Friday, November 12, 2010

Things to Do: Diamond Head Crater Park

Another thing to do while in Waikiki is to see Diamond Head Crater Park.  Diamond Head is that big bowl of a crater you see as you fly in to Honolulu and fills the Waikiki skyline.  The name comes from calcite crystals in the rocks on the slope of the crater.  The old western explorers and trades mistook those for diamonds and nicknamed the place Diamond Head.

It looks big and far away, but it's only about 15 minutes from Waikiki.  We want to go to the highest point on Diamond Head, called Le`ahi Summit, which is only 761 feet (232 meters) in elevation.  On top of Le'ahi Summit is the Fire Control Station.  It was built by the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery defense system.  From that vantage point, you could observe, plot, and adjust artillery from 5 different batteries.  Now, it's a tourist attraction with an awesome view.  The hike up is not kid friendly, so if you have a really young one, they might have to stay on the beach or be carried up the trail.  But once you're at the top, the view is worth it.

You have to drive through a tunnel dug into the side of the crater by Kapiolani Community College.  The park is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.  I recommend go in the early morning or late evening.  Parking is limited and it gets hot.  Make sure to bring your own water and snacks, there's only a food truck in the parking lot.  If you don't want to drive you can catch the tour buses, vans, or sign up for the Waikiki Trolley.  Luckily, there is a bathroom at crater level.

See that little speck on second hilltop from the right?  That's Le'ahi Summit and sitting on top is the old Fire Control Station for coastal cannons.  It's also the best view on Waikiki and where we want to go.

The above is a copy of the free brochure that you pick up at the base of the trail.  The trail is about 1.5 miles round trip and plan on it taking 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  The trail is a series of dirt paths, steep switchbacks, rough-hewn rock, concrete and steel stairs, a tunnel, a spiral staircase, and finally, a breath taking view.

That nice paved path ends soon enough, it's only there to prevent erosion.  After that, the trails are dirt and rock.  Mules made their way up these trails transporting materials for the construction of the lookouts.  If mules can make it, so can we.  

Did I mention rough-hewn rock?  Parts of the trail are definitely not baby/stroller friendly.  
Oh yeah.  I said there were stairs, right?

 And, here's the small tunnel you have to walk through.  It's lighted and only 225 feet long.

 Stairs?  Did I mention stairs?  This is the last leg on the "Stairway to Heaven".  By now, it's time for a water break.

 And here's what it's all about.  A great view of Waikiki and a nice breeze to cool you off.  You can read about Waikiki Beach blogpost here.  But wait, there's more.  You can walk up to the Observation Post and see more.

A better view of Waikiki to the west.

Turn around and it's Diamond Head Crater to the North.  To the northeast, it's Kahala and Koko Head.  You are on the mountain top.  Everywhere you turn, you get a great view.  

And at your feet, to the south, is the Diamond Head Lighthouse and Diamond Head Beach Park.  Diamond Head Beach Park is the next biggest beach past San Souci/Kaimana Beach in Waikiki.
After all that and the hike down, if you really want a burger, there's Magoo's Burgers waiting.  That's all for today.

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