Diamond Head Crater – Le’Ahi

One of the most photographed and acknowledged icons in Hawaii, Diamond Head stands proud on the south shore of Oahu. With a summit of 762 feet above sea level, Diamond Head offers a 365 degree view of the south shore that is truly breath taking. If the view at the summit doesn’t take your breath away, the trail to the top might.

Surprisingly, Diamond Head is not a volcano at all. It is a 200,000 year old volcanic tuff cone formed during a series of eruptions referred to as the “Honolulu Volcanic Series.”

This series of eruptions also created the famous Punchbowl Crater (seen on: Tour 42 – Pearl Harbor War Memorials, Tour 3 – Pearl Harbor & Historic Honolulu, Tour 8 – WWII Start to End, and Tour 2 – A day at Pearl Harbor) an

Hanauma Bay Crater (seen on: Tour 9 – Full Day Scenic Oahu Tour, Tour 7 – Oahu Circle Island Tour with Pearl Harbor, Tour 12 – Pali/Makapuu Costal Tour, and Tour 19 – Dolphin Swim, Pearl Harbor, and Scenic Oahu).

Prior to Diamond Head, the area wascovered by shallow costal water extending to the base of the much older Ko’olau Mountains. A fissure, or crack in the earth’s surface, allowed magma to mix with the shallow water causing a brief, but highly explosive, hyrdomagmatic explosion. The pulverized ash, rock, steam, and debris shot into the sky and settled into the symmetrical crater now known as Diamond Head.

Many people question where Diamond Head got its name. Well, well in ancient times there lived a farmer who sold heads of lettuce for 10 cents on the hillsides of Diamond Head. He would call out, “A Dime a Head! A Dime a Head!” to customers passing by. The name stuck and even today we still call the monumental icon, Diamond Head.

Unfortunately, that story is untrue; Diamond Head’s real name isn’t Diamond Head at all, but Le’Ahi. The Hawaiians named this volcanic tuff cone Le’Ahi for a few different reasons. Ahi is a tuna fish found in the Hawaiian waters, and Diamond Head’s summit mirrors the shape of an Ahi’s dorsal fin. Le’Ahi is also believed to mean “Ring” or “Wreath of Fire.” The native Hawaiians built five heiaus (or temples) out of lava rocks, each with a fire burning used to help navigate outrigger canoes for the Polynesians traveling north from Tahiti and other Pacific islands. The summit housed a special heiau (or temple) dedicated to the god of wind. Human sacrifices were often performed at this location to please the god of wind so that the fires at the heiaus would not be blown out.

With the arrival of British explorers in the early 1800s, Le’Ahi’s name was changed forever. The British found shiny white crystals embedded in the rocky slopes of the crater. The calcite deposits were mistaken as diamonds which gave the crater its modern day name, Diamond Head.

We invite you to discover this magnificent landmark on our new Diamond Head Guided Eco-Hike, Tour 15A. Relax and let one of our professional ecologist guides pick you up from your hotel and guide you along the trail to the summit. Along the trail you will learn about the flora and fauna found inside the crater. Our knowledgeable guides will teach you about the geological, natural, and cultural history of Diamond Head while making sure you have the best experience possible at this iconic location.

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