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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Diamond Head

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© Getty Images WAIKIKI BEACH AND DIAMOND HEAD (photo via hipho / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

By Will McGough, TravelPulse

Everyone knows the image of Diamond Head, but few know its history. From human sacrifices to military occupation, a book written by local author Denby Fawcett, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide, pull back the curtain on O’ahu’s iconic formation. Here are five things you might not know:

Diamond Head is not a volcano all its own.

The unique formation is a vent of the larger Ko’olau Volcano that makes up O’ahu’s east side. It was formed approximately 800,000 years ago as part of the Honolulu Volcanic Series, in which the Ko’olau Volcano erupted for the final time, producing several well-known formations, including Diamond Head, Punchbowl, Koko Head, and Hanauma Bay.

It was once a site of human sacrifice.

Several sacred alters, or heiaus, once graced the hillside of Diamond Head, and at least one was used for human sacrifice. The most famous luakini heiau (human sacrifice temple) was known as Papa’ena’ena. Here, religious ceremonies and human sacrifices were held to appease and gain favor with the Gods. There are no ruins of Papa’ena’ena to speak of today due to the rapid and voracious development of Waikiki.

“Although the slopes of Diamond Head have stood witness to some of the bloodiest rituals of Hawaiian religion, this same mountain has been the enchanting landmark that lingers on as the symbol of Waikiki.”—from Secrets of Diamond Head by Denby Fawcett.

After the overthrow of the Monarchy, it was the site of an epic battle between activists and the new government.

In 1895, two years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy by the United States, a three-day skirmish took place on the hillsides of Diamond Head. Royalists, armed with rifles and pistols, took the high ground and fired down on troops of the new government, who returned fire with cannons. The government troops were able to hold off the resistance and eventually imprisoned most of the uprising’s leaders.

The U.S. military took over Diamond Head in the years leading up to World War I.

Wary of a Japanese invasion during World War I, the U.S. military turned Diamond Head into a giant watchtower, stationing more than 1,000 men in its crater, building a series of tunnels and arming its slopes with turret guns. The guns are gone. The tunnels remain but are closed to the public.

There used to be live concerts inside Diamond Head Crater.

The first commercial concert to take place inside Diamond Head was the Diamond Head Crater Festival in 1969, and many more followed throughout the 1970s and beyond. The last concert to take place inside the Crater was in 2006.

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