Oahu with Toddlers: Hiking Diamond Head Summit Trail

On our second to last day (a decade ago) on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu, we decided to head away from the beaches, and go hiking at the Diamond Head State Monument, the site of an old volcano.

Getting There

Distance: From downtown Honolulu, Diamond Head State Monument is only 6 miles away.

Cost: If you don’t have a Hawaii drivers license, it currently will cost you $10 to park.

Hours: The park is open from 6:00am-6:00pm, but you must arrive at the parking lot by 4:00pm or they won’t let you on the Summit Trail. Also, make sure your check their website for Covid or other related closures.

Summit Trail Overview

Length: 1.6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 560 feet

Terrain: Mix of paved walkway, stairs, and rough/uneven/steep trail

This main attraction at the Diamond Head State Monument is the Summit Trail. You will park on the floor of the volcano’s crater, but if this makes you nervous, keep in mind that the only time that this particular volcano erupted was 300,000 years ago. You would have to be fairly unlucky to be there when it erupts again!

From the parking lot, you will climb 560 feet to the crater rim, making this hike a little steeper than you might want for toddlers, but it is fairly short at only 1.6 miles round trip. It is not stroller friendly, but even if you have to carry them part of the way, it should be achievable for most parents. If you are really concerned, or will be spending more days hiking, consider bringing a hiking backpack/child carrier.

You can print a detailed trail map with history and points of interest from the monument website.

The History

The main take aways from the brochure begin with volcanic activity that formed Oahu 2.5-4 million years ago. About 1.3 million years of dormancy, more volcanic activity began under the ocean and created tuff cones. A little later, about 300,000 years ago, one of these eruptions created Lē’ahi, also known as Diamond Head. The brochure claims that this particular tuff cone is the most recognized landmark in Hawaii and in 1968 it was declared a National Natural Landmark due to it excellent tuff cone characteristics.

The brochure goes on to describe the environment, the creation myths, the naval and military history, and has detailed descriptions of what you will see as you hike the Summit Trail. Give it a read before you go!

The Hike

We had two toddlers, but since this was our only planned hike of the trip, we did not bring our framed hiking backpack. Instead, we brought a soft/foldable child carrier with a high weight limit. James was too heavy for it, so we put John into it with plans for me to carry James in my arms if he got too tired/cranky.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, James was used to hiking next to lakes or streams, and early on in the hike he found a gigantic rock that he insisted that he was going to throw into the first body of water that he found. Despite our protests that there was not going to be any water, he insisted on carrying it the entire way up the mountain, convinced that since this was our first time taking this hike, and the fact that he could see the ocean, we might be wrong. Lucky us, we did not have to carry him at all on the way up! At least he wasn’t too disappointed when we were proven correct, and to our relief he did not throw it over the edge of any of the cliffs.

The hike wound up the crater, starting with many switch backs, a set of 74 steps, then a tunnel, 99 more steps, a bit more path and then arrived at the summit. It then has 54 step that go down, and then the path winds around until you reach a nice lookout. Once you continue to the rest stop, at this point you will be at the bottom of the original 74 steps and you will continue the rest of the way down to the parking lot. The path felt long, steep, and uneven, but that just made it a challenge that James was determined to conquer.

There was a bunker, a spiral stair case (that we did not climb) that led to the remains of a fire station, and a bunch of nice views. We had a great time!

Our Afternoon and Evening

We stopped for a poke lunch, then took the boys back to our apartment for a real nap. It had been many days since they had a nap in a proper bed at the proper time, and they slept for a LONG time, not waking up until almost dinner.

We then took a walk along the beach and discovered that it is always wise to carry a patch kit and travel pump when you have a stroller with inflatable wheels. We were able to fix it after two trips to Walmart, but it was super annoying to get the stroller back to the car. From that day on, we kept a repair kit inside our stroller and made use of it several more times in our family adventures around the world.

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