Hey there my travel enthusiasts and welcome to my post where we will check out my 6 best scuba diving spots in Hawaii. With its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life, Hawaii is a paradise for scuba divers of all levels.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, Hawaii offers a range of dive sites that cater to all skill levels. So, whether you’re interested in exploring lava tubes, swimming with manta rays or diving with sharks, Hawaii has it all.
Best Scuba Diving Spots in Hawaii
As above, Hawaii is home to some of the best dive sites in the world, offering a variety of marine life, underwater landscapes and unique experiences. Here are some of the most popular Hawaiian islands for scuba diving and what you can expect to see underwater.
1. Kona – The Big Island
Kona, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is arguably one of the most famous dive areas in the state and is renowned for some of the very best scuba diving experiences in Hawaii. The region boasts over 50 dive sites along its captivating western shoreline. Here are some highlights:
- Night-time Encounter with Manta Rays: One of the standout experiences in Kona is the night-time dive with manta rays. During this dive, divers can witness dozens of these majestic pelagic giants sweeping silently through the beams of torches which provides a mesmerizing spectacle as the mantas gracefully glide and somersault through the water, feeding on the plankton.
- Underwater Lava Formations: Kona’s underwater landscape is marked by fascinating lava formations that create unique topographies and habitats for a variety of marine life.
- Blackwater Diving: Kona offers divers the opportunity to try blackwater diving which involves venturing out at night over deep waters. Here, divers wait for the “biochemistry magic” to happen which includes witnessing hundreds of larval-stage critters rising to the surface accompanied by squids and unusual jellyfish.
- Popular Dive Sites: Some of the well-known dive sites in Kona include the Eel Cove, Turtle Pinnacle and Long Lava Tube. Each site offers its own unique diving experience and a chance to encounter diverse marine life.
While Kona’s west coast is the primary attraction for divers, the Big Island also has great spots around its east and south coasts. These areas might be less frequented but are equally intriguing. For instance, shore diving from Hilo provides opportunities to spot turtles, spinner dolphins and even whales. Additionally, the black sands at Punaluu offer a distinctive diving backdrop as well.
Check out these: Best Whale Watching Spots in Hawaii
2. Molokini Crater – Maui
Maui is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery, but it also has some amazing dive sites. One of the most famous is Molokini Crater, a partially submerged volcanic crater that is home to a diverse array of marine life.
Molokini Crater is located just a 30-minute boat ride from Maui and stands out not just for its shape but also for the rich marine life it supports. The crater is designated as a Marine Life Conservation District, which means it’s a protected area that aims to conserve and replenish marine resources. As a result, the waters here are teeming with colorful and diverse marine life.
Divers here can spot Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunuku apua’a which, with its distinct and vibrant colors, is a treat to observe in its natural habitat. And during the winter months, it’s not uncommon for divers to encounter humpback whales in this area.
Outside of the crate, Maui offers a couple of other interesting wreck dives as well. Two notable wrecks are the St. Anthony and the Carthaginian both of which lie within recreational dive limits and were intentionally sunk to serve as artificial reefs.
Over time, they have become habitats for large schools of various fish species including damselfish, surgeonfish, goatfish and butterflyfish.
3. Drift Dives – Molokai
Molokai boasts a pristine reef system that offers a wide array of fantastic dive sites. The depth of these sites varies, with shallow coral formations transitioning to deeper walls.
A significant feature of diving in Molokai is the drift dives. Given the ocean currents in certain areas, divers can experience the thrill of being gently carried along by the current allowing them to cover a larger area and observe the changing underwater landscapes and marine life without exerting much effort.
Molokai’s waters are home to a rich variety of marine life as well where divers have the opportunity to spot elusive pelagic species such as the Hawaiian monk seal which is an endangered species and a rare sight. Additionally, there’s a chance to encounter hammerhead sharks which are both majestic and awe-inspiring.
Popular Dive Sites:
- Some of the renowned dive sites in Molokai include:
- Fish Bowl: Known for its abundance of fish, making it feel like you’re diving in a giant, natural aquarium.
- Fish Rain: Aptly named for the sensation of being surrounded by a “rain” of fish, this site offers a mesmerizing experience.
