One of Oahu's greatest attractions lies on the southeast coast at the ending point of Waikiki Beach. Diamond Head Hawaii is an extinct and commanding volcano named after a misunderstanding by explorers from the west. While exploring Diamond Head Oahu the explorers thought they had found diamonds, but had really mistaken shining calcite crystals at the extinct volcano to be true diamond gems.
Diamond Head took the place of the volcano's original name of Laeahi, given to the crater by ancient Hawaiians. The name means "brow of the tuna" and signifies Diamond Head's resemblance to just that. A visit to Diamond Head Hawaii does require some walking. The Diamond Head hike is along a volcanic trail ascending to a 761-foot peak beginning inside the historic landmark. It's is an easy but steep hike that takes an hour to an hour and a half. The trail considered an easy to moderate ascent.
At more than 3,500 feet in diameter the crater remains one of the most spectacular in the United States. In 1898, when Hawaii was added to the United States, defending the harbor became a major priority. Fort Ruger was the defense fort engaged at the Diamond Head crater. With artillery situated right inside the crater, Fort Ruger enjoyed a clandestine and protected location safe from enemies.
In 1919 a complex comprising four levels was built inside the safe walls of the crater creating easier access to the command posts. The observation deck was also built in 1910 at Diamond Head Oahu, at the peak, which provided a convenient target site. The underground complex and observation deck are now abandoned but signs of the old post are evident along the paved Diamond Head hike.
There are many things to do at and around the Diamond Head Oahu location. Visitors arrive in droves from Honolulu and the surrounding island area. Those who choose to take the Oahu hiking trail will climb two sets of stairs, one with 76 steps and the other entailing 99 steps. One of the defining features is the 225-foot WWII tunnel ending in a magnificent panorama of the west side of Oahu. One of the best times to go is at sunrise when the view is even more spectacular. The tunnel along the Diamond Head hike can be dark so it's best to bring along a flashlight and sturdy shoes.
In the winter months Oahu tours of the crater offer an extra reward. Visitors who climb to the summit get a bird's eye view majestic humpback whales below. The whales can be seen by scanning the horizon and looking for a resounding blow. Once the whales are spotted, keep looking for them to breach the surface. Often whale watching Hawaii tours can be seen in the distance and are a good sign that whales are in the area. When choosing a Diamond Head Oahu tour visitors will enjoy the hike with an experienced guide and learn about the archaeology, history, geology, flora and fauna of the crater.
With Diamond Head's designation as a WWII site visitors may also want to take a trip to the Punchbowl Memorial which houses grave sites from WWII, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam and Korea. A visit to Diamond Head after Pearl Harbor tours adds deeper meaning to the crater's historical significance. If climbing the Diamond Head crater isn't an option, another great way to see it is on a Hawaii cruise around the area.
Cruise guests enjoy a different angle of Waikiki and the crater while sailing aboard a well-equipped catamaran. Sunset cruises, dinner cruises and midday journeys are all available. The dinner show is complete with a Polynesian review, reminiscent of a traditional Oahu Luau. The backdrop of Honolulu, Waikiki, the volcano and the surrounding ocean provide an excellent sightseeing opportunity in Oahu.