The Diamond Head Summit Trail is arguably the most popular hiking trail in Oahu.
The saucer-shaped Diamond Head Crater is one of the most recognized Hawaii landmarks, and many visitors have the hike to its summit on their Oahu bucket list.
With a postcard view of the Oahu coastline at Waikiki, and 360-degree views of the island and the ocean, the moderately challenging trail is a must on your Oahu itinerary!
We’ve hiked the Diamond Head (Leahi in Hawaiian) Summit Trail a couple of times now, and although it wasn’t easy for us, the views are compelling enough that we think about doing it on every trip to Oahu!
While the trail is quite steep in places, it is short and easy to fit into even a short trip to the island, and doable for families with kids, provided they aren’t really young.
Good to know: Reservations are required to hike the Diamond Head Trail!
Read on to discover how to hike the Diamond Head Summit Trail, along with our tips for the best experience!
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Diamond Head Summit Trail: Fast Facts
Length: 1.6 miles round trip
Elevation change: 560 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate (steep in parts with many steps)
Pets: Dogs are not allowed on the Diamond Head Trail. Service animals are allowed.
Length of Diamond Head Hike
The Diamond Head hike length is 0.8 miles for a distance of 1.6 miles round trip. The trail leads you up the inside wall of the crater to the summit.
While the Diamond Head Trail distance is not too much, know that there are two long flights of stairs en route to the top, which can be fatiguing for some people.
Most people can complete the Diamond Head hike in 1.5 to 2 hours, with stops to take photos and time to enjoy the views.
Diamond Head Hike Difficulty
The Diamond Head hike difficulty is moderate.
While some fit hikers will find the Diamond Head hike easy, many hikers will find that the moderate classification is appropriate, mainly because of the elevation change (560 feet), and the two long flights of stairs.
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Getting to the Trailhead for the Diamond Head Hike
Driving to Diamond Head State Monument
The Diamond Head Summit Trail is located within the Diamond Head State Monument, on the eastern edge of the Waikiki coast.
If you are driving from the Waikiki area in Honolulu, take Kalākaua Avenue to Diamond Head Road, where you will find the park entrance between Makapu’u Avenue and 18th Avenue.
From Waikiki, the drive is just 2.3 miles and should take about 5 minutes in normal traffic. (see map)
Parking for the Diamond Head Summit Trail + Park Fee
Once you arrive at the Diamond Head State Monument, follow signs and park at the official parking lot.
Entry and parking reservations are required in order to enter the monument or park inside to hike the Diamond Head Summit Trail in Oahu.
There is a parking fee of $10.00 for a standard vehicle for visitors that are not Hawaii residents.
You can also park for free outside the monument, either by the tunnel that leads through the crater wall, or further away on Monsarrat Avenue, if you are willing to walk the additional distance to get to the trailhead.
The park also has an entrance fee of $5.00 per person for visitors that are not residents of Hawaii. Kids 3 and under are free.
Taking a Shuttle from Waikiki
Many visitors to Honolulu prefer to take a round-trip shuttle to Diamond Head State Monument, to avoid parking hassles.
The shuttle is also perfect if you do not want to rent a car on your trip.
This popular shuttle offers several morning departures each day and allows for enough time to do the hike to the summit. Bottled water is provided and the park fee is included.
If you have less time on the island, this popular more general tour of Oahu starts with the Diamond Head hike. The tour is limited to 10 participants.
You can also take the Waikiki Trolley or a rideshare to the park, take bus number 23, or rent a bike from Biki.
Finding the Trailhead
The trailhead is located on the crater floor inside the crater, adjacent to the parking lot inside the monument.
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Diamond Head Trail Reservation
If you are not a resident of Hawaii, you HAVE to make a reservation in advance to be able to do the Diamond Head Summit hike.
Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance of the planned date of your hike. Spots fill up, so reserve as soon as your date opens up to avoid missing out on this iconic hike.
You can make your Diamond Head parking and entry reservations here.
The Best Time to Hike the Diamond Head Summit Trail
You can hike the Diamond Head (Leahi) Summit Trail year round.
In order to avoid the heat of the Hawaiian sun, do this hike early or late in the day.
This trail is one of the best sunrise hikes on Oahu, and you’ll be rewarded with a view of the sun rising over Waikiki if you arrive at opening time and reach the top before sunrise. Golden hour light is also fabulous.
In the early morning, the sun shines on Waikiki from behind you.
