Diamond Head, named Le‘ahi in Hawaiian, is the tuff cone of an extinct volcano that erupted approximately 300,000 years ago. Today, the profile of Diamond Head as seen from Waikiki has become an iconic image that conjures up all the beauty and lore of Hawai‘i. However, there’s more to do at this natural wonder than just take a picture for posterity’s sake. Here are a few great ways to explore Diamond Head:
Diamond Head Summit Trail
The Diamond Head Summit Trail is the most heart-pumping trail in Waikiki. The summit hike climbs 560 feet inside the volcano, from the crater floor to the rim. It is as much a walk through a natural museum as it is a window to O‘ahu’s military role in the 20th century: Diamond Head’s panoramic view made it the perfect site for coastal defense; five artillery batteries were installed in the crater. The views at the summit lookout are breathtaking and span the entire South Shore.
The Diamond Head Summit Trail is inside the Diamond Head crater, an extinct tuff cone volcano that erupted about 300,000 years ago, and is part of the Diamond Head State Monument (6am-6pm daily, $5 per vehicle, $1 walk-in visitor). The historic trail, built in 1908, climbs 560 feet from the crater floor to the summit in just 0.8 miles. —Waikiki, page 47
Diamond Head Lookout
Whether you walk, run, or drive to the Diamond Head Lookout on Diamond Head Road, it’s a great place to relax for a spell and take in the scenery. Mansions line the beach to the east out to rugged Black Point, surfers and windsurfers ride the waves below and sailboats and barges cruise the Pacific in the distance. From December through May, humpback whales can be seen breaching, spouting, and playing off the coast from this vantage point. There’s even a working lighthouse on the edge of the cliff.
Where Kalakaua Avenue and Paki Avenue meet at the east end of Kapi‘olani Park, Diamond Head Road begins its easy climb to the Diamond Head Lookout. At the apex, there are two designated areas to pull off the road and park right at the edge of the cliff for spectacular views up and down the coast. —Waikiki, page 53
Le‘ahi Beach Park
Located on Diamond Head Road in between the lookout and Kapi‘olani Park, Le‘ahi Beach Park is a quiet, seaside spot that is a great retreat for a picnic or simply to unwind and gaze out at the ocean. There is no beach at this park, as the surf rushes up against a rock wall protecting the oceanside estates, but there is a nice shaded area, and the park is seldom used.
To experience Diamond Head in its entirety, take the short paved path down the cliff and take a walk on the beach. There are tidepools at both ends of the beach and straight out from lookout up above is the surf spot called Cliffs. It’s a great wave for longboarding, and the view from the water, looking back up at magnificent Diamond Head, is something most people don’t get to see.
At the bottom of the trail down the cliff is a deep channel through the reef. From the beach, to the right of the channel is Lighthouse, a fast and powerful right for experts only. On the left of the channel is Cliffs, several peaks along the reef that break both right and left and are suited for all types of board riders. —Waikiki, page 42
Diamond Head Tennis Center
The Diamond Head Tennis Center, a 10-court tennis complex, is nestled up against the west side of the outer crater wall. There’s nothing like hitting the ball back and forth with the ever-present Diamond Head as your teammate.
There are restrooms, shaded benches, and clocks for each court to keep track of playing time. The public courts are free, but unlit, so playing hours are subject to daylight. The parking lot for the courts is open from 6am-7pm daily. —Waikiki, page 49
Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon O’ahu.