At 762 feet with a panoramic view of gorgeous Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean, it’s amazing to know that where we stood was once a thriving, bubbling lava spout. Diamond Head volcano has been extinct for about 150,000 years and for years has been attracting tourists to Honolulu, Hawaii year-round. Considered a defining feature of the view in Waikiki, the volcanic cone was an attraction we were determined to not only see, but climb.
My family and I trudged the sweltering 1 ¾ mile trail, free from shady refuge where lava once gushed. We zigzagged up the trail and even climbed two sets of stairs (one with 76 steps, and the other with 99). Along the way, a number of places to stop to take in the scenery welcomed us, but nothing compared to the picturesque sight at the top of the volcano. Squeezing around tourists to snap photos, we were captivated by the rippling waves that stroked Waikiki’s sandy shore and spread before the modern city skyline's sunlit greenery.
Aside from the stunning ridge top view, part of the fascination of it all was knowing that we were treading a natural phenomenon. Diamond Head is believed to have been formed about 200,000 years ago; the result of a series of eruption flows known as the Honolulu Volcanic Series from the Ko’olau Volcano eruption. This massive design by nature is sister to other volcanoes formed from this eruption, such as Punchbowl Crater, Hanauma Bay, and Manana Island.
Chambers of magma or hot molten rock boiled to the earth’s surface 200,000 years ago to create these volcanoes. The mantle (a large layer of rock) lay between the molten iron core and the thin crust at the surface, where extremely high temperatures and pressure can cause the lower mantle to melt and become magma in the form of a liquid-rock. Typically, these magma chambers remain sealed for hundreds of years between eruptions until the pressure builds enough to break through a crack or weak spot in the rock, known as a vent. Magma and ash spill out of the crater, which is formed from the blast, and constructs the volcano’s cone shape. Once magma reaches the surface, it is called lava.