Diamond Head crater soon will start getting upgrades including stabilized trails, protection against rockfalls and potentially a new path to the summit with its spectacular view of urban Honolulu and the Pacific beyond.
The park, accessible by a tunnel through the landmark crater, is one of Hawaii's most popular attractions, with more than 2,000 visitors a day.
Work is expected to begin by the end of this year after lawmakers allocated $4.4 million and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle released a previously allocated $700,000 for improvements to the trail and park area of the popular Diamond Head State Monument.
"This is the first of that kind of money for Diamond Head," said Dan Quinn, state parks administrator. "I think lawmakers have become aware of our needs to keep up with resources, particularly to those parks as heavily visited as Diamond Head."
One of the first priorities will be stabilizing the rock face above the access tunnel, as well as other safety work throughout the state park and along Diamond Head Road.
Later, a one-way loop trail could be added at the summit to route people down the trail without creating gridlock in the bunker area and on the cramped spiral staircase inside the crater wall.
Diana Forte, a 48-year-old accountant visiting Hawaii for the first time, said she would like to see a new pathway after getting stuck in a backup of hikers near the top of the trail.
"There were a lot of people there," said Forte, of Long Island, N.Y. "We had to wait for everyone before we could get down."
The money should help prevent rockfalls similar to one in May that injured a woman picnicking at the base of the cliff near the Diamond Head lighthouse. She suffered head and back injuries.
The improvements may take several years to complete.