Diamond Head Volcano is Honolulus Landmark of Hawaii

by : Ali Kendall

Diamond Head is Honolulu's landmark of Hawaii, and probably Hawaii's most recognizable symbol. It dominates southern Oahu and looms over the beaches of Waikiki.

Diamond Head might be just another extinct volcano, but it's also the best place to orient see the breathtaking landscape of Oahu's southern reaches. From the top of Diamond Head all of Honolulu and beyond is laid out for you. The coast, the beaches, the other landmarks, like Pearl Harbor and downtown, the neighborhoods, valleys and ridges. And because it's so close to Waikiki's hotels, it's a very popular hiking activity. The hike up Diamond Head is less than a mile and takes less than two hours.

It's all part of Diamond Head State Park and it's easy to get to. Just take TheBus (#58) from Waikiki or drive down Kalakaua Avenue to Monsarrat, by the Honolulu Zoo. This turns into Diamond Head Road. Tell the bus driver you'd like to get off at Diamond Head's entrance.

Go in through the little tunnel entrance. There's a parking lot, an info center, rest rooms, and a little kiosk. The trail up brown and dusty Diamond Head starts here.

The hike up to the top of Diamond Head starts with a walk across the floor of the volcano, and then the trail becomes gradually steeper and rocky, which winds its way up to the first lookout and half-way point. This might take about 20-30 minutes, and from here you can see the Windward Coast of Oahu. But the best is yet to come.

After you climb a concrete stairway you'll come to a 225-foot tunnel that's cut into the mountainside. It's a good place to get out of the sun for a few minutes and get ready for the next flight of stairs.

On the other side of the tunnel is another flight of steps, slightly longer than the first, but after that you're practically there. Actually, the lowest level of the Fire Control Station Diamond Head. Go up the spiral stairs to the top of the station and you can exit to the observation station at the summit of Diamond Head. Straight ahead is the broad blue Pacific, the green slopes of the Koolaus, all of Honolulu and beyond, as well as a bird's eye view of Waikiki.

Stay, take lots of pictures, have a light snack and some water. Re-apply your sunscreen and revel in the moment. After your hour or so hike up, your 30-45 minutes trip down will be much, much easier. But watch the time: The gates close shut at 6pm.

Diamond Head State Park is open from 6-6 all year. There's a $1 admission for walk-ins, or $5 per carload. If you want to try and avoid the tour groups, come early in the morning or after one'ish in the afternoon.

Bring comfortable walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a sunhat, a camera and a friend. A flashlight is handy for the tunnels, and you could use a towel to help block the sun, fan yourself, or wipe down your face with some cool water. And binoculars would come in really handy.