Perhaps the most iconic image of O’ahu, Diamond Head can be seen calmly looming in the distance beyond the sand and surf of Waikiki. A volcanic crater created around 200,000 years ago, it is now one of the most visited “attractions” on the island and is a must trek for any first-timers to Hawaii. Diamond Head is pretty much the quintessential romantic backdrop for any Hawaiian vacation and the view from the top was said to be magical. All the tourist books say that it is a leisurely 1.6 mile stroll roundtrip and to take this little jaunt as early as possible to avoid strenuous activity during the heat of the day. The park opens at 6am, so we decided to be there before 8am. It’s all about dedication, folks.
Cameras and bottled water in tow, we parked the car and started down the nice little concrete path towards our once-in-a-lifetime panoramic view. The park ranger handed us a map on the way in, but we simply placed it in our pocket rather than reading the instructions – there is only one path, how hard can it be? The first few minutes of the walk are pleasant and just as we assumed – a slight incline, but nothing too hard at all – these tourist books are the best….always so accurate and easy to follow.
After a little while, the concrete ends and the now dirt path begins to get narrow, a bit steeper, and very uneven. It is here that I lift my gaze up to the skyline and see what looks like lines of ants zig-zagging sharply up to the top of the summit. Poor bastards – glad I didn’t sign up for that walk!
A few more minutes and Michael and I are both starting to get fairly winded and we have noticed that people coming down the path are saying weird things like “hang in there” and “it is totally worth it, you have to keep going.” What in the heck are these fools talking about? We stop at a little turn to take a gulp of water and then we see it – that row of ants zig-zagging…..yeah….that is us! Crap! We dig out the map the park ranger gave us and realize that, not only are we now a part of the ant hill, but we also have to climb through a cave and climb 279 steps….you heard me….279 steps to get to the top. LIES! These dang tourist books are full of lies!! We can’t go down like this, we have to climb this dang thing!
The next “forty-five minutes” seemed like eternity in hell as we dodged people coming down the narrow path and hopped up the uneven walkway. We thought we were going to be ok…then we hit the first set of stairs. Seventy-four of the steepest steps I have ever climbed followed by an even narrower, steeper climb through the tunnel in the crater. You could almost hear the crack of the whip as Lucifer urged us up the unforgiving path. There was no stopping, there was no water – there were only more steps and steeper inclines ahead. Drenched in sweat and begging for mercy, we emerge from the tunnel only to find the stairway to hell in front of us. I call it the stairway to hell because the first thing everyone says when they pop their head out of the tunnel is, “Oh, hell no!”
Luckily for us, a hefty fella carrying a beef jerky called to us as if he recognized us as his people. “Walk away from the stairs….take the path to the left and thou shalt avoid the stairs of doom.” Any man waving a stick of beef is a wise old friend of mine. We ran away from the death stairs and found a simpler path to the top. Most people were taking this path back down, but we were among the smart few. Still steep and containing another 50-60 stairs, these were not as steep as the stairs of doom. Still exhausted, we made it to the top, downed more water, and tried not to puke….probably shouldn’t have had all that Spam for breakfast….
The view from the top truly was stunning and we were happy that we did, in fact, conquer the crater. Now I know why people call the Diamond Head trek a once-in-a-lifetime experience – ‘cause there ain’t no way in hell I am doing that again! The walk down the path was cake compared to the hell that was the other direction and we were rewarded with fresh pineapple and some Hawaiian shaved ice from the nice lady in the parking lot food truck. Aloha!