- Deep Corner: This site is teeming with smaller fish life and rare marine animals, making it a treat for macro photographers and enthusiasts.
The drift dives in Molokai, combined with the chance to spot rare and diverse marine life, make it a unique diving destination. The waters here offer a blend of tranquility and adventure making it suitable for both novice and experienced divers alike.
4. Cave Dives – Lanai
Lanai is most commonly accessed via a 45-minute boat crossing from Maui where one of the standout features of diving is its caves and caverns. These underwater structures offer exceptional visibility allowing divers to explore the intricate details of the caves and the marine life that inhabits them.
Popular Dive Sites:
- Cathedral I & Cathedral II: Named for their cathedral-like appearance, these are perhaps the most famous dive sites in Lanai. Both are vast chambers that divers can enter through a vaulted arch, which allows just enough sunlight to penetrate, illuminating the interiors. Inside, divers can observe tube corals and sponges growing on large boulders scattered across the floor. The play of light and the serene ambiance inside these “cathedrals” make for a surreal and unforgettable diving experience.
- Lanai’s underwater landscape is marked by its fascinating topography, which includes not just the famous cathedrals but also other formations like tunnels, archways and ledges. These structures provide habitats for a variety of marine species and offer divers a playground to explore.
Diverse Marine Encounters:
- Apart from the usual reef fish and corals, divers in Lanai can also encounter larger marine species and have the chance to spot some of the rarer creatures that are not commonly seen in other Hawaiian diving spots.
In summary, Lanai offers a unique diving experience characterized by its fascinating underwater topography and the presence of unusual marine species. The combination of exploration and the chance to witness rare marine life makes Lanai a must-visit for divers seeking something out of the ordinary.
5. Wreck Diving – Oahu
Oahu stands out as the premier destination for wreck diving in Hawaii. With at least 10 wrecks easily accessible to recreational divers in its waters, Oahu offers a diverse range of underwater experiences centered around these sunken structures.
- Corsair Airplane Wreck: Perhaps one of the most famous wrecks around Oahu is the airplane wreck of the Corsair. This aircraft crashed and sank in 1946 and now rests on the ocean floor providing a unique dive site. Over the years, it has become an artificial reef, attracting various marine species.
- YO-257 and San Pedro: These two shipwrecks sit close to each other in less than 100 feet of water off the coast at Waikiki. Both ships were intentionally sunk by the Atlantis Submarine Company to enhance their tourist submarine trips. Over time, these wrecks have transformed into vibrant artificial reefs. Divers visiting these sites can encounter marine life such as eagle rays, pufferfish, frogfish, and numerous turtles.
- Sea Tiger Wreck: Located near Waikiki, the Sea Tiger wreck sits at a depth of 120 feet and offers some penetration dives allowing divers to explore the interiors of the wreck. The use of an underwater strobe can help capture the vivid colors of marine life that have made the wreck their home as well.
For those seeking a different kind of thrill, Oahu also offers shark cage diving trips off its North Shore. Hawaii is home to 40 of the world’s approximately 140 shark species. Participants in these cage diving experiences can expect to see a variety of sharks including Galapagos, sandbar, and tiger sharks. Occasionally, divers might also spot blue, silky, or hammerhead sharks. I have done this and cannot recommend it highly enough.
6. Sea Turtles Galore – Kauai
Kauai is renowned for its encounters with Hawaiian green sea turtles. These gentle creatures are often seen in various dive sites around Kauai, gracefully gliding through the water or resting on the seabed.
Popular Dive Sites:
- Sheraton Caverns: One of the most popular diving spots in Kauai, Sheraton Caverns is known for its abundance of Hawaiian green sea turtles. The caverns provide a natural habitat for these turtles and divers can often see them up close, swimming or resting among the rock formations.
- Prince Kuhio’s: Another site where divers can frequently encounter sea turtles. The calm and clear waters here make it an ideal location for both novice and experienced divers to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural environment.
- Turtle Bluffs: This dive site is home to several turtle cleaning stations, where sea turtles come to have parasites and algae removed by cleaner fish. It’s a unique spectacle as the turtles remain still, allowing the smaller fish to clean them. Whitetip reef sharks are also commonly seen at these cleaning stations.
