Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Climbing Diamond Head

No, you can't just hike up the side of Diamond Head. I mistakenly thought you could.

My hotel is at the end of Waikiki, almost across the street from the Honolulu Zoo. The zoo sits in a park at the base of Diamond Head and I had thought I could just walk out of my hotel, across the park, and start climbing up the face of Diamond Head. Not so.

Diamond Head (DH) is a volcanic crater that was formed 300,000 years ago. When it erupted it created a huge cone of ash and pulverized magma that settled and hardened into tuff. It has never erupted again at this point.

Diamond Head, the trail, is part of the National Park Service that is inside U.S. military property. That's because DH was an important military lookout position for the protection of Hawaii  through the first half of the 1900s. Several military lookout/artillery batteries were built along the lip of the volcanic crater overlooking the ocean. The hiking trail that is open to the public is one of the trails used by the military to get to it's highest lookout point,

The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm. The entrance is actually about half way up the crater and is through a tunnel cut through the crater wall. The gates were locked the first time I went up the hill on my moped, but there is a lookout area that looks out over the windward side toward Aina Haina. After it opens you drive through the tunnel down to the crater floor where the gate house is. It's $5 for a vehicle or $1 for walk-in. I observed many people being dropped off by tour bus or taxi. I had a moped and was allowed in for just a $1.

Make sure that you allow at least an hour to 2 hours for the hike up and back depending on your speed an how long you want to rest up top and enjoy the scenery. You need to be out of the park by 6 or risk being locked in by the tunnel gates.

The trail starts where the restrooms are. Signs tell you not to wander off the trail, but honestly, why would you? There is so much underbrush that I can't imagine why you want to. The first bit is a paved slope that then gives off to well worn rock. The first half is sloping switchbacks that should not be a problem for any hiker. Those in poorer health that like a good walk should be able to make it at least to the first lookout point. That's where I was able to take this sunrise picture toward the windward side. But there is no shade here, so if someone wanted to wait while the rest of their party took to the top, they should be aware of that.

Now the going gets steeper. After climbing 74 stairs, you go through a tunnel and then come to the another set of stairs. This set of 99 is very steep. 

Another set and you come to the spiral staircase up to the battery.

Inside level 3 of the battery.  You then crawl out the lookout so that you can climb up to the top for the panoramic view.

Be aware that there are no restrooms available along the trail.

I went at 6 am and was sweating from the humidity. Take a kerchief or something with you, water, and a hat. At that hour most of the trail will still be shady, but then it will be hit with full sun by the time you head down.

view of another battery on crater lip

my hotel is one of the ones in the foreground

Diamond Head Trail Brochure

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