Hawaii’s Diamond Head

Sailboat at Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii, image

A sailboat cruises by Diamond Head on Oahu.


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Anchoring the southeastern edge of Oahu, 300,000-year-old Diamond Head oversees sun worshipers at nearby Waikiki Beach. Its fanciful name came about in the 19th century when British sailors mistook calcite crystals on the slopes of the extinct volcano for precious gems.

Today a steep three-quarter-mile trail leads up the summit to a different treasure—a panorama that embraces the half-mile-wide crater, the Honolulu skyline, and the broad reach of the Pacific.

Hawaiian tradition holds that the goddess Hi‘iaka dubbed the 761-foot mass Leahi, or "brow of the tuna," after noticing its shape.

BATTLE ROYAL Royalists attempting to restore Hawaii’s monarchy in 1895 clashed with army troops on the slopes of Diamond Head.

ISLAND STRONGHOLD The U.S. Army established Fort Ruger, its first battery in Hawaii, within the Diamond Head crater in 1906. The big guns have never been fired during a war.

BIRDS TO WATCH The yellow-fronted canary, common waxbill, and red-crested cardinal are among more than a dozen nonnative bird species that now thrive in the peak’s vicinity year-round.

ENDANGERED SPECIES Only two known specimens of Schiedea adamantis, a small shrub indigenous to Diamond Head, remain in the wild

Photography by David Schrichte

This article was first published in January 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

If You're Going: 

Diamond Head State Monument is accessible from Diamond Head Road near 18th Avenue in Honolulu. (808) 587-0285, www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/index.cfm?park_id=15.

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