Discover Hawaii: Diamond Head

Diamond Head: An Iconic Hawaii landmark

365-degree summit views, 762 feet above sea level and formed over 200,000 years ago, this is Diamond Head!  The spectacular and iconic silhouette greets all arrivals to the Island of Oahu. You’d have to be in a submarine not to notice one of the most photographed and legendary landmarks of Hawaii.

Diamond Head

Diamond Head

Known as Le’ahi (brow of the tuna) in Hawaiian, it was 19th century British sailors who gave it the name Diamond Head because they mistakenly took the calcite crystals found on the mountain slopes as diamonds. And as with so much of Hawaii’s culture, the name stuck and the, now National Natural Landmark was, no longer referred to as Le’ahi.

diamond head

Diamond Head View with Ocean

The Diamond Head crater is very assessable from Waikiki via bus or car, and its hike to the summit is a popular Hawaii activity.  A short ride will bring you to the base of the crater where you can walk a moderately challenging trail to the summit. This famous hiking trail consists of 175 steps, as well as dark, underground tunnels and old military bunkers. The hike is sure to conjure the adventurer  within as you imagine yourself an ancient Hawaiian warrior trekking to the summit to look out for advancing hostile hordes of European missionaries.

With its panoramic view from Koko Head to Wai’anae, the summit of Diamond Head was an ideal site for the coastal defense of O’ahu. In 1904, the mountain was purchased by the Federal Government and designated for military use. Fortification began in 1908 with the construction of gun emplacements and an entry tunnel.  A total of five batteries were built to house the coastal artillery.


1     The heights at the trailhead on the crater floor are about 200 feet.
2     The trail follows to the 1908 configuration with the switchbacks up to the steep interior slope.
3     Concrete Landing/Lookout was the foundation that held a winch and cable lift materials from the crater floor to the summit.
4     Steep stairway of 74 concrete steps leads into the first narrow tunnel.
5     The tunnel is lighted and 225 feet long.
6     A second stairway consisting of 99 steep steps with overhead beams to place camouflaging.
7     At the top of the stairs is the entry to the lowest level of the Fire Control Station with observation equipment for Fort DeRussy at Waikiki.
8     Exit to the exterior of the crater through slits once covered with metal shutters. Note the rock and concrete that camouflage the outside.
9     The 54 metal stairs were installed in the 1970s to replace the ladder to the summit.
10 The elevations of the crater summit and the uppermost level of the Fire Control Station are 761 feet.
11 From the summit, follow the trail along the rim and take the 82 metal steps down to the lower trail. The trail loops back to the tunnel.
12 Bunkers along the crater rim were built in 1915 and are now used for emergency helicopter landings.
13 The lookout provides far-reaching views of southeastern O’ahu shoreline towards Koko Head and the offshore islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui.

This Hawaii activity is guaranteed to provide astonishing photo opportunities and dazzling memories.



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About Eagle Strayhorn

Eagle is a longtime Hawaii resident who is passionate about sharing Hawaii with the world.
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