Approaching the island of Oahu by air from the southeast, you find yourself gazing over land filled with lush greenery and scattered cities and towns. The most striking feature, however, is not the abundance of flora or the towering buildings dotted throughout, but the profile of what looks like a mountain range jutting from the island’s surface.

This outstanding feature isn’t actually a range, but it is one of Oahu’s most prominent features, one that has earned designation as a National Natural Landmark.

What is Diamond Head?

Over 200,000 years ago, the region experienced a period of seismic activity—the Honolulu Volcanic Series—that resulted in the formation of numerous landmarks. Scattered throughout the eastern part of Oahu, the Punchbowl Crater, Koko Head, and Manana Island are all products of this explosive activity. Also formed during this event was Diamond Head, a large volcanic tuff cone that has become an iconic backdrop to the city of Honolulu and the many beaches around it.

When the United States began building its military presence in the islands, Diamond Head came to serve a defensive purpose. The interior and exterior of the massive cone served as the base of operations for Fort Ruger, which eventually gave way to the National Guard and Hawaii State Civil Defense facilities that remain today.

Exploring the Tuff Cone

View from the top

Now that you have a brief idea of the history, let’s get down to the important part: How can you explore this towering monument? Diamond Head is an extremely popular hiking destination, and with a Diamond Head hiking package, you can tackle this rocky behemoth to add another story to tell about your incredible Hawaiian vacation.

A total of 1.6 miles, the trail takes you right to the summit through a moderate climb, ending at 761 feet above sea level. And making it to the summit is only half the fun. Once you’re there, you’re treated to some of the most stunning views of Waikiki, the Koko Crater, and the beautiful expanse of the Pacific.


Your view of the crystal blue water may give you the urge to enjoy some time on the calm surface, and a sailboat cruise is a terrific way to enhance your Diamond Head experience. Sailing along Oahu’s south shore, you get the opposite of the view you had atop Diamond Head – an incredible look at the crater’s profile.

Along with beautiful views, you may also catch glimpses of some of the fascinating wildlife that inhabits the waters off Oahu’s coast. Green sea turtles and tropical fish are abundant, and in the winter months you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for a chance to see our visiting gentle giants – humpback whales.

2018 Copyright Ⓒ Visit Diamond Head