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Diamond Head is one of the most iconic landmarks in Hawaii. This historic crater rises up on the southeast coast of O’ahu, offering spectacular views and hiking trails for visitors.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Diamond Head is located on the southeast coast of the island of O’ahu in Hawaii, situated in Honolulu next to Waikiki.

The History and Geology of Diamond Head

How Diamond Head Formed

Diamond Head, the iconic crater on O’ahu’s southeastern coast, began forming over 200,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. This picturesque landmark started out long ago as a lively volcano. Over centuries of volcanic activity, explosions and eruptions built up a broad cone.

The crater we recognize today was created about 150,000 years ago when the eastern edge of the volcano collapsed into the sea after a particularly powerful eruption. This opened up one side of the crater, giving Diamond Head its unique shape.

The volcanic tuff and ash spewed out during these fiery events eventually lithified (hardened into rock). This created the crater’s steep sides visible today. While the volcano is considered extinct, some scientists think a new eruption could be possible but very unlikely any time soon.

Early History as a Strategic Lookout Point

Long before its status as a monument and prime tourist destination, native Hawaiians valued Diamond Head crater as a strategic lookout point. Its height provided sweeping views of Waikīkī and environs.

Ancient Hawaiians likely used the promontory to spot incoming canoes and survey the nearby coastline.

In the late 19th century, Diamond Head became important for military surveillance. Its elevation allowed soldiers to see incoming ships from miles away. Troops stationed cannon within the crater. Concrete bunkers, tunnels, and other fortifications were later added inside the cinder cone.

While these military positions saw little real action, they showcase Diamond Head’s ongoing tactical role over Hawaii’s history.

Its Current Status as a State Monument

Today the iconic landmark is preserved as Diamond Head State Monument. The crater and surrounding area became a state park in the 1960s. Its distinctive profile makes it one of Hawaii’s most famous sights.

The park contains picnic areas, lookouts, and the popular Diamond Head summit trail ascending 556 feet to the rim of the crater. The 0.8 mile walk features dizzying staircases, dark tunnel passages, and rewarding coastal views. Over a half million hikers tackle the trail each year!

Diamond Head also provides a nesting spot for various seabirds. Protected green sea turtles can be spotted resting on beaches around its base. Visitors to the monument can walk through history while enjoying breathtaking scenery of Oahu’s picturesque shores.

The Exact Location of Diamond Head on O’ahu

Situated on the Southeast Coast of O’ahu

The famous Diamond Head crater is situated on the southeastern coast of the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. More specifically, it is located in an area known as Kaimuki, which borders the communities of Waikiki and Kapiolani Park.

Diamond Head itself juts out over 0.75 miles into the Pacific Ocean and rises up 560 feet at its summit.

Geographically, Diamond Head lies between the 18th and 19th parallel north and the 157th and 158th meridian west. It is part of the Koʻolau Mountain Range which makes up the eastern half of the island.

Diamond Head is the most recognized volcanic cone along this range due to its proximity to the Waikiki tourist area.

Bordering the Famous Waikiki Beach Area

Indeed, one of the main reasons Diamond Head is so iconic is its unique location bordering Waikiki Beach and its high-rise hotels and resorts. The famous crescent-shaped beach lies just to the northwest of the crater.

Specifically, Diamond Head is situated next to Hilton Hawaiian Village, one of Hawaii’s largest resort complexes. The eastern lookouts from Diamond Head look out over the resort and beach area which receives over 5 million visitors per year.

Views Overlooking the Pacific Ocean

In addition to its views overlooking Waikiki, Diamond Head crater also provides breathtaking vistas looking out over the Pacific Ocean. From the inside the crater or along its ridgeline trail, you get 270-degree views of the surrounding coastline.

On clear days, visibility from the crater’s peak allows you to see notable O’ahu landmarks such as Punchbowl Crater inland and Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse to the east. Whales can even be spotted breaching offshore during their yearly migrations (typically January through March).

Visiting and Hiking Diamond Head

Diamond Head State Monument Trail Details

The hike to the Diamond Head summit is approximately 0.8 miles one way and takes about 45-60 minutes round trip. The trail has elevations between 560 to 760 feet above sea level. There are two sets of stairs with 99 and 76 steps that lead up to the edge of the crater’s rim.

The Diamond Head hike is considered moderately difficult. The trail is fully paved but has some steep sections with inclines over 20 degrees. Good footwear like sneakers or hiking shoes are recommended.

What to Expect When Hiking to the Summit

As you make your way up the trail, you’ll pass through dark tunnels with sweeping views of the ocean and crater. The 0.1 mile tunnel was built back in 1908 as part of the Fire Control Station.

At the summit, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking 360 degree views of Waikiki Beach, downtown Honolulu, Koko Head, Makapu’u Lighthouse, and on clear days you can even spot Molokai and Lanai islands over 75 miles away.

There are some steep cliffs at the top so it’s important to closely supervise children. Picnicking is also not allowed at the summit.

Tips for Visiting Diamond Head

Diamond Head is one of Oahu’s most popular attractions with over 1 million visitors per year. Weekday mornings tend to be less crowded than weekends.

There are no facilities for food or drinks, so make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks. Bathrooms are only available at the trail entrance.

While the hike is mostly shaded, Hawaii’s temperatures can get very hot and humid. Hats, sunscreen, and UV protective clothing are highly recommended to prevent sunburn.

Entry into the park is $5 per car or $1 per person for walk-ins. Free guided hikes are available on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings with advance reservations through the Friends of Diamond Head nonprofit.


With its iconic volcanic cone rising 760 feet over the coastline, Diamond Head is one of Hawaii’s most recognizable natural landmarks. Nestled along the southeast shores of O’ahu, this state monument offers striking views and a unique hike, making it a must-see destination for many visitors to Waikiki and Honolulu.

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