We just got home late last night from a quick little trip down to Hawaii. Hubby and I were lucky enough to be able to sneak away for a few days and without the kids even a 5 hr flight seemed worthwhile for some much-needed time away.
On the flight home we chatted about our favourite parts of the trip and we both immediately agreed that our run up to the Diamond Head State Monument was a big highlight.
On my first run of the trip I did a quick check on mapmyrun.com and saw that running around the base of Diamond Head would make for a decent route. I had 10 km at race pace to do that day so I took advantage of the Vancouver-Hawaii time change and headed off with hubby in tow.
We did 5 km out and back and it was a long old hill but when we got to the top of it, we realized just how far up the volcano we’d gone already. It got me thinking that maybe a run right up to the top might be a good idea.
I Googled around to see just how long it might take and how much elevation gain was involved and most sources said it was a long, tough hike up the crater so I wasn’t sure at first. When I thought about the elevation gain being just under 200 ft and the fact that the unpaved portion of the trail was less than 2 km, I figured it would be within my range and from the few sites I found about actually running to the top, decided I’d go for it. What better way to check out a popular point of interest than on foot!
We got up even earlier on Sunday morning a) to beat the heat and b) to hopefully beat some of the tourists. We’d gotten a bit ahem, burnt on our first day at the beach and I really didn’t want to find myself on an exposed trail in the hot sun. Sunday morning actually turned out to be overcast with a bit of drizzle here and there so it was perfect!
We headed south along the main drag of Waikiki Beach (Kalakaua Ave) and turned in toward the volcano on Monsarrat Ave which eventually becomes Diamond Head Road. The climb began around 2 km and was not crazy but steady until we entered the crater itself and hit the parking lot somewhere between 4 and 5 km. We paid our $1 pedestrian park fee and carried on to the summit trail.
The trail starts in the parking lot and takes you up the inside of the crater to the military bunker and outlook at the top. It starts off as a nice, wide concrete sidewalk so it was super easy running at the beginning. A little ways in we came to the start of the dirt trail and it became a bit steeper from this point on. The trail itself was well-worn, packed dirt with imbedded rocks but still very runnable if you’ve done any hill training or trail running.
We were able to weave our way along the trail, passing the walkers whenever we had a chance. Most of them were huffing and puffing pretty good so I felt a bit bad running past them all like it was no big deal but we tried to be as polite and respectful as possible as we made our way up the switchbacks. We definitely got stuck in stretches where we couldn’t pass but it made for a few nice little breaks on the constant uphill.
Eventually we got to the base of the bunker and here the trail splits – you can either go straight up a long set of steep, concrete stairs or you could go around on a longer but more gentle path. I had read to just take the stairs and get there quicker so that’s what we did.
After these stairs the trail went through a fairly long tunnel with only dim, foot lights. It was pretty dark and creepy and I couldn’t really tell where the ceiling was so I scooted my way through hunched over. On the other side of the tunnel was another set of stairs, this time, a creepy old spiral staircase that went up inside the bunker to the top.
And finally, at the top of the spiral staircase we made it to the top of the bunker and had to crawl out through a small opening in the concrete (only a couple of feet of clearance) to find ourselves on what felt like the top of the world. It was stunning.
It was pretty much 360 degree views of Honolulu and the coastline and it was gorgeous. We could see down over the beautiful homes we’d run past on the lower road a couple days before…
And the view to the southeast was pretty nice too. It was an overcast day but the sun peeked through the clouds and was just beautiful. There were signs to ‘keep off’ the top of the bunker but a group of people had climbed up to sit for awhile and I just thought it looked so pretty…
I also enjoyed being able to see inland which we didn’t have a feel for since we had been staying down at the beach…
We hung out at the top for a little while before starting to cool down too much so we headed back off down the trail. As much as I don’t exactly ‘enjoy’ climbing, I know I always love the downhill and I was looking forward to making our way down again.
Thankfully it wasn’t too busy on our way down and we were pretty much able to run the whole thing. The footing was pretty good so it was easy to let go and run fast. It was pretty smooth sailing except for the one spot where I almost tripped but was able to save myself before what would have been a bad superman-style fall. Phew!
From the parking lot it was back along the road and through the tunnel on the opposite side of the crater and down through the neighbourhoods to the beach. There was actually a food truck set up in the parking lot but since it was so early we weren’t quite ready for burgers and tacos but they also had water and Gatorade so that would have been nice had we needed it.
The rest of our run was pretty uneventful but it would have been pretty hard to top where we’d just come from anyway. The round trip distance was just under 12 km from our hotel on Waikiki Beach and although there were pretty steady climbs involved, it was entirely manageable if you’re used to any sort of hill running at all.
As we made it back to the beach and ran the final few km to our hotel, that pretty rainbow even made another appearance…
It was an outing we totally hadn’t planned on doing but I am so glad we decided to give it a go. I’m even more glad that Hubby wanted to come along so that he could see it too. (It was also fun to show him a glimpse of what all this trail running I’ve been doing is like!) The views were so stunning from up there and it felt pretty rad to have gotten there entirely on foot. Sight seeing and marathon training combined all in one – perfect!
Have you ever run or hiked the Diamond Head crater?