Diamond Head Crater, located to the east of Waikiki, is one of the first sights many visitors glimpse as their planes bank toward Honolulu’s airport. Glinting in the bright Hawaiian sun, rising just short of a thousand feet above sea level, it’s easy to see how one of the younger volcanic craters in Hawaii got its name. The first British sailors to arrive in Hawaii mistook the shining crystalline deposits for diamonds, hence its nickname. Sadly, none have ever been found there.
Today, visitors and locals alike flock to the historic crater for a variety of reasons, none of which are diamonds. Nevertheless, the story of its creation isn’t diminished by the lack of valuable gemstones. The tuff cone crater provides magnificent views from all angles and is a must-visit for those enjoying a vacation on bustling Oahu.
How Did It Get There?
Like all of the Hawaiian islands, Oahu was formed by a hot spot spewing lava through the earth’s crust. As the Pacific Tectonic Plate moved eastward over the hot spot, these eruptions formed the iconic islands. Diamond Head, on the other hand, was formed long after the creation of Oahu. The Ko’olau Mountain Range, which forms the spine of Oahu, is 2.6 million years old. Diamond Head, by comparison still in diapers, dates back “only” about 200,000 years.
It was formed by a series of eruptions that formed many of Oahu’s famous geological landmarks. Known by geologists as the Honolulu Volcanic Series, Diamond Head, Koko Head Crater, and Punchbowl Crater were all formed by a short but intense string of eruptions, likely not lasting longer than a few days. Today, each crater is home to a popular attraction. Punchbowl is the final resting place of 34,000 brave men and women who valiantly fought in the name of freedom. Koko Head is a grueling hike and popular spot for sunrises. Diamond Head is the crown jewel of Waikiki, overlooking Oahu’s version of South Beach.
During the violent eruptions, the surrounding reefs and ocean off Diamond Head weren’t spared. Huge plumes of ash, dust and rock shot thousands of feet into the air before settling on the slopes, hardening into the crater you see today. It is believed that the ocean level was higher pre-explosion and may have contributed to the violence of the blast as seawater mixed with rising magma. The crater is wider than it is tall, covering 350 acres, and ii’s remarkably symmetrical. Geologists think its proportional figure may be due to the brevity of the eruption.
From postcards to paintings, the iconic crater is ubiquitous in any illustration of Waikiki. Whether looking from your hotel balcony or gazing up from a sailboat, Diamond Head presents a stunning juxtaposition with Waikiki’s glittering skyline. Few places on Earth can boast a vibrant and spirited nightlife so closely shadowed by natural beauty. It stands as a paragon of the awesome power of nature.