Our final morning aboard the NCL Pride of America started with a big breakfast in the Skyline Restaurant before grabbing our bags and disembarking from the ship. Since our flight was not until 4:07pm, we decided to store our bags at the port and take an Uber to Diamond Head Crater for some hiking.
I’ve been wanting to hike Diamond Head since the first time we came to the island over 15 years ago. The crater sits on the coast of Oahu between Waikiki and Koko Head. Diamond Head (Le’ ahi) is an example of a “tuft cone” and covers 350 acres. The summit on the northwest side of the crater sits at 761ft above sea level.
In the late 1700s, Western explores and traders visited Le’ ahi and mistook the calcite crystals in the rocks for diamonds, thus the name “Diamond Head” became the common name for the crater. The U.S. Federal government purchased Diamond Head in 1904 and designated it for military use. This was because the summit provided panoramic views from Koko Head to Wai’anae, and seemed to be an ideal location for defending Oahu.
Our hike started at the bus stop down at Diamond Head Road and continued up the main drive of the park and through the Kahala Tunnel. This tunnel is the main entrance into the floor of the crater and was built in the 1940s. Once we got through the tunnel, we came to the Visitor Center and the main trailhead.
The trail that we hiked was was originally built in 1908 as part of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery defense system. It climbs the steep interior western slope of the crater, through a series of switchbacks, all the way to the summit. There was a lot of traffic on the trail today, which made going a little bit slow. However, the trail is quite steep as it gains 560ft in only 0.8 miles, so going slow was not a big problem.
The views along the way were magnificent. At first, the views were just back into the crater, but closer to the top we were able to get some incredible views of Honolulu, Waikiki, Koko Head, and the Pacific Ocean.
Our ultimate destination was Fire Control Station Diamond Head at the summit, which was built between 1908 and 1910. It housed instruments and plotting rooms to direct artillery fire from several batteries. This fortification was considered an engineering marvel at the time of its construction.
Near the top of the trail we had to climb 74 concrete steps that led to a narrow tunnel. After walking through the 225ft long tunnel, we had to climb 99 more concrete steps that went straight up. This brought us to the lowest level of the Fire Control Station.
To reach the third level of the station, we had to climb a tightly spiraled staircase with 52 more steps. From here we walked out to the exterior of the crater and were able to see the lookout across the cost of Oahu.
Next we crawled through a narrow slit and then climbed 54 more metal stairs to reach the observation level of the station and the summit of Diamond Head. The top was crowded, but the views were simply amazing. We were able to take a slightly different route back down that avoided some of the steps we had to take on the way up.
As expected, the way down was significantly easier than the way up, and it was nice to get a different angle for all of the awesome views. Back down at the floor of the crater, we took some pictures, went to the Visitor’s Center again, and then hiked back down to the bus stop to catch another Uber.
I think everyone really enjoyed their visit to Diamond Head. Olivia was really adventurous on this hike since she is both claustrophobic and not thrilled with heights. She had to face both of those today, but came through like a champ. Kate even said that she thought it was her favorite thing that we did in Hawaii.
We got another Uber back to the port to get our bags, and then got another Uber to the airport. As I type this, we are on our flight back home with one stop in Atlanta.
This was a fantastic trip, and one that I don’t think any of us will ever forget. So many memories, so many awesome experiences, and so much great time spent together as a family.