Diamond Head Madness – The View Makes Up for the Crowds
This is the second of twenty-five posts from a trip to the four main islands of Hawaii a few years ago. All have been updated for accuracy as of 2021. In the first post I extolled the virtues of staying at Waikiki’s Pink Palace aka the Royal Hawaiian. In this one we’ll start our exploration by hiking up to Diamond Head. Please come along.
Despite the time change we woke up on our first full day in Hawaii just before dawn and Alison took a walk on the beach and reported that she thought she saw a seal in the water – as the light improved it became apparent he was a very early rising surfer. By seven there were dozens of them.
Today’s only real goal was to walk up to the top of Diamond Head, which as the crow (or in Hawaii’s case the minah bird) flies is only about a mile or so from Waikiki. In preparation for the trip I had downloaded a number of geocache locations including one near the top of the Diamond Head Trail. Walking along the beach and then into Kapiolani Park it didn’t take long to get to the base of the extinct volcano. When I brought the cache up on the GPS its arrow showed the cache straight ahead. Reading the description it stated that you had to go through a tunnel to get to the cache and don’t ask me why, I became convinced that there was some mysterious little known tunnel that led straight up from the park into the crater. This obsession compelled me to keep walking up Diamond Head Road fully expecting to see some sign of the trail to the tunnel at any time. Instead I saw we were getting farther and farther away. It finally dawned on me that there was no secret tunnel and that we, along with dozens of bikers, joggers, walkers and tourist buses were heading to the main entrance. Instead of a walk of a mile or so I had turned this into a two mile trek just to get to the starting point.
There was some consolation in the fact that the climb was gradual, there seemed to be a competition among the homeowners on the route to see who could have the coolest gate and the Diamond Head lighthouse was a nice landmark on the way, although it seemed to be in someone’s gated backyard so I couldn’t get a good closeup.
Finally we got to the entrance and there was the tunnel – big enough to drive a freight train through, or at least a very large bus. Pedestrians were allotted about four feet on one side. It was a couple of hundred yards long and kind of scary given how fast some of the cars and buses were whipping by. Emerging from the tunnel revealed an absolutely blah view of the crater. Crater walls covered in scrub brush was about it. The only reason to come is to hike the trail to the lookout.
The first part of the trail is a concrete sidewalk that has a gentle slope. However, the trail is most definitely not ‘fully paved’ as one prominent guidebook claims. After the concrete ends the trail gets rough and a bit steeper and gradually becomes a series of switchbacks. These in turn become two sets of concrete stairs, the second of which goes through a fairly dark tunnel. The last gasp is a spiral staircase that leads to the top. The fact that the trail is less than a mile long is the only reason that it would be considered mild to moderate with which I would agree.
The real problem is the number of people and more importantly that at least half of them are totally unprepared (maybe they read the guidebook that said it was all paved). Aside from people wearing ridiculous footwear (anything from dress shoes to flip flops), not carrying any water in 80 degree heat but able to try to carry infants as young as a month or two and finally some just plain too obese to tackle something like this without real concerns of everyone around that a heart attack was imminent.
Since our visit the people in charge of Diamond Head have realized that it is definitely being victimized by over tourism and plans are underway to reduce the number of visitors although the Covid pandemic might have already accomplished this. For more information about Diamond Head click here.
Once we were at the top, aside from the throngs trying to get the same pictures we were trying to get. the views of Waikiki, Koko Head and Diamond Head Lighthouse were superb. Any chance of looking for a geocache without arising suspicion was hopeless. I promised to come back early in the morning and do this again without the crowds, but never did.
We were thankful to find a waiting cab when we got back down and returned to the Royal Hawaiian. Jet lag was coming on fast. That night we ate at a California Pizza, a mid-scale chain we don’t get in eastern Canada and turned in early. Tomorrow off to Kauai.