Sunset is another great time at the Diamond Head Summit: in fact, this hike also makes the list of the most beautiful sunset hikes in Oahu!
Sadly, because the park closes at 6 p.m., you are unlikely to catch sunset here, but the mellow light of the hour just before sunset is also wonderful.
The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last entry at 4 p.m. Gates close at 6 p.m. Diamond Head State Monument is closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
How long is Diamond Head hike?
The park suggests allowing about 2 hours for the Diamond Head Summit Trail.
If you are in good shape and steps do not bother you, two hours is plenty of time to get to the top, enjoy the views at leisure, take photos and video and come back down.
We spent about 3 hours on each of the two occasions we did this hike. Once you’ve expended the effort to get to the viewing area, you will want to linger if you have the time.
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Diamond Head Summit Trail Information
The Diamond Head Trail is one of the best hikes near Waikiki!
Diamond Head is a huge volcanic crater, and you’ll be hiking along the inner wall of the crater to get to the viewing decks at the top.
The trail to the summit of Diamond Head was built in 1908 as a part of the island’s coastal defense system.
In the short distance of 0.8 mile, you’ll be ascending 560 feet, so the climb is quite steep. The trail features lots of switchbacks and series of stairs.
The Diamond Head Trail Route
You’ll start on a paved surface, which changes to rough volcanic tuff after just 0.2 mile.
Here’s where you will start your ascent up the crater. The trail winds its way up via switchbacks and several sets of steps. There are protective railings on some sections of the path.
There are nice views along the inside of the crater, especially if you’re doing the hike after it’s rained, so stop for photo breaks along the way. They will also allow you to catch your breath if necessary!
You won’t find benches or proper places to sit along this part of the route.
The first set of steps ends at a tunnel, which is lit and runs for 225 feet.
When you emerge from the tunnel, you have two choices for the rest of the climb. The park advises going left.
If you go right, it’s a long set of 99 stairs that leads straight up to a bunker, which used to be the fire control station.
Then it’s up another spiral staircase to the observation area, from where you can look out onto the ocean. From here, a ladder takes you out atop the fire station, from where you walk a short distance to the actual summit of Diamond Head.
If you go left, you take the “back” route, a combination of short stairways and sections of paved path, to the top. There’s a lookout here, with a seating area.
Most hikers take this “back” route on the return trip, but we’ve taken this route to the top as well, to avoid climbing the ladder at the very top.
Diamond Head Hike View
The views from the top of Diamond Head are panoramic, and breathtaking. In fact, the Diamond Head Hike view is considered one of the best in Waikiki.
You can see all the way from Koko Head, another iconic Oahu landmark on the southeastern coast of the island, to Wai‘anae, on the west coast of Oahu.
The near view of the Waikiki coastline, with high rises lined up along the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, is the perfect picture postcard.
Other Points of Interest
Diamond Head has a military history.
At the summit, you can see military bunkers, and a large navigational lighthouse that dates back to 1917.
The Fire Control Station, which was completed in 1911, was used to direct artillery fire from batteries in Waikiki and Fort Ruger.
If you take the stairs down the ridge past the helicopter landing pad, you will come to a lookout from where you can see Koko Head in the east.
Please obey park warning signs and do not go off trail onto the helicopter pad.
Returning to the Trailhead
After you are done enjoying the views, head back to the seating area by the tunnel entrance, from where you can take the main trail back down to the crater floor.
The way down is much easier, and quicker!
Diamond Head Hike Photos
Amateur photographer seeking the best Diamond Head hike photos?
For the best Diamond Head hike photos, go as early as you can, when the crowds are much less, and you can position yourself. You are aiming for the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset), when daylight is softer.
The 360-degree views at the top are sensational, so you’ll want to spend some time enjoying them and taking photos for your Instagram!
What to Bring on Your Diamond Head Hike
Sunscreen: The Diamond Head Summit Trail is fully exposed, other than a small tunnel at the top, so you’ll want to use sun protection.
Bring and use reef-safe sunscreen and an SPF lip balm. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect your eyes. Make sure your hat can be secured, because it can be windy at the summit.
Drinking Water: Bring an adequate supply of drinking water. The trail can get very warm, especially during the day, and no potable water is available along the trail.
If you have a refillable water bottle, you can fill up at the drinking fountains at the park.
