By Lisa Scontras | Photos by Davin Iyamatsu
But for residents of the community neighboring this most famous landmark, the draw includes more than spectacular views and palm trees - it is the vibrant energy, an appreciation of the arts, and an enthusiastic participation in life that defines the heart of the population of Diamond Head.
Whether it's joining an early morning tai chi group in Kapiolani Park or a yoga class on the beach while the sun rises, hiking Diamond Head, talking story with farmers while sampling their delectable island produce, or enjoying a stage performance at the theater, the attitude here centers around feeding the human spirit.
"There is a camaraderie among the residents in Diamond Head," says Dawn Soderquist Okano, Realtor Associate at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties. "There is a special-ness that you only find in certain places. At the end of the day we often will take our dog and walk to Diamond Head lookout to watch the sunset. There is a peacefulness there. It's a great way to end the day."
With its close proximity to Waikiki, there is a definite synergy that spills over into the area.
"The beach and the ocean are most definitely a big part of the attraction," says Soderquist Okano. "You can hop in the ocean and surf, go kayaking, swimming, or you can bike, you can run, hike … for people who love the outdoors, it's a great location."
For Carolyn Haley, longtime resident in the area, seeing Diamond Head still takes her breath away.
"For me, Diamond Head is the landmark for my neighborhood and seeing it means I'm home," says Haley. "In fact, when driving towards Diamond Head, especially in the springtime, it becomes a traffic hazard for me. In the autumn, the sun has a golden way of hitting Diamond Head, adding more color to it and making it look like it sprang from a postcard."
One of Haley's favorite parts about living in the area is the ethnic diversity. Not only the festivals, like the Okinawan, Filipino and Korean annual events in Kapiolani Park, but mix of backgrounds of her neighbors.
"We have virtually every race represented in our neighborhood," says Haley. " I like walking around in the evening and smelling all kinds of foods being cooked. It smells so good."
"The neighbors seem to all get along," she adds. "New Years and Halloween are especially fun as everyone seems to be out and socializing."
Spontaneous get-togethers happen at holiday time and year round at Kapiolani Park as well.
"There's a nice group of residents that go down to the park for our annual Fourth of July picnic with a bunch of the neighbors," says Soderquist Okano.
Convenience is another reason folks love living in Diamond Head. Close to Waikiki, Kahala Mall and Downtown, restaurants and the Farmers Market, make the location prime.
"I also like Sunset on the Beach, we always walk to that," says Haley. "And the May Day activities at Kapiolani Park are always awesome."
Waikiki ArtFest draws locals and tourists alike once a month at Kapiolani Park, and is a wonderful place to find special Made-in-Hawaii gifts for Christmas.
Residents might spend the day talking with more local artists at the Art on the Zoo Fence event held every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. across from Kapiolani Park. Art lovers can buy one-of-a-kind pieces on exhibit, minus the gallery mark-ups.
At the top of the list for families are the Waikiki Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium, which is home to two endangered Hawaiian monk seals, Nuka and Maka.
Opportunities to own real estate in the Diamond Head neighborhood currently range from a 1-bedroom, 1-bath condo at Hale Pua Lei for $289,000, fee simple, to nearly $9 million for a perimeter home at Black Point.
"The high-end market is picking up again," says Soderquist Okano. "Exchange rates are good so we're seeing a lot more Asian buyers."
Limited supply keeps demand up in the Diamond Head area, with only 137 direct oceanfront lots between the Outrigger Canoe Club to The Kahala Hotel & Resort.
"I have lived in Diamond Head for nearly 30 years and my clients are buying today for the same reasons we did back then," says Lisa Haeringer, Realtor at Coldwell Banker. "Many families hold on to their homes for generations here, so there is less turnover. But those who have purchased here recently, have felt that even with the real estate market's peaks and valleys, they made a good investment in Diamond Head."
To preserve existing views and the natural appearance of Diamond Head, there is separate building code designating the area as a Special District. Regulations call for specific building height, set back, landscape and architectural design requirements, one of which restricts new high-rise construction or development in the area.
"It seems we never have enough homes to sell in Diamond Head," says Haeringer. "The buyers are there, we just need the inventory."
"The value of the condos directly on the water is because there are only so many of them," says Anne Hogan Perry, Realtor at Coldwell Banker. "There are very few places you can buy a condo directly on the water. That's what makes it valuable."
It is for this reason that condos in the area can be pricey.
"The majority of the over-$3-million-dollar condo market has been on the Gold Coast in the last two years," says Hogan Perry. "We've seen three sales this year in excess of $3 million."
Diamond Head is known all over the world for the water, the sunshine, the weather and the incredible real estate here.
"I feel as if I live on a little deserved part of an island, where palm trees sway and waves roll gently up onto the sand, yet I am only minutes from town, restaurants, shopping and night life," says Haeringer.
"You can find cottage-y bungalows and estates all around this incredible monument," says Hogan Perry. "Diamond Head is a lifestyle. It gives you energy and makes you feel good."
