Which Hawaiian Island Has The Best Scuba Diving?
Which Hawaiian Island Has The Best Scuba Diving?
The answer would be that the Big Island diving is quite simply the best. It typically takes place in the west or the leeward coast of the island. You simply won't find any more varied place to dive. There's a little something for everyone. From caves with sleeping sharks to arches with eagle rays, and all sorts of tunnels, craters, and more.
The Big island also has the most fish when compared to the rest of the islands. It's actually home to 1,100 species and you'll notice that 129 of these species are only found in this island chain. When I was diving, I made sure to note unique species such as Moorish idols, raccoon butterfly fish and more. I also loved learning more about the endemic fish like the Potter's angelfish and some of the wrasse species.
Just because the Big island has the best diving, doesn't mean that you're going to have a great experience. I've had good AND bad dives on all the islands. To get idea of how to get the most from your dives, I've broken down some of the dives to try. If you're going to do some exploring, I've also included a few diving recommendations on the other islands.
Dives on the Big Island
1. Keauhou BayIf you're on the big island and like diving at night, then make sure to try the underwater shelf at this beach. You can get down to about 35 feet and notice as the mantas swoop overhead. The underwater lights that are used to attract their desired dinner of plankton makes it a mesmerizing experience. You might not be able to see as much as you would in the daytime, but this is one of my favorites for a reason. I always make it a priority to check out this nighttime dive when I'm in the area.
2. Black Water Dive
Now this dive also takes place at night, but it's a completely different experience! You'll find this dive under a few different names but the black water dive is what I like to call it. It's not going to be a great experience for amateurs so only take on this dive if you feel like you have the expertise. It was challenging for me!
You'll be diving off the coast in a section of the ocean where the bottom is 6,000 feet. It's probably one of the weirdest and coolest dives I've ever done. I saw all sorts of oddities from jellies to tetrapods. One of the most amazing experiences though was the Pyrosoma, a species that emits their own light. This dive is not for the faint of heart though! I was terrified the first time I took it on.
3. Kona Coast Dive
This dive is probably one of my favorites and one I recommend if you enjoy seeing a lot on one diving trip. There are a few different dives sites along the Kona coast but they're all pretty spectacular. This dive should be done on a bright day so you can enjoy all that the area has to offer. Make sure to check out the old lava formations and take note of all the different fish around you.
If you're lucky, you might be able to spot an octopus or see a resting white tip reef shark. I loved the diversity of this dive and there's always something new to explore. I loved the swim-throughs, the caves to explore, and overhangs that broke up the area. They make great places for elusive species to hide so make sure that you explore and give yourself enough time to really experience the dive. Although this is a great one for people of all ages, it's good for beginning divers also.
Scuba Diving in Oahu
Oahu is kind of a party island so I used to avoid it. However, I found that it's more than just nightlife and surfing. Just a few minutes away from the shoreline, I found a wide range of diving opportunities suited to almost any skill level. Just a short boat ride away from wrecks, walls, and lush reeds, Oahu is probably my second favorite place to go diving.
What makes diving in Oahu an experience is the multiple wrecks you can view. The San Pedro and Sea Tiger are located in Honolulu or South Shore so make sure you check them out. You'll also find Kewalo Pipe and Turtle Canyon. The southeastern harbor of Hawaii Kai is one of my top spots to explore. You can experience sunken barges, a Corsair fighter plane wreck, and the beautiful Sea Cave.
If you don't mind doing a little more work, then consider checking out the Hakaha Caverns. The North Shore is more work to reach and only calm enough for diving in the summer months but also a great time.
If you only have time for one dive on Oahu though, make sure to check out one that will take you to the Navy Tug. This was a little tug boat that the US Navy used until it sank just before 2012. It's not the only wreck in the area but it's one of the best ones for divers. It sits not far away from Pearl Harbor. Make sure that when you do this dive, you keep an eye out for the sandbar sharks. They're not dangerous but it's fun to see them moving to catch their prey.
Scuba Diving in Kauai
When someone told me about the diving in Kauai, it sounded too good to be true. Also known as being the garden isle, this spot features a tropical rainforest. What surprised me about the island is that it offered some of the more rugged scuba diving in the island chain. If you're looking for an off the beaten path diving experience, then Kauai or the neighboring island Niihau are the spots for you!
When talking with a local diver, he mentioned that Niihau is known as being a forbidden island. It's off limits to outsiders and is actually owned by a family since the 19th century. It's now a protected habitat for a few endangered species like the monk seal.
I wasn't sure that I'd be able to access the dive but in the warmer months, you can find operators in Kauai that offer day trips. Just a simple warning though, the dives are for more advanced divers. If you want a more relaxed experience, then the southern shores are probably where you want to go. The coral formations aren't as amazing as other islands but it's still a fun experience.
If you are an experienced diver though, then I'd recommend the vertical awareness dive. It's known for having scores of pelagics with unique drop-offs and impressive underwater landscapes. You'll be able to see for miles, it seems like! Under the boat, sandbar sharks circle a pinnacle that's been worn down by rock-boring urchins. While it's a fun dive all on its own, my favorite part of the trip was being able to see the Hawaiian monk seal. Our guide told us that there were less than 1,500 of the seals remaining and are actually one of the rarest mammals on earth. They're friendly and gentle, so while I couldn't get very close, I loved seeing them from a distance.
What rounded out my trip of dives would have to be Sheraton Caverns in Kauai. Many divers talk about being able to dive with the sea turtles. While it's not a huge draw for me, I like dives where I get to see the turtles. This is a site that's just off Poipu beach but it's probably easiest to do as a boat dive. The sunlit caverns are a great time and you'll be swimming with green sea turtles and bluestripe snapper. They're so used to divers, they won't even pay you any attention! It's also a great dive if you're more of a novice diver the depth is about 30-60 feet with very little current so try this when you need a site for a simple dive.
Scuba Diving Travel Tips
Now that I've taken you some of my favorite dives, remember that scuba diving in Hawaii is an incredibly popular activity. The first time I went, I missed out on some great dives by not planning ahead. You can schedule tours and dives ahead of time and you may want to do this if you can. There will probably be some diving experiences available even if you don't but you might miss out on the best options. If you're short on time, the Big island is the place to go but keep in mind that all of the islands have something unique to offer. Happy diving!