Diamond Head State Monument: Summit Trail Hike

Oahu – Day 3 – Part 1

Diamond Head also known as Le’ahi (Hawaiian name for Diamond Head Crater) is one of the most recognized landmarks in Hawaii and one of the most popular hikes in Oahu. The summit trail hike is a 0.8 mile (one way) moderate hike where you follow a switch back trail most of the way until you are greeted with tunnels and stairs towards the summit. What makes this hike interesting is that trail is built by the military as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system.
We drove to the Diamond Head State Monument but there are bus stops at the base where you can start your hike a little earlier and pay $1/person. As for us, after turning in, follow the road up pass the lookout through the Kahala tunnel to the toll where you pay $5/car (with only 4 people in the car, I guess we paid an extra $1 for parking). We were given a trail brochure with a map and plenty of information. Click HERE to see a PDF of the brochure. You can easily follow the numbers on the map for information and the route. There really is no way you can get lost.

1-2. The hike starts with a paved path from trail head kiosk for about o.2 miles.


3. Switchback trails


Double Rainbows


4. Me at the Landing / Lookout. I think the crater floor is just below.

3.  You are then led onto a switchback (zig zag) trail that conforms to the steep interior slope. As we made our way up, it started to rain lightly and as the rain subsided, a double rainbow formed above us. Hawaii really is the rainbow state!

4. After stopping for tons of pictures of the double rainbow, we made another stop at a concrete landing / lookout our first site of the crater. According to the brochure, this area was used to pull materials up from the crater floor. No wonder the landings looked a little scary hanging right off the edge.

5. At this point I didn’t think much of the hike just yet. It was just like any short hike I’ve taken in San Diego if not easier. But I was warned that there will be steep stairs and I wondered how it would compare to Sunrise Peek in Jeju South Korea. We approached our first set of stairs with 74 steps. So far so good.

6. At the top of the stairs we walked through a narrow tunnel 225 feet long. Remember to take off your sunglasses! There is some light in the tunnel but still dark. So be careful and I guess you might not want to take go on this hike if you’re claustrophobic.


6. Light at the end of the tunnel


7. At the bottom of “the stairs”

16. From the tunnel you are led straight to the infamous stairs. But take a break first if you need at number 16. If you don’t think you want to take the stair you can always continue walking to number 15 to the summit.


7. Half way there.

7. We took the stairs. They say, take it slow and easy and take breaks if you need to. This set of stairs is much steeper than the other set of stairs (and I think it’s much steeper than any stairs we took on Sunrise Peak in Jeju South Korea). It seems a little scary seeing how steep it is with beams above it. I originally though that those beams were there in case we fell back. haha. But according to the brochure they are used to place camouflaging. The stairs are like the stair master, but it’s the real thing.

8. From the top of the stairs you enter the Fire Control Station.

9. We’re not done with stairs?! Nope! Here we have a set of metal spiral stairs inside the Fire Control Station. It is narrow, loud, and feels as if we are walking through an old abandoned scary building. Though there are several levels where people once exited stairs to, it was all closed until we made it to the forth level. (52 steps)

10. Now that we’ve made it to the top, we exit the Fire Control Station through some slits that were once covered by metal shutters. You might have to crawl out of there. But you will be greeted by some amazing views. “At the summit, you’ll see bunkers on the crater rim and a navigational lighthouse built in 1917 along the coast outside the crater. The postcard view of the shoreline of southeastern O’ahu from Koko Head to Wai’anae is stunning, and during winter, may include passing humpback whales.”


10. Dad exiting the Fire Control Station

11-12. This is the final set of stairs (yes stairs) at the summit! But I think it’s much better than having to use a ladder. You will be standing a the top of the Fire Control Station for the 360 view of Oahu.


11-12. Me, Mom, and Sis with Waikiki behind us


11-12. View of the shoreline of southeastern O’ahu


11-12. View of the rim

13. Instead of heading back into the Fire Control Station to head back down, walk along the rim with an easy set of metal stairs that loops back to the first tunnel.


13. Heading down along the rim

14 – 15. You can make a quick detour number 15 to another lookout or continue on down.


14-15. Mom and Dad at the Lookout


Exiting the tunnel to head down the first set of stairs (the easier set)


Overall, the hike was not very difficult and actually quite fun. Most of the hike is relatively easy, until you hit the stairs and even then just don’t rush and take it easy. The Fire Control Station at the summit makes the hike an experience. There was a food truck, a little kiosk, and bathrooms facilities just before the trail starts. We took a little break there before heading back to Waikiki for breakfast.




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