Hiking the Diamond Head Summit Trail was one of the highlights of Waikiki. If you’re looking to trade beaches for a hike with incredible views of both the city and water, this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Here’s how to hike the Diamond Head Summit Trail.
The Diamond Head hike in a nutshell
Diamond Head Hike Key Information
Trailhead: Diamond Head Visitor Center
Hike End: Diamond Head Summit
Hike Type: Out & back
Length: 1.5 mi / 2.2 km round trip
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Ascent: 452 ft
Difficulty: Easy—We saw someone carrying a suitcase up the trail (although that’s not recommended). There are plenty of parents carrying babies along the trail and toddlers waddling up the stairs.
Diamond Head Hike Permits
If you’re a tourist, you’ll need to get a permit to hike the Diamond Head Summit trail. You can reserve these online here up to 30 days in advance, although we reserved the day before and were fine. Reservations cost $5 per person and $10 per vehicle for parking. Last entry is at 4pm and the gates close at 6pm.
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How to get to the Diamond Head Hike Trailhead
By Public Transport
Take the 2, 2L, 3, or 23 bus to the base of Diamond Head. From there, you’ll need to walk up to the park center (about 20 minutes uphill)
It’s totally possible to walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head. You walk along a busy road (Monsarrat Ave) through suburbs and then a park, before heading up to the crater and to the trailhead. It takes about an hour from East Waikiki.
If you have multiple people in your party and are considering taking the bus, check rideshare prices first! We paid $10 from our house to Diamond Head parking lot ($1 more than the three of us taking the bus). You won’t have cell phone reception at the end of the hike, so getting a rideshare back is more difficult.
There is a line of taxis waiting to take hikers where they need to go, so you can certainly find a way back!
Trail Guide: Hiking Diamond Head in O’ahu!
We decided to Uber to the Diamond Head trailhead as it was roughly the same price as the bus (but so much faster!). We needed to show our reservations at the entrance, so make sure to pull up the email with your reservation on it at the beginning of the ride, before you lose phone signal.
From the parking lot, walk along the main path past bathrooms and vending machines, following signs for the summit trail. We took a quick pit stop at the bathrooms and to apply sunscreen, then headed up the trail!
You’ll walk up a gentle uphill paved path before then starting the ascent up. While the path is well maintained, it does get a little more uneven at the start of the steeper switchbacks. The switchbacks are still relatively gentle, but they are in the sun so it can feel tough at midday.
At the top of the switchbacks, you’ll reach a tunnel that opens up into a fork in the trail. On the right, you’ll see a long cement staircase, and on the left, a flat trail. I recommend following the signs and going left towards the flat trail; you’ll be going with the flow of traffic and will have an opportunity to descend by way of the steep staircase. The picture below shows the view as you turn to your left!
When you turn left, the trail opens out to a viewpoint (seen above). Once you’ve taken in the views, head up the staircase. After a few minutes of walking, there’s another small fork in the road, one taking you on a trail to the left and the other taking you up yet another staircase to the summit. Follow the stairs, as you can head back the other way.
Diamond Head Summit offers sweeping views of Honolulu and the coast beneath you. There are some rolling hills along the edge of the crater, and if you look down, you’ll be able to spot the Diamond Head Lighthouse.
On the way down, either head back the way you came up (more gentle, less stairs) or take a right at the base of the staircase. You’ll get to a cement barrack (one from when Diamond Head was a military spot) and there’s a tiny gap you can squeeze through to reach a spiral staircase down. At the bottom of the stairs, you’ll get to that first staircase that you saw at the first fork in the road where you turned right.
After that, it’s the same trail down! There isn’t cell phone signal available at the Diamond Head parking lot, so you’ll either need to take a taxi out or walk down the crater road until you get signal to call a rideshare or get the bus. We decided to walk all the way back home—the road took us through a park and then along a street with a mix of homes and shops. We stopped for a smoothie at Da Cove Health Bar and continued on our way!