Snacks and Food: There is a concession stand at the park. Carry a supply of snacks if you want to stay fueled on your hike, and a cooler with food if you want to enjoy lunch in the picnic pavilion after your hike.
Charged Smartphone or Camera: This trail is famed for its views, and you will want to stop en route to snap photos. From the backside stairs you have splendid views of the crater itself.
And of course you’ll want to take photos (and video) of the coastline and the ocean from the lookout at the top.
Tips for Hiking the Diamond Head Trail in Oahu
Make your Diamond Head reservation as soon as your date is available!
Not only is the Lēʻahi Trail extremely rewarding in terms of views, it is also easy to access from Waikiki and a short trail doable for many visitors to the island.
No wonder then, that the hike is one of the most popular hikes on the island.
To keep visitation at manageable levels, the park has initiated a reservation program for visitors that are not residents of Hawaii.
Diamond Head reservations (entry, and parking, if needed) can be made up to 30 days in advance.
We suggest securing your spots as soon as the date you plan to do the hike opens for reservations. Dates and times can sell out.
If you are a resident, you will be expected to show proof of residency at the time of entry.
Note that although some parking is reserved for state residents, you are not guaranteed a parking spot.
Start early for pleasant weather
Early in the day is the best time to do the Diamond Head Summit hike.
Temperatures are pleasant early in the morning, and it tends to get hot as the day progresses, making the climb uncomfortable.
You may be able to catch sunrise at the summit in the winter months, and golden hour in the months outside of peak summer.
Early in the day is a popular time for the Diamond Head Summit Trail so expect lots of other hikers on the trail.
Or hike later in the day
If you prefer a later start to your day, plan to do the Diamond Head hike later in the afternoon, when the heat of midday has passed.
But plan to start such that you have enough time to enjoy the views at leisure and complete the hike in time to exit the park before 6 p.m.
Note that if you park inside the crater, you have to exit by the end time on your parking reservation. If you parked outside, or you walked into the park, you can exit by closing time, 6 p.m.
The park is secured at 6 p.m. and you may be deemed to be trespassing if your stay beyond the closing time.
Hike on a weekday
If your Oahu itinerary allows, schedule the Diamond Head hike for a weekday rather than the weekend, when it tends to be very crowded, especially on pleasant weather days.
You’ll encounter congestion during the week as well, just not quite as much as on the weekends.
Allow plenty of time
Most people take about 45 to 60 minutes to reach the summit of Diamond Head, 760 feet above sea level.
If you are not in good physical shape, allow yourself enough time to do the climb.
All told, allow 2 to 3 hours for this hike.
Dress for the weather
The trail can get quite hot and uncomfortable during the day, while it’s reasonably pleasant early and late.
Wear light loose clothing to stay comfortable as you climb.
Wear proper shoes
Wear comfortable closed-toed walking or hiking shoes — the trail is paved only for the first 0.2 mile, after which proper footwear is a must.
Visit the gift shop
The Interpretive Kiosk and Gift Shop at the Diamond Head State Monument houses exhibits about the crater and its history.
You can also browse for souvenirs by which to remember your visit to the park and the epic Diamond Head hike!
Note park amenities
There are restrooms at the park, as well as trash cans.
The crater floor level is ADA accessible, but the Diamond Head Summit Trail has lots of steps and is not suitable for wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers.
Bring cash for a cold post-hike treat
There’s a pineapple stand just outside if you want to stop for a cold drink or a refreshing pineapple Dole Whip.
But you’ll need cash to pay for the treat, so remember to bring some!
Book transport if you do not want to drive
Diamond Head State Monument, where the trail is located, is very close to Waikiki, so if you do not want to drive, you can take the Waikiki Trolley (takes more time), or a rideshare.
Book a Guided Oahu Hiking Adventure!
Excited about hiking in Oahu but haven’t hiked in Hawaii before? This guided hiking adventure is a great way to get started.
It’s customizable to your interests and abilities and a local guide that’s familiar with the terrain will accompany you. Plus, round-trip transport is included.
You can pick two short hikes or a longer hike, and your guide can suggest specific hikes if you don’t know which ones you want to try.
Best Oahu Tours
Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?
Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!
The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.
Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!
Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.
A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu advennture for your bucket list.
We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.
Renting a Car in Oahu
If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.
Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).
While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.
We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle
If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!
This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!
Where to Stay in Oahu
Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.
While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.
Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!
On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.
More Oahu Travel Inspiration
Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!
Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.
Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!
More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.
Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.
We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!
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