Diamond Head was once an active volcano hundreds of years ago and is now one of Hawaii?s most recognized landmark known for its historic summit hiking trail, the panoramic coastal views, and its 20th century military history. Originally named Lae'ahi meaning ?point of the ahi or tuna,? it has a trail that leads up to its high peak which affords visitors an unparalleled view of the entire west side of the island, from Waikiki to Koko Head. The Diamond Head crater is 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit.
Located at the Southeast Coast of Oahu overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Diamond Head was named by British Sailors in the 1800s when they saw the calcite crystals in the lava rock glimmering in the sun like diamonds. In 1898, Fort Ruger, one of the major defense forts, occupied the crater when the United States annexed Hawaii. In 1910, an observation deck was constructed at the summit to provide target sighting, and a four level underground complex was built within the walls of the crater as a command post. To provide easier access to the fort, a 580-foot tunnel was dug through the crater wall. Today, visitors drive through this tunnel, park inside the crater, and hike the very same path that was used to gain access to the Fort.
The Diamond Head Trail is about 2,816 meters (9,240 feet) to the lookout point and is an easy to moderate hike which takes about two hours of safe and leisurely hike. The trail takes a steep upward ascent via two stairways (74 and 99 steps) and two tunnels. The hike can be classified as a challenging exertion but visitors are greatly rewarded upon reaching the summit with spectacular vistas to Waikiki in one direction, and to the leeward side of the island in the opposite direction. Also, at the summit there are bunkers and a huge navigational lighthouse built in 1917. There is no shade during the hike, so it is advisable to go early in the day to avoid the heat, and to bring your own flashlight for the tunnel, and water.