Located on the Southeast Coast of the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu at the end of Waikiki overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Diamond Head is a famous volcanic crater. It is the most recognized landmark of Hawaii and is one of the most famous volcanic craters in the world. More than 3,500 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit, Diamond Head in Waikiki is perhaps the world’s most recognized volcanic crater.
It was originally named Leahi by the ancient Hawaiians. The name meant “brow of the tuna” and looking at the silhouette of the crater from Waikiki, you can see the resemblance. It got its English name in the 1800’s from the British sailors who saw the crater at a great distance as the calcite crystals in the lava rock appeared to glimmer in the sunlight. The sailors mistakenly thought there must be diamonds in the soil and named the crater as Diamond Head.
Diamond Head is estimated to be about 150,000 years old. It was formed during a single, explosive eruption that sent ash and fine particles in the air. As these materials settled, they cemented together into a rock called tuff, creating the crater. The crater was used as a strategic military lookout beginning in the early 1900’s and was named a National Natural Landmark in 1968. Today, Diamond Head is a defining feature of the view known to residents and tourists of Waikiki alike.
Diamond Head is a popular hiking destination with panoramic views of Waikiki and Oahu’s south shore. Visitors travel thousands of miles to get a first-hand glimpse of Diamond Head crater, one of Hawaii’s most recognized icons. A 1.1-km hike leads to the edge of the crater’s rim. Signs at the trailhead say that the hike takes 1.5–2 hours round-trip, and recommends that hikers bring water. This moderately challenging trail includes two sets of stairs, totaling 175 steps, as well as dark, underground tunnels and old military bunkers that require a flashlight. The stunning views that greet you at the top of Diamond Head are well worth the effort.