- Tunnels Beach: Known for its impressive geological formations, Tunnels Beach offers divers the chance to explore collapsed lava tubes of the inner and outer reefs. Apart from sea turtles, this site is also a great place to spot octopuses and other marine life. Additionally, the sounds of humpback whales singing can often be heard underwater during dives in this area.
- For the incredibly fortunate divers, there’s a chance to not only hear but also see humpback whales during certain times of the year. These majestic creatures migrate to Hawaiian waters and can occasionally be spotted during dives.
- If conditions permit, divers are also encouraged to explore the nearby waters of Niihau, which offer some of the best scuba diving experiences in Hawaii.
In summary, Kauai offers a unique diving experience centered around its abundant sea turtle population. The combination of clear waters, fascinating underwater topography and the chance to encounter a variety of marine life makes Kauai a must-visit destination for divers. Whether you’re observing sea turtles at cleaning stations or exploring the intricate lava tubes, Kauai promises a memorable underwater adventure.
Types of Diving in Hawaii
Hawaii offers a variety of diving experiences for all levels of divers, from beginners to advanced. Here are some of the types of diving you can expect to experience in Hawaii:
Night diving is a popular activity in Hawaii, especially for those who want to experience the magic of the ocean after dark. During a night dive, you can see a variety of marine life that is not visible during the day such as octopuses, eels and crabs. One of the most popular night dives in Hawaii is the manta ray night dive, where you can witness these graceful creatures feeding on plankton.
Drift diving is a thrilling experience that allows you to float along with the current and observe the marine life around you. Hawaii is known for its strong currents, which make it an ideal location for drift diving. During a drift dive, you can see a variety of marine life, including sharks, dolphins and turtles.
Hawaii has a rich history of shipwrecks, making it a popular destination for wreck diving. Some of the most popular wrecks to explore include the YO-257, Sea Tiger, Corsair, and Carthaginian. Wreck diving in Hawaii is a unique experience that allows you to explore these underwater time capsules and witness the marine life that has made them their home.
Cavern diving is a unique experience that allows you to explore underwater caves and tunnels. Hawaii is home to several cavern diving sites including the Sheraton Caverns. These sites offer a unique perspective on the underwater world and allow you to witness marine life that is not visible in open water.
Diving Conditions and Safety
When it comes to scuba diving in Hawaii, safety should always be your top priority. Before you dive, make sure you have the proper certification and training and if you’re a beginner, consider taking a guided tour with a certified instructor who can help you navigate the waters safely.
Hawaii’s waters can also be unpredictable, so it’s important to be aware of the current conditions. Check the weather forecast and ocean conditions before you head out. Strong currents, waves and tides can make diving dangerous, so it’s best to avoid diving during high surf or rough conditions.
If you’re an advanced diver, Hawaii offers some of the best diving in the world. However, even experienced divers should be cautious and aware of their surroundings. Always dive with a buddy and make sure you have the proper equipment and training for the dive site you plan to visit.
For snorkelers, Hawaii’s clear and shallow waters offer a chance to see colorful fish, coral reefs, and other marine life up close. However, it’s important to remember that snorkeling can also be dangerous, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer or if you venture too far from shore. Always wear a life jacket and stay within your limits.
What are some of the best scuba diving spots in Hawaii?
Hawaii is famous for its beautiful and diverse underwater landscapes, making it a popular destination for scuba diving enthusiasts. Some of the best scuba diving spots in Hawaii include Molokini Crater, which is known for its clear water and diverse marine life, and the Kona Coast, which is home to manta rays and sea turtles. Other popular spots include the North Shore of Oahu, Lahaina in Maui and the Napali Coast in Kauai.
What is the cost of scuba diving in Hawaii?
The cost of scuba diving in Hawaii varies depending on the location and the dive operator. On average, a single dive can cost between $80 and $150. However, many dive operators offer packages that include multiple dives at a discounted rate. It is important to note that some operators may charge additional fees for equipment rental or certification courses.
There you have it, 6 best scuba diving spots in Hawaii. As usual, let me know of your experiences here or if there is anywhere you think I need to add.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time.