We hiked to the highest point on Diamond Head yesterday, its stunning views all but ruined by swarms of other visitors armed with cameras and camcorders and ushering along noisy and sometimes unhappy children, up the short but steep trail of slick tuff that includes three sets of metal stairs, two tunnels and a final spiral staircase to the top.
At the Fire Control Tower on the Le’ahi Summit, it was elbow to elbow, so much togetherness in fact that I sat down a couple of times with my camera and trekking pole and just looked at the simplest thing I could find. My feet. It was not surprising to see so many Asian faces. After all, Hawaii is truly, and thankfully, America’s foreign country. I shot my obligatory photos, downtown Honolulu, Waikiki and the Diamond Head lighthouse, then descended with Nebra on the now less busy trail as the 6 o’clock closing time loomed.
The hike had started with a pleasant surprise as the Elantra emerged inside the crater from the narrow Kahala Tunnel and paid the $5 admission fee per vehicle.
Unlike Haleakala, Diamond Head’s smoky, arid big-brother on Maui, we found the inside of dwarfish Diamond Head lush with trees and tropical plants. And birds. I added two avian creatures to my life list here by the trailhead. One was the Brazilian Cardinal, a dazzling red-head with a white border for a neck, the other a black-crested Red-Vented Bulbil, an invasive that gobbles up orchids like pie, causing growers havoc to the tune of $800,000 annually.
Inside the crater it is idllyic. A hush of the outside world. The cacophony of Honolulu and the residential areas that snuggle up to the sides of Diamond Head, vanish. You think for a moment you are in another world. Another world, anyway, until you hit the cement walkway that starts the 560-foot rise to the summit over 8/10 of a mile.
If nothing else, we chose the right time of day for the hike. When we left the parking lot and trailhead, it was 4 o’clock. The trail was mostly in shadow, and we missed baking in the sun of morning and early afternoon.
Diamond Head, I found, is not a hike I would want to repeat. Good physical exercise, but mentally aggravating. Tourists ae loving this place to death. Statistics show 800,000 visitors annually. That’s an average of 2,192 a day. I think we passed every one of them today.
On vacations, though, there are some thing you have to do. And reaching the summit of one of the world’s most-recognized landmarks was one of them.
But on vacations like this, you have to do some of the obvious stuff. And reaching the summit on Diamond Head was one of them.