This is a moderate but steep walk to the summit of Hawaii’s most famous landmark. Kids love to look out from the top of the 760-foot volcanic cone, where they have 360-degree views of Oahu up the leeward coast from Waikiki. The 1.5-mile round-trip takes about 1 1/2 hours, and the entry fee is $5 per car load; if you walk in, it’s $1 per person.
Diamond Head was created by a volcanic explosion about half a million years ago. The Hawaiians called the crater Leahi (meaning “the brow of the ahi,” or tuna, referring to the shape of the crater). Diamond Head was considered a sacred spot; King Kamehameha offered human sacrifices at a heiau (temple) on the western slope. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Mount Leahi got its current name: A group of sailors found what they thought were diamonds in the crater; it turned out they were just worthless calcite crystals, but the name stuck.
Before you begin your journey to the top of the crater, put on some decent shoes (rubber-soled tennies are fine) and don’t forget water (very important), a hat to protect you from the sun, and a camera. You might want to put all your gear in a pack to leave your hands free for the climb.
Go early, preferably just after the 6am opening, before the midday sun starts beating down. The hike to the summit starts at Monsarrat and 18th avenues on the crater’s inland (or mauka) side. You’ll want to go to the intersection of Diamond Head Roadn and 18th Ave. Then, follow the road through the tunnel (which is closed 6pm–6am) and park in the lot. From the trail head in the parking lot, you’ll proceed along a paved walkway (with handrails) as you climb up the slope. You’ll pass old World War I and World War II pillboxes, gun emplacements, and tunnels built as part of the Pacific defense network. Several steps take you up to the top observation post on Point Leahi. The views are incredible.