Diamond Head Volcano Tour, Honolulu

Diamond Head Volcano Tour (Self Guided), Honolulu

Diamond Head Volcano, an iconic natural landmark, is perhaps one of the best-known attractions on the island of Oahu. While not a traditional volcano in the sense of actively erupting, Diamond Head is a dormant volcanic crater that offers a glimpse into the geological history of the Hawaiian Islands.

The volcano's rugged cone is seen from almost every part of the island. However, at its base, along the coastal line, there are a couple of other spectacular sights.

The Diamond Head Lighthouse, situated near the crater's base, serves as both a historic structure and a functional navigational aid for ships approaching Honolulu Harbor. Its picturesque setting against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean makes it a charming spot for visitors to explore.

For panoramic views of the surrounding area, the Diamond Head Lookout is a must-visit location. Perched at the summit of the crater, it provides breathtaking vistas of Waikiki Beach, downtown Honolulu, and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The hike to the lookout is moderately challenging, rewarding those who make the trek with stunning scenery.

Just east of Diamond Head lies Shangri La, the former home of philanthropist Doris Duke. This unique estate is renowned for its Islamic art collection and exquisite garden, making it a cultural gem in the vicinity of the volcano.

Diamond Head State Monument encompasses the entire volcanic tuff cone and is a popular destination for hikers and history enthusiasts. Visitors can explore a network of trails that wind through the crater, revealing the remnants of military bunkers from World War II.

Over the years, Diamond Head Volcano and its surrounding locations have captured the imagination of visitors with a diverse range of experiences, from natural beauty and outdoor adventure to cultural enrichment. So, make sure to include Diamond Head in your travel itinerary when visiting Honolulu — it won't disappoint you!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Diamond Head Volcano Tour Map

Guide Name: Diamond Head Volcano Tour
Guide Location: USA » Honolulu (See other walking tours in Honolulu)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 4
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Diamond Head Lighthouse
  • Diamond Head Lookout
  • Shangri La
  • Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head Lighthouse

1) Diamond Head Lighthouse

The Diamond Head Lighthouse is located on Oahu, at the end of Diamond Head Road. The original lighthouse was built in 1899, but the current one was constructed nearly 20 years later, in 1918. Despite being reconstructed, the current lighthouse still uses the ironwork and Fresnel lens from the original lighthouse.

The lighthouse was built to help warn ships away from the reefs near Waikiki beach. In 1893, the steamship Miowera ran aground on the reef. All of the passengers and cargo were saved, but it took several weeks for the ship itself to be freed. Shortly afterward, in 1897, the China ran aground near the same area. At this point, it was decided that a lighthouse was needed to help prevent damage to more ships.

The original lighthouse was made of an open iron framework. This created some concerns for the stability of the structure, so the builders chose to reinforce it by enclosing it in native coral rock. Unfortunately, the rock began to show signs of structural damage in 1917. When it was rebuilt a year later, the original ironwork was preserved, while the coral rock was replaced with reinforced concrete for added stability.

While the lighthouse is not open to the public, you can get great photos even without going down to the beach.
Diamond Head Lookout

2) Diamond Head Lookout

Diamond Head, a volcanic formation on Oahu Island in Hawaii, stands as the most frequented park in the state. In the 1800s, British soldiers mistook beachside calcite crystals for diamonds, hence the name. The site, also known as Diamond Head Lookout, provides breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu, accessible via a trail leading to the crater's rim, formed about 300,000 years ago.

This landmark is part of the Ko’olau Range, a series of volcanoes that started forming underwater over 2.6 million years ago. Diamond Head's distinct crater, spanning 350 acres, emerged from a single explosive eruption, characterizing it as a 'tuff cone' – a specific volcanic formation.

At 762 feet above sea level, and 560 feet from its base, Diamond Head is a unique, monogenetic volcano, meaning it erupted only once. Its last activity was between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago, and it has been inactive since.

In 1905, the U.S. government acquired Diamond Head Crater and nearby areas, developing Fort Ruger, Hawaii's first military reservation, as part of coastal defense. Remnants of this military history, like Battery 407, Birkhimer Tunnel, and various defense headquarters, still exist.

Diamond Head Trail offers a rare chance to trek to a volcano's edge. This path leads to expansive views of Oahu, the renowned Diamond Head Lighthouse, a U.S. Coast Guard facility also featured on a postage stamp, and the Pacific Ocean. On clear days, even Molokai Island is visible.

