The Diamond Head Trail may look daunting from the bottom, but it's a relatively easy hike that can be accomplished by anyone with reasonable mobility including children.
Getting to Diamond Head
We researched how to get to Diamond Head State Monument from Waikiki by bus, and a majority of forums say that it is a 20 minute walk into the crater from where the public bus drops off. This is not totally accurate as it is only a short walk from the bus stop through the tunnel to the ticket booth. Bus 2 (every 10 mins) and 23 (every 40 mins) drop off outside the crater.
We opted for a taxi and it was around a 10 min $20 trip from our hotel. A recent change is that whilst taxis are allowed in to drop you off, they are no longer allowed to wait inside the park to collect passengers. Our taxi driver told us that there used to be a taxi stand near the ticket booth, but in the past few months this has changed. The only way to get a tax after your hike now is to call one, or walk out to the main road and try to hail one. We were lucky enough to get into a taxi that had just dropped passengers off, but the on-site security guard was not happy about this.
There is a lot of advice online about how small the car park is and this is totally correct. There are only around 40 car spaces and they fill up early. We left the park at around midday and there were vehicles lined up waiting for cars to depart so they could get a space.
Admission and Facilities
Currently the admission for Diamond Head State Monument is $5 per car or $1 per pedestrian. There are different fees for commercial vehicles and buses.
There are public toilets, vending machines, picnic tables, a small gift shop / visitors center and two food stalls. There's also plenty of grassed areas if you want to bring in a picnic.
The public toilets behind to the gift shop are the only ones in the park, so it's a good idea to go before you start the hike. Also worth a mention is that almost everyone coming down from the hike is sweaty so wipe down that toilet seat!!
The trail starts out as a wide asphalt path for the first 10 minutes or so, and then changes to a pathway consisting of of large inlaid rocks for the next 5 minutes. The remainder of the hike is a trail cut into the side of the mountain, which is uneven and full of potholes, and on the day we hiked after a rainy night, were full of water. There are hand rails on the side of the trail which we used to hoist ourselves over the biggest puddles. Indelicate but not difficult.
The trail leads you up to the first lookout which gives great views of the Pacific ocean and the western headland of Hanauma Bay. This is a busy spot as it's quite a small lookout, and on our descent it was packed with people lining up to take photos.
Then comes stairs, the tunnel and more stairs. First there is a narrow set of 76 stairs to the entrance to the tunnel. Ascending through the tunnel which is lit with floor lighting is hot and humid. The tunnel bends to the left at the top, so you have no concept of how far it is to the exit and it seems to go on forever. It's better on the descent as you can see "the light at the end of the tunnel". Exiting the tunnel there is a small rest area with bench seating which is a good place to catch your breath before the next climb. Here you can choose from more stairs (quicker) or go to the left to the path which winds it's way to the topmost lookouts.
The second set of stairs has 99 steps to a bunker ( although I swear I only counted 98) and then a spiral staircase to a lookout at the top. You will have to bend over double to get out to the lookout as you are climbing through what was originally a window space, and once out you will have to vie for space as everyone stops to take photos. This is actually not the very top lookout so if you're having to elbow people out of the way to get a good photo, forget about it and continue on to the metal staircase to the left which takes you to the top platforms with spectacular 360° views of Oahu.
Once again the viewing platforms are crowded as are the staircases. People are hot and tired and manners seem to be in short supply. However the breathtaking views make up for this.
When descending from the top lookout the pathway to the left gives great views of the inside of the crater, and the vehicular tunnel leading into it. It's all downhill from there. 😀
We had started our hike at around 10:30am, and by the time we were descending which was around 11:30, it was getting really crowded on the way up. We were lucky enough to get a cloudy day, but it was still really hot and humid so starting the hike in the middle of the day would be challenging. The park is open from 6am and last admission is 4:30pm, with the park closing at 6pm sharp. We would certainly go earlier next time.
Take sunscreen, plenty of water, a hat, sunglasses and good walking shoes. We saw lots of people in sandals and flip flops but with the uneven ground and loose stones underfoot, sneakers or hiking boots are the more sensible footwear option.
To celebrate your achievement, have a pineapple whip at the bottom! The fresh pineapple stand has pineapple juice, mixed pineapple drinks, and frozen pineapple whips which was totally delicious! 🍍
More pics on Insta