Diamond Head is believed to have been born some
300,000 years ago. It was formed during a single, brief eruption.
Since that time, the crater has eroded because of the constant
weathering of rain, wind, and surf. Diamond Head is not a volcano
as some believe, but a tuff cone, formed by steam explosions
that sent rocks high into the air which fell back to Earth.
Diamond Head takes its name from late 1700s Western explorers
who mistook the calcite crystals in the rocks on the slopes of
the crater for diamonds. Nevertheless, despite its now most identifiable
name, the original Hawaiian name for the crater is L’ahi
because of the crater’s resemblance to an ahi fish’s
When I first hiked Diamond Head with my wife two years ago
on our honeymoon, the price of admission was only a dollar.
at the time, “Wow, what a deal!” considering how
overpriced everything already is (I guess being in paradise one
has to pay paradise prices). If you come on The Bus or walk to
Diamond Head, the price of admission is still a dollar. However,
if you drive yourself, it will unfortunately now cost you $5
to park. Talk about inflation!
After parking (if you decide to drive), you begin the short
hike to the peak. The hike is approximately 1.6 miles (2.6km)
The peak is also only 761 feet (232 m) high. However, the view
from the top makes this short summit appear massive.
As one undertakes the scramble to the top, one can witness
the many tourists huffing and gasping for clean Hawaiian
air in order
to combat the relatively gentle hike to the top. When these aerobically-challenged
individuals see the first set of stairways (totaling 74 stairs),
they usually stop at the many lookouts along the hike in order
to muster the energy needed to conquer the hike or to just take
a smoke break.
After ascending the first stairway, a person enters a series
of tunnels. Before the end of last year, a person had to equip
him or herself with a flashlight in order to see inside the tunnels
and spiral stairways along the hike. Now, these areas are illuminated
with $240,000 worth of lights. I still say that a cheap flashlight
would have been better sufficed than these high-priced lights.
Maybe I wouldn’t have had to pay $5 if they kept the tunnels
without light, but whatever.
The next set of stairways encompasses 99 additional steps.
Here, if you are already tired, the stairs will drain the
energy you have left. If you are in relatively good shape, this
will just feel like a mediocre Stairmaster.
Continuing on, the hiker will enter the Fire Control Station
that was housed on Diamond Head. This station was constructed
from 1908-1910 in order to protect the island from any hostilities.
The station was used to direct artillery fire from the many batteries
that were formally installed in proximity to the station.
There are several floors to the station. At the top floor,
which was formally used by the battle commander to coordinate
fire, is now housed a man, that for a few bucks, will sell you
a certificate that will note your completion of the hike (it
even comes with a seal of authentication). I guess you can’t
escape the clutches of capitalism.
If a hiker thought that the last set of stairs was the last,
he’d have another thing coming. A last stairway, consisting
of 54 stairs, is the final challenge left between the hiker and
the peak. Nonetheless, the stairs are not as demanding as the
others. And with the peak in sight, it makes the hiker muster
all he or she has in order to complete the test.
When a person finally reaches the peak, a new adventure unfolds.
This adventure entails locating a spot so he or she can take
in the wonderful view that the Diamond Head peak offers. After
fighting the tourists, photographers, and locals, one can finally
take in the astonishing panoramic view. To the east, one can
see Waikiki, downtown Honolulu, and the Waianae Mountain Range.
To the west, a person can observe Koko Head, Hawai‘i Kai,
and on a clear day, one can even see Moloka‘i and Mau‘i.
If you have a chance to experience this hike, do so. It is
one of the events one can experience that is truly Hawai‘i.
Yes, you will have to contend with the tourists, the crowds,
and the hike itself. But with the history, geology, and the panoramic
view you are rewarded with at the top, it is definitely worth