Hiking up Diamond Head State Monument on Oahu

This is Diamond Head as seen from Honolulu’s famous Waikiki Beach.

Diamond Head volcano as seen from Waikiki Beach

This is Honolulu’s famous Waikiki Beach as seen from Diamond Head.

A view of Waikiki Beach from the top of Diamond HeadAnd the path from Point A to Point B is a rugged one, a good work out and something any mojotraveler must do when visiting Hawaii.

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Diamond Head State Monument in Hawaii

Diamond Head park groundsAbout 300,000 years ago, Diamond Head was a volcano that blew its top, helping to form the southeast coastline of O’ahu. The Hawaiian word is “Leʻahi,” one of the sisters of Madame Pele, the goddess of fire. The Hawaiian people would light signal fires on the peak of Le’ahi to direct canoers around the islands.

White people didn’t pay a lot of attention to Diamond Head until the early 1900s when the military built a few watch towers and gun installations on the top of the crater. Remains of those can be seen today. Despite what some of the idiots around you do, don’t climb over the fence to explore. Each footstep off of the path contributes to the erosion of this natural symbol.

Reaching the Summit of Diamond Head

the path up Diamond Head state monument

After a long day that had already included several hours of snorkeling and additional site-seeing, my husband and I decided it would be fun to watch the sunset from the top of Diamond Head. It’s less than a mile to the top, an ascent of just 560 feet, it would be a nice end to the day.

I gotta hand it to my husband. He’s seven years older than me, a little heavier than me and he was carrying a 25 lb. backpack filled with camera gear. The only time he stopped to catch his breath was when waiting for me to catch up.

stairs on the trail up Diamond Head The beginning of the trail is paved for 0.2 of a mile, just far enough to trick you into thinking this is no big deal. But the signs warn that the trail becomes “uneven and steep, requiring caution and appropriate footwear.”

Cut into pure granite, the path switches back and forth like a drunken sailor on shore leave. The tunnel — the sign mentioned a tunnel — is 225 feet long with a bend in the middle. Even though it is lit, you cannot see light at the end of the tunnel. That really freaks me out.

Then there are the stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. One set has 74 steps, another set has 99, another has 54. By the time you get to the summit and there are just four more steps to the tippy top platform, you don’t have enough breath left to scream in frustration.

The Reward of Climbing Diamond Head

But you’ve made it. The Pacific Ocean spreads before you with all the vastness and enormity of the universe. Whales play in the surf and waves crash in on Waikiki Beach. One has to take a moment to marvel at the creation of this place and your purpose in being here.

the peak of Diamond HeadThe descent is much more fun, of course, in part because of the look of superiority and well-being you can give to those you meet, huffing and puffing their way up the trail. You reach the bottom and enjoy a shave ice from the food truck on site while resting at the picnic tables.

We were told of one local woman in her 70s who begins each day with a climb to the top of Diamond Head. At first I thought “what a nut.”

But upon greater reflection of what surely must be her physical and spiritual condition from each time she reaches the top and enjoys the gifts of natural beauty beyond, I thought “yep, still a nut.”

Viator   Viator

Note: for other things we have climbed around the world, click here.

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