Queen Kapiolani Park
Listed on the State's Historic Register for its majestic 100-year-old trees, Queen Kapiolani Park's 500 acres is the region's gathering place.
Home to art shows, concerts, tennis courts, baseball and softball diamonds, soccer and rugby fields and an archery range, Kapiolani Park is perhaps the best example of the locale's citizenry coming together. Cultural festivals throughout the year, offer a sampling of the diverse customs and cuisine with traditional delicacies from around the world, while celebrating what brings folks together.
Regular morning joggers, surfers, cyclists and dog walkers frequent the park for a daily dose of endorphins with the backdrop of Diamond Head to inspire them.
At the Waikiki Shell Amphitheater, concert attendees have seen memorable performances by Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffett, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones, as well as local megastars Jack Johnson, Cecilio and Kapono, Amy Hanaiali'i, Makaha Sons, John Cruz and Jake Shimabukuro. Open-air concerts here have a certain magic found nowhere else.
Free parking at the Shell offers easy access to south shore beaches and some of the best surf (and boogie board) spots around, including Grave Yards, at Kapahulu and Kalakaua, where when the tide is low, the reef sticks out like headstones; Publics in front of Queen's Beach, named for its proximity to the public restrooms; and Duke's, out from Duke Kahanamoku's statue.
On the corner of Leahi Avenue and Pualei Circle, is one of Oahu's most lovely community gardens.
Condo living often lacks one homebody element: the ability to have a garden. Residents here can rent plots to grow nutritious food to feed their family and save money.
According to Allan Dougherty, a Diamond Head resident, the popularity of growing produce organically has increased, even in the four years since he's had a plot there.
Clockwise: Waikiki Aquarium, Kapiolani Communicty College, KCC Farmers Market, Queen Kapiolani Park
"There are about 100 plots here, I think, and about 50 people on a waiting list to get in," says Dougherty, who lives in a Gold Coast condo and walks to the garden regularly. "I grow lots of greens, collard greens, kale, Swiss chard. And then I grow herbs - tarragon, basil and parsley, and a lot of lettuce for salads."
Gardening is credited with both psychological and physiological benefits, while growing a sense of community, healthy families, and a connection with nature.
"I've met some very nice people here," says Dougherty. "It's always very nice to meet fellow gardeners."
Goodies from the garden make wonderful gifts. Put a big red bow on a box full of greens and treat your friends to homegrown love.
Clockwise: Diamond Head Community Garden, Bark Park, Diamond Head Theatre, The Honolulu Zoo
The favorite hangout of Diamond Head dogs is Bark Park, located on the corner of Diamond Head Road and 18th Avenue just across from the entrance to Diamond Head state monument.
At this popular neighborhood amenity, dogs meet other dogs, sniff to their hearts content, play ball, run around with whoever will chase them, roll around in stuff, sniff some more, make friends, … it's a doggy heaven, and of course, no cats allowed.
Seating is available for the two-legged masters, so it's a great place to unwind at the end of a long day.
Bark Park was Hawaii's first ever off-leash dog park, and it's run by volunteers and is very social. Occasionally the group plans potlucks, celebrations and doggy costume contests at Halloween. A Christmas party is scheduled for Dec. 18. For a list of events, check barkparkhonolulu.org.
Dogs give Bark Park a 5-paw rating.
Diamond Head State Park
The postcard view from the top of the world's most famous volcanic crater is as stunning and as well photographed as the landmark itself. The semi-strenuous .7 mile hike to the summit includes a steep, 99-step staircase, a lighted 225-foot tunnel, and a finally a spiral staircase that gives the climb an adventurous quality, and a welcome opportunity to stop along the way for photos (and possibly to catch your breath).
Park on the crater floor and climb up from the monument's interior to the rim, for million-dollar views of Waikiki and from Waianae to Koko Head that will blow you away.
Diamond Head is a popular destination for locals to hike. Some even jog or run up and down the scenic trail daily. Admission is $1 per person per visit, or $10 for an annual pass. Cars pay $5 each visit or $30 for an annual pass.
Photo by Lisa Scontras Coming up in Diamond Head:
Hula Festival (Nov. 11-13)
The 19th Annual World Invitational Hula Festival, featuring dancers from Japan, Guam, Mexico, India, France, Philippines, Spain, Holland, New York, California and Hawaii will compete in this year's exhibition at the Waikiki Shell, Nov. 11, 12, and 13.
Hawaiian-made crafts and products as well as Lomi Lomi massages will be available for purchase at the festival. Tickets are available for $5 for each day's performance.
Christmas craft fair ( Nov. 14)
More than 220 craft booths and food are expected at the Diamond Head Arts & Crafts Fair at Kapiolani Community College Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Honolulu Marathon ( Dec. 12)
Even if you're not looking for the ultimate physical challenge, the Honolulu Marathon is an experience worth every agonizing minute. The event attracts runners from around the world, and there is just something about the sheer determination of the 30,000 plus participants in the race, together with the carnival atmosphere at the finish line in Kapiolani Park that you won't soon forget. This year's race is Dec. 12.