The trail, established in 1908 for military construction, stretches 0.6 miles up the crater. It's a switchback path, originally made for personnel and mules carrying building materials. In 1940, the Kahala tunnel was added as the main entrance. Diamond Head was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968.
Shangri La

3) Shangri La

Shangri La got its start when art collector Doris Duke, heiress to the Duke tobacco and electricity fortune, decided to build a vacation home in Hawaii in the 1930s. One of Duke's favorite pastimes was travel, and she spent a lot of her time visiting countries like Egypt, Syria, Morocco, and Iran. Whilst on a trip to several Muslim countries during her honeymoon with actor James Cromwell, she became enamored with the art and architecture of these countries, which, in part, provided inspiration for her home in Honolulu, as well as her large collection of Islamic art.

Today, Shangri La houses Doris Duke’s collection of Islamic art and is nationally recognized for its high artistic value and as one of Hawai'i’s most architecturally significant homes. Duke collected over 3,500 objets d'art over a period of sixty years. Her collection is notable because she didn't just collect items that had a high monetary value, but the objects she enjoyed. As a result, many objects at the Museum are decorative things like hand-carved furniture, richly adorned doors, painted ceilings, and other touches embedded into the building itself.

Of the many homes that Duke inhabited, Shangri La is the only one that she built from the ground up and filled from the inside out. As such, the museum is worth visiting to see the immense amount of care that Duke took to curate the objects in her home, as well as to enjoy the museum itself.

Why You Should Visit:
This is one of the world’s best small collections of a wide range of Islamic art (pottery, glass, wood, furniture, ceramics) from Iran, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, India, etc.
An added bonus are the grounds which afford views of the east side of Diamond Head along the ocean's edge.

Every beach in Hawaii is public so you may swim outside the property (not on the tour, come another time and swim here). The water looks very inviting!
Get to the Honolulu Museum of Art at least 2 hrs before the guided tour to experience works by Monet, Matisse, Van Gogh that are really exquisite as well.

Guided Tours:
Wed-Sat: 9am / 10:30am / 1:30pm
Tickets must be reserved in advance
Tours last approx 2.5 hrs with 1.5 hrs on site at Shangri La
Diamond Head State Monument

4) Diamond Head State Monument (must see)

Diamond Head State Monument is a volcanic cone known locally as Leahi. The monument is located near Waikiki Beach. It is a must-see for tourists of Honolulu as hiking up the cone offers a beautiful, panoramic view.

The monument was named Diamond Head by British sailors who thought they had found diamonds but were disappointed to learn that the brilliant sparkle came from calcite crystals. The native name means "brow of the tuna."

It is thought that the crater was formed about 300,000 years ago from volcanic activity. It is 761 feet tall and covers a span of 350 acres.

The trail going up the cone can be a challenge, but those who make it to the top know it is worth the effort. There are two sets of stairs that are a total of 175 steps.

Go early in the day – before the crowds and sun really kick in – and bring a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated. On the way up, you get to an intersection and you go left or right. Right takes you up stairs; instead, you can take the left, which is a bit more scenic and not as grueling.

Walking Tours in Honolulu, Hawaii

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

Creating your own self-guided walk in Honolulu is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Pearl Harbor Walking Tour

Pearl Harbor Walking Tour

Pearl Harbor, a US deep-water naval base in Honolulu, made history in 1941 when it came under attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service prompting the United States to enter World War II. Since 1964, Pearl Harbor has been a National Historic Landmark, featuring a number of military objects and installations-turned-monuments.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is at the heart of this...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 Km or 3 Miles
Honolulu Downtown Walking Tour

Honolulu Downtown Walking Tour

Honolulu is the largest city in Hawaii and the state's capital. Visitors flock here to enjoy the pristine beaches, beautiful scenery and unique culture. There is much to see and do in Honolulu.

The first residents of Honolulu were probably settled during the 11th century. These Polynesian migrants are thought to have come from Tahiti. King Kamehameha I conquered Oahu and claimed the area...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Waikiki Beach Walk

Waikiki Beach Walk

Once the playground of Hawaiian aristocracy stretching along the southern coast of the island of Oahu, Waikiki, or Waikiki Beach, today greets visitors from all walks of life and corners of the globe. This iconic beachfront area of Honolulu, famed for its long rolling ocean break ideal for boarding and surfing, is also home to public places, high-end resort hotels, and an abundance of luxury brand...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

16 Hawaiian Products To Bring Home from Honolulu

16 Hawaiian Products To Bring Home from Honolulu

Pineapples, surfing, flower garlands and colorful shirts are the most distinct things coming to mind in association with Hawaii. Still, when it's time to go leisurely-pleasurely in the remotest part of the United States, it is good to know what is there exactly worth picking up in Honolulu, as...