we caught sight of Moloka’i across the ocean.
We’d never seen it before on a Diamond Head Hike.
The whole outing took us one hour.
What’s it like to hike Hawaii’s Diamond Head? Click to Tweet
The Diamond Head hike with photos. Click to Tweet
The Diamond Head hike; step by step. Click to Tweet