Oʻahu might be the gathering place, but Lēʻahi, or Diamond Head, is where the island congregates.
It makes sense that the most prominent landmark on the island attracts locals and tourists, dog walkers and marathon trainers, and—still—surfers. Sunset and set watchers making use of trails and lookouts, lefts and rights, windy or glassy.
Photos by Josiah Patterson
A beacon even without its lighthouse, Diamond Head has a welcoming, pulling effect. You find your eyes straining through alleys, your body shifting around corners just to get a slightly different glimpse from a new vantage point. It is an everyday exercise reminiscent of Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, a looming backdrop to everyday life, always physically present but never the absolute focus.
Hokusai, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, woodblock print, c. 1830
Diamond Head looks different outside of Waikīkī. It becomes less of an iconic silhouette or symbolic shape and more of a purely geological formation. Its crater rim appears more natural from the surrounding neighborhoods of Kaimukī and Kāhala and even from the ridges of the Koʻolau Range.
But arguably the best view of Diamond Head is from above, where it acts as Oʻahu’s hello and goodbye and where the waves seem constant and endless.