It was announced yesterday that Hawaii will now require reservations for all out-of-state visitors at Diamond Head on Oahu. This change starts May 12 at Hawaii’s most notable landmark. It becomes the third state park to require such reservations. Hawaii residents will continue to have free access without reservations, which will now be parking availability dependent.
Our experience is the trail can get very crowded and many times we’ve driven up there and found no parking available. So while it can be a hassle to make a reservation, you’re guaranteed a parking spot with this new system and see fewer people on the trail. Also note that hikers arriving on foot need a reservation. And if you are a Hawaii resident, no reservation is required, but it’s on a space-available basis. Read further for details and our best tips for reservations.
Haena State Park Kauai and Waianapanapa State Park on Maui also require reservations.
These are said to “have improved the quality of visitor experiences and have reduced impacts on adjacent communities and resources,” according to the state’s DLNR.
The agency said ‘the new reservation system (at Diamond Head) is intended to reduce hiker congestion along the narrow and winding trail to the summit, reduce the load on the comfort station and reduce vehicle congestion entering and exiting the sole access tunnel at Diamond Head. The DLNR Division of State Parks (DSP) hopes to also reduce parking issues in urban neighborhoods outside of Diamond Head.”
Fees for non-Hawaii residents.
To our knowledge there will be no change in fees at this time. These are as follows.
Entry fee (non-resident): $5 per person.
Parking fee (non-resident): $10 per vehicle.
Non-residents are now required to purchase both advance entrance and parking unless arriving on foot (in which case there’s no parking fee but the advance entrance fee requirement stands). Children 3 and under are free. Payment is by credit card only.
Parking and entry for Hawaii residents are free with proper ID.
The new system will be cashless and will use QR codes based on confirmed reservations. The Diamond Head State Monument concessionaire is ProPark, which already manages the current system there. Its online system is via Ascent Partners. Parking is via Diamond Head Road.
More advance reservations are coming to Hawaii state parks.
The administrator for state parks, Curt Cottrell said, “We envision being able to modify this system for additional parks. The key element to crafting a reservation system, based on optimal capacity management, and improving the quality of experience, is to work closely with our parking vendors at park units where fee collection is already happening.”
Governor Ige said last week that “the reservation system is an important part of the destination management action plan. We want to reduce the impact of visitors and really ensure that our residents have access to these desirable places. We can control the numbers of people who visit a particular place so they can more easily be spread out across the day.”
You can make Diamond Head reservations starting on April 28.
The new system will permit Diamond Head Crater reservations beginning 14 days into the future, starting May 12. After May 12, out-of-state visitors won’t be allowed to enter without such reservations. Commercial tour and trolley patrons will also need to have reservations and PUC-licensed carriers will use a new portal.
Visitor parking lot access will be in two-hour time increments starting at 6:00AM. Up to 2 consecutive slots can be reserved. Walk-in and drop-off visitors will be subject to one-hour entry time slots. Arrival and exit times will be enforced.
“It is anticipated, as with the reservation systems currently in place, further adjustments and tweaking may be necessary to achieve the desired balance between patronage, parking, trail capacity, and duration of time slots.” Cottrell added.
Best tips for getting a reservation.
Morning congestion starting at the trailhead has been a problem there for years. With the new reservation system, guests can book in advance and pick popular morning times. The problem is that is when most people want to go so those reservations will be hardest to get.
If you are willing to choose more readily available times of day, such as afternoons, it should be far easier to get a reservation. We’ve often opted for late-in-the-day hikes just because it is so much less crowded.
Diamond Head hike will always be a must in Honolulu.
If you can handle stairs, an uneven trail, and a somewhat steep climb, we highly suggest you include this on your list of things to do in Honolulu. You won’t soon forget it if you do. Allow 90 minutes, which includes time to enjoy the view from the lookouts atop the 300,000-year-old crater. See the latest updates you need to know about and our tips below to make the most of our time here.
Diamond Head is part of the Koolau Volcano. The Diamond Head Summit Trail is a roundtrip of 1.6 miles, with a 560 foot elevation gain to the lookout point at the top. You will enjoy the most spectacular views possible, including Waikiki Beach, the Pacific Ocean, and even humpback whales in season. The trail to the summit of Leahi was constructed in 1908, to be part of the Oahu coastal defense system.
When to Visit Diamond Head.
Early in the day or later in the afternoon, when it isn’t as hot. If you hike without the sun directly on the trail, you’ll be much happier. It is open from 6 am to 4 pm daily, with gates locked at 6:00 pm. Hours are strictly enforced. The monument is closed on Christmas and New Year’s days.
What to Wear
Be sure to include sunscreen, a hat, and closed-toe shoes with your athletic wear. Leave sandals or heels in your car.
Your phone or camera to capture the fantastic views. Water to keep hydrated. Change of t-shirt for later – you’ll be sweaty.
Pace yourself on this moderate hike which starts on a deceiving paved trail before reaching dirt. This activity is within almost everyone’s reach. If you decide to go only halfway, there are still views to enjoy and photograph.
Oahu Hikes – Trail Guide to Diamond Head
After the tunnel you walk through near the top, you have two options now to reach the summit. The easiest way is to turn left and follow the new outside trail. Adventurers and those in peak condition should turn right and hike 99 steps to the top of the bunker, followed by a 43-step spiral staircase, and then crawl out a narrow opening at the top. You can also view or download the state’s guide to Diamond Head.
History of Diamond Head
Sacred ground to Native Hawaiians; this is called Le’ahi. Western explorers in the 1700s gave the old crater its other name, “Diamond Head.” In the early 1900s, the Federal Government stepped in and designated Diamond Head for military use. Le’ahi and its heiau (temple) saw the construction of gun emplacements inside its slopes.
Do you remember the old Diamond Head Hike? Back in the day, parking was free, vendors lined the path to the start of the trail, and a flashlight was required for the dark tunnels and bunkers.