All About Diamond Head Crater

Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head Crater in the background.

All About Diamond Head Crater

by Mark L., March 12, 2019

Diamond Head
Leahi, also known as Diamond Head

Rising to more than 700 feet, Diamond Head Crater is a stunning backdrop for all of Waikiki and the luau that shares its name.  Diamond Head’s history dates back to a time long before humans are even thought to have existed.

Knowing the history of Diamond Head Crater isn’t strictly necessary to enjoy your hike to the top or an evening at the Diamond Head Luau. But it can certainly enrich your experience.

So here is a crash course on the history of the Diamond Head Crater.

Oahu’s Iconic Crater

Vintage photo of Oahu in the 1800s
Diamond Head in the 1800s

Diamond Head is not the only crater on the island of Oahu, but it’s certainly one of the most distinctive. At 762’ tall, and 3,520’ wide it is hard to miss. Located on the southeastern coast of the island, Diamond Head Crater was formed during the Honolulu Volcanic Series. This period occurred between 30,000 to 800,000 years ago. The eruption that formed Diamond Head is thought to have come from the 2.6 million-year-old Ko’olau Volcano. Diamond Head is considerably younger, somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000 years old.

Diamond Head has been a cultural fixture since the first humans arrived on Oahu. And certainly long before the skyscrapers of Honolulu were ever erected. It was always a revered part of the island culture. Local lore claims that the crater was the site of ancient rituals, with luakini heiau, temples dedicated to Ku, the god of war, built at the summit.

To the early Hawaiians, Diamond Head was known as Le’ahi. Le likely was derived from lae, meaning a ridge or point, while ahi likely referred to its resemblance to the dorsal fin of the ahi tuna.

It wasn’t until the early 1800s that Leahi got the name “Diamond Head” by British sailors who landed on Oahu.  While exploring the area around the crater, they found deposits of calcite crystals that they first thought were diamonds. Imagine their disappointment.

Through the Years

Diamond Head lighthouse
Diamond Head Lighthouse

Before becoming the tourist attraction it is today, the crater was used to help spot vessels out at sea and warn them of the dangerous reefs they were approaching. Then in 1899, the first lighthouse was constructed 250 yards west of the lookout. For many years the lighthouse served its purpose, preventing ships from running aground. The lighthouse is still in operation and is currently a Coast Guard facility. It is not open to the public but can be seen from Diamond Head Road and is visible on the hike up Diamond Head Crater.

In 1906, the US military established a base in the crater and later renamed it Fort Ruger. Today, a National Guard emergency operations center and the Hawaii State Civil Defense Headquarters are the only remnants of Diamond Head’s military past.

Diamond Head Today

A spectacular show caps off the Diamond Head Luau
A spectacular show caps off the Diamond Head Luau

Diamond Head Crater is a Hawaii state park, in addition to being a US National Natural Monument. It has become a very popular destination for visitors and locals alike, who come to hike up the towering natural formation. The sweeping views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean are worth the climb (and many stairs) on the way to the top.

But if you’d rather enjoy the crater from sea level check out the Diamond Head Luau. It is held at the Waikiki Aquarium, with the crater in the background. The luau is an entertaining evening with family-friendly activities and the hospitable spirit of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a lovely setting for a luau.

It’s a perfect place to enjoy a feast of fresh Hawaiian cuisine and great Polynesian entertainment under the starry Oahu skies.

More About Diamond Head Luau

Luau Grounds at the Waikiki Aquarium

In the Hawaiian Islands, location is everything. With so many beautiful sights to behold, where an event takes place is a big part of the event itself. For instance, when it comes to luaus, you don’t want your backdrop to be a bunch of ugly buildings that block out what should be a breathtaking view.

Diamond Head Luau, on the other hand, features some of the most impressive views offered by a Hawaiian luau. Sitting at your table in the warm tropical air, you have an unimpeded view of the breathtaking Diamond Head Crater. The iconic 700’ tall summit rises into the skies over southeastern Oahu, a stunning view and the perfect backdrop for this highly-rated luau. According to many Diamond Head Luau is Oahu’s most scenic luau.

The site of the Diamond Head Luau, adjacent to the Waikiki Aquarium, is rich with vibrant emerald greenery. Palm trees scattered around the property help create a peaceful and serene setting. It is perfect for enjoying the delicious flavors of the Hawaiian Islands. As you’re feasting, look out at the sparkling, cobalt-blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. As darkness falls, looking in the other direction you can see the glittering lights of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu.

After your feast, it’s time for some of the best luau entertainment in the islands, set against the stunning backdrop of the magnificent Diamond Head Crater. It’s a night you’ll never forget, made even more special thanks to the views of Diamond Head Crater and the Pacific Ocean. 

Click here for more information on Diamond Head Luau!

More on Hawaii Luaus