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Saturday, 01 July 2017

Solo Hike to the top of Diamond Head

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During President’s weekend I found a great airfare to Honolulu on the island of Oahu for a long “pop-up” weekend. One of my favorite hotels is the Outrigger Waikiki Beach due to it’s location – right in the middle of Waikiki Beach. It’s beachfront rooms offer one of the most photogenic spots for outrigger canoes, catamaran sailboats and the morning sun rising above the dormant Diamond Head volcano.

Another perk about this hotel is it’s complimentary Waikiki Connection trolley. With over 20 stops throughout Honolulu, I took the trolley my first morning to the base of Diamond Head to hike from inside the volcanic crater to the top along the rim. It’s a good morning activity before the sun heats up the two mile trail.

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In the late 1700s, Western explorers and traders believed the calcite crystals on the slope of the craters were diamonds, and the name Diamond Head became common.

The trail built in 1908 as part of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery defense system, starts out on a paved path before turning into a narrow dirt switchback. Historically, this coastal area was built to defend the island of Oahu from attack, however I learned that no artillery was ever fired during a war.

Paying the $1 admission fee, one will never feel as if they are hiking alone, as visitors and locals walk from an elevation of 200 feet to 761 feet. I’m glad I wore sturdy shoes to prevent slippage while maneuvering loose rocks, steep inclines, and metal stairs.

Diamond Head is in a semi-arid climate with a scattering of Kiawe trees, part of the mesquite family. Interactive signs along the trail inform visitors that the plants and animals today were introduced in the 1800's. Birds that live in the area include cardinals, morning doves and sparrows.

One quarter of the way up is a concrete landing with a rusted winch and cable that was used by the army to lift materials from the crater floor. As I stopped to take in the incredible east views of the area, I was asked to take a photo for a couple. In return they took mine.

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Continuing along is a steep stairway, there are 74 steps leading to a narrow tunnel. This tunnel is lit dimly and about 225 feet long. After the tunnel is another stairway with 99 steps. At the top is a Fire Control Observation Station offering more sensational views.

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Almost at the top is a spiral three-level stairway, that is about 52 more steps. This replaced a ladder and was installed in the 1970s. Once at the top, be sure to duck down, because the ceiling is quite low.

The end result is worth all the exercise with sweeping coastal views of the seven beaches along Waikiki and the Diamond Head lighthouse. This visual aid for navigation was built in 1917 below Diamond Head. The views of the turquoise reefs along the southeastern shore towards Koko Head are awe inspiring. Walking back down along the crater rim is a bunker built in 1915. Be sure to wear a hat & sunscreen and take at least one bottle of water. The area opens at 6 a.m. for sunrise hikes and the last time to start a hike is at 4:30 p.m.

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At the bottom is a concession truck with water, juice, shaved ice and smoothies. If you hike on a Saturday morning, catch the trolley or walk to the KCC Farmers Market at the Community College. It’s open from 7:30 to 11 a.m., serving local farm-fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and street food. There is a Waikiki Connection trolley stop nearby to catch a ride back to the hotel for a swim in the oceanfront swimming pool or a float in the Pacific Ocean, before sipping a Mai Tai and taking a nap in the warm Hawaiian sun with cooling tropical breezes.

©Jill Weinlein

Last modified on Friday, 30 June 2017

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