Unusual circumstances led me to visit some parts of Oahu in December 2018 and in July/August 2019. It gives very interesting perspective on crowds, weather, and what it’s like in general during various seasons to visit Oahu.
Diamond Head is known as one of the most popular hikes/sites in Oahu and maybe all of Hawaii. It is very near the biggest city, Honolulu and offers beautiful views after a pretty short distance. So it makes sense that so many folks visit there. But is it the same experience in different seasons? I found that out during this trip.
I am a practical person, so I will share some info about how you get to Diamond Head. It’s not really in walking distance from Waikiki, about 3ish miles, so I’d suggest taking the The Bus (#2 from Waikiki). It is possible to drive there, but that can get tricky due to limited parking and extreme crowds. Driving will save you 1/2 mile ish of walking, and the cost is $5 per car. People entering on foot cost $1 per person.
If you take the #2 bus from Waikiki, get off at Kapiolani Community College which is across the street from the path up to Diamond Head. Cross the parking lot, and a small grassy area then cross the street. You will see the signs for Diamond Head pointing you in the right direction. Hike up the hill, through the tunnel to the ticket booths, then you are on your way to the summit.
In winter, the crowd looked like this:
It just took a minute or two of waiting to photograph the view below. Nice! You probably notice the clouds and rain in the first photo. That is common in winter here.
In summer, the crowd looked like this:
To get to this part, we waited in long slow moving line. I didn’t quite make it to the same vantage point as in the winter. It was just too crowded, and I knew I had photos from the other trip. Those sunny skies that made it such a hot hike also help the view to be clear and beautiful. The crowd included people from all over the world, people of all ages, even a person in a bridal gown hoping for wedding photos! Some people hike fast and push and shove in the earlier parts of the trail. Some go very slow. There is not much room for passing. Here’s a view of the line heading down:
In early December the experience was very different. The smaller crowd felt less stressed in general, so there was far less pushing and close quarters on the trail. The cooler temperatures probably helped people’s moods as well. It did rain a bit, and the clouds affected views from the top. We had to move fast to get photos, but it was easier to wait around.
In summer: No jackets, no extra garments of any sort. In fact the jackets we brought have only been used on the airplane. It is very hot, in the upper 80s most days and very sunny.
We used our jackets in winter daily. High temps were maybe in the low 80s, often mid 70s with rain showers happening at any time. Wind and rain are a little chilly, even in the tropics.
When should you go? Anytime! If you hate crowds, consider winter and pack a few pair of pants. In summer, extra clothes are just repositories for extra sweat. Either season, the message from every travel advice thing is to arrive early in the day. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. Our photos were taken around 9:30am both times. I don’t mind rushing around occasionally for things but every day? Nope. With the time difference coming from the mainland US, it may be easier to get up and out early on one of your first days here, as you are adjusting to the time difference.
Difficulty? This hike is far easier than Koko Crater. The sun/heat are about the same. I wouldn’t wear flip flops or high heels but basic sneakers or hiking sandals should be fine. Definitely bring water due to the intense summer heat. In the winter, you may be ok hiking without water as it’s available at the trailhead.
There are also snacks and souvenirs available for purchase here. The whole will probably take between 1 and 2 hours. Have fun hiking!