While I just got back from my home state of CO, I feel the need to finish up where I left off with Hawaii. Each and every day of our trip, I faced this majestic volcanic mountain across the waters of Waikiki Beach. Each and every day I was there, I told the husband person that I WOULD hike up to the top of a volcano. Not my first choice - I actually picked one along the opposite side of the road, that was a straight shot to the top. Having revisited a serious old ankle injury earlier in the summer, and still having it wrapped heavily, I was told I would NOT be hiking THAT particular volcano...nor would HE be hiking ANY volcano I happened to pick, with me. Chicken!
Tired of hearing my pleas to ascend to the top of Hawaii, I was unceremoniously dropped at the entrance to Diamond Head State Monument - I HIKED DIAMOND HEAD (while he headed back to the "office" and told me to call when I thought I had had enough)!
The Diamond Head crater is more than 3,500 feet in diameter and is part of the now dormant Hawaiian volcano chain from more than a half million years ago. The crater is also called “Le'ahi,” which means “brow of the tuna” in Hawaiian. It got the name Diamond Head almost 200 years ago from British sailors who believed there were diamonds in the side of the crater - none were ever found.
The biggest tip I can give you, besides bringing along your camera, is WATER! Make sure you have at least one bottle with you. REAL SHOES is the second. From the crater floor to the summit, you will hike 0.8 miles one way, climbing 560 feet. The trail starts out paved, before turning into dirt and/or slightly rocky switchbacks that climb to the first lookout point, where you can catch your breath - only to lose it again, to the scenic vistas.
It was at this point that I met the dearest little Japanese-American man (4th generation Hawaiian, he was quick to point out), who told me he was in his mid 80's, and climbed to that point three times a week. After imparting quite a bit of history about the crater and the island of Moloka'i in the distance (a former leper colony, and now pretty much uninhabited), he looked at me and told me that I should take the "special route", because I looked strong enough (obviously missing my ankle). He did tell me that there would be stairs and a tunnel (there IS an easier route to the top from this point, should you choose).
Yes, there were stairs...74 of them. And a tunnel - 200 ft. of tunnel. Which dumped me out at the bottom of a second set of stairs the man forgot to tell me about. A second set of stairs that stopped me dead in my tracks, looking more like a ladder than a staircase (that second picture is no exaggeration on perspective). A second set of stairs that had 99 steps in it! A second set of stairs that halfway up, had me thinking that if I found that dear little man on the way back down, I might just consider beating him to death.
AND, there was a second, shorter tunnel at the top of those stairs that led to another 52 steps up a 3 story spiral staircase, that leads to the old Fire Control Station lookout area. This leads to a final 54 stairs to the summit. I had now climbed 279 stairs (remember, there IS an easier route up), and once I caught my breath, I was awestruck by the 360 degree view - elevation 761 feet.
Diamond Head was purchased in 1904 by the Federal Government, and designated for military use. Fortification began in 1908, with the construction of the gun emplacements and the trails and tunnels (yes, those tunnels).
A total of five batteries were built atop Diamond Head, to house coastal artillery. The Fire Control Station was built between 1908 and 1910, and housed instruments and plotting rooms to direct artillery fire from the batteries.
And the return trip, should you decide to be smart about it, will take you half the time going down...but, what did I do? I figured that if I went UP the "special route", then I sure as hell was going back down the same way - it was all a matter of principal at that point, stairs schmairs! 558 stairs in total that day (REMEMBER, THERE IS AN EASIER ROUTE) - I did the whole trip in less than an hour and a half (including the 15 minute history lesson from the little man, and admiring the view from the top for quite some time). I did it - I hiked my volcano - I hiked Diamond Head! For more information on how to get to the entrance leading to those incredibly scenic stairs, visit HAWAII STATE PARKS.ORG.