Hawaii is one of the most spectacular holiday destinations on the planet. Its stunning terrestrial and marine life, delicious local cuisines, and rich culture attract thousands of visitors every year.
But underneath the busy island life rests one of the most breathtaking creations on the universe – the best scuba diving sites. If you are looking for a great spot for your next scuba diving expedition, then consider Hawaii. The magnificent reefs, wrecks, pelagic and macro life will surely give you something to remember. Not only that; the warm waters and outstanding visibility will make your plunge even more enjoyable and worth every while.
There are sites for both experienced divers and beginners and each offers a different experience. Whether you are looking for a challenge or just getting acquainted with a scuba tank and want to find out how your first scuba experience will be like, Hawaii’s got something for all. So here are the best dive sites in Hawaii for any scuba diver looking to have a moment of a lifetime underwater.
1. The Cathedrals
The Cathedrals in Lanai is one of the spots that provide the best scuba diving in Hawaii. It offers a diving depth of between 60 and 70 feet with visibility of about 100 feet.
Both beginner and pro divers can find their underwater Aloha at this spot. The dual pinnacles provided by the Cathedrals offer magnificent caves and arches for an outstanding diving experience.
The caves have a height of up to 20 feet with lava rocks that let pockets of light in. Bring a diving camera and capture those moments with the marine creatures in the caverns. The scene of stained glass windows created when the light passes through the holes in the rocks is something you may want to get on a flick too.
2. Molokini Crater
Located only 30 minutes boat ride from Maui, Molokini Crater is without question a premier spot for diving in Hawaii. Scuba divers and snorkelers flock to this part of the island to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the underwater garden.
Divers can descend up to 70 feet where garden eels, white tip sharks, dolphins, whales, and manta rays of up to 10 feet glide leisurely along. This is a great site for a leisurely drift plunge. With visibility reaching over 30 meters, you will be able to enjoy all the wildlife the water garden has to offer.
3. Manta Night Dive
A visit to Hawaii is not complete without the glorious manta dive. When the sun sets and the rest of the marine creatures tuck into the reefs for the night, mantas start to get active. Every evening, the dive lights from night scuba divers bring in hungry manta rays and plankton.
This is a great moment to have a one-to-one interaction with these nocturnal critters and make once-in-a-lifetime memories. The graceful mantas will be swimming voraciously through the corals in search of something to eat. This is definitely a sight you don’t want to miss.
However, a little caution is needed. If you are going to do any night scuba diving, make sure to invest in a good dive light. A waterproof flashlight will also enable you to see where you are stepping at night. Don’t bring any scuba gear packages or equipment you have not used before, as these may be difficult to operate in the dark.
4. Magic Island
This is yet another amazing site for diving in Hawaii. It is actually a manmade peninsula, not an island as the name suggests. Magic Island is attached to the stunning Ala Moana Beach Park where all types of divers come together to have a taste of what lies underneath the blue seawater.
There is a nice beach at the far end of Magic Island, which is protected by a great sea wall. The spot is therefore safe for divers of all experience levels. If you are a beginner, this will be one of the best places to visit, as you won’t have to worry about large waves or boats coming to this section. It could be a great destination for those who want to learn how to snorkel as well.
You can also dive outside the sea wall although there are so many boaters, so you may not get the peaceful experience you seek. The water can be cloudy too, which could affect visibility. Some of the common marine wildlife to see here include manta rays, porcupine fish, spotted pufferfish, green sea turtles, Moorish idols, morays, fantail filefish, and triggerfish.
5. Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach)
Located in Oahu, Kahe Point Beach houses the most spectacular sand bottom gardens, caves, rocks, coral reefs, and coral heads. The spot is commonly known as Electric Beach, a nickname it got from the HECO power plant sited across the road. Ask any local in Oahu for directions to Kahe Point and they will point you to it because it is pretty easy to find.
The water in this section of the island is warm and clean, which attracts a wide variety of sea life. Just be on the lookout for the underwater outflow pipes connected to the power plant. These shoot out hot water at a very high rate and could be wise to locate them before you take a plunge into the water.
Some of the sea life you will encounter here includes needlefish, spinner dolphin, snapper, and green sea turtle. You may even spot a triggerfish but sometimes you may need an underwater drone to find it, as it is so sneaky.
6. Koko Craters
Koko Craters is among the sites that offer the best scuba diving in Hawaii. It includes a cluster of craters that were formed about ten thousand years ago when the Koko Head broke out. The craters lie in between 25 and 30 feet of water.
This spot is ideal for both skilled and beginner divers. Here you will find plenty of green sea turtles, it’s no wonder the locals have nicknamed the spot “turtle heaven”. Additionally, you will have mind-blowing moments with striped belly puffers, eels, snappers, octopus, potter’s angle fish, scorpionfish, and several other fish species.
7. Koloa Landing
This is also a great spot for diving in Hawaii. Located on the South of Kauai, Koloa Landing has plenty of sea life to offer to scuba divers. Entering the water is easy, which makes it one of the perfect spots for beginner divers.
The waters are still all year round and go to a depth of about 30 feet. One thing that makes Koloa Landing remarkable is the presence of a horseshoe-shaped reef feature that makes diving easy. Some of the marine wildlife to explore here include sea turtles, tropical fishes, and lava tubes.
8. Golden Arches
Golden Arches is located at the Big Island and goes up to 60 feet deep. Getting to this spot is moderately difficult as it can only be accessed by boat.
The waters are clear and provide good visibility for divers to explore the underwater world. The reefs at this side of the island have beautiful coral and a vast collection of marine life including Moorish idols, lemon butterflies, yellowtail coris, needlefish, and lionfish. If you are lucky, you will even spot the rare long nose butterflyfish and Whitney’s boxfish.
You have not been to Hawaii if you haven’t set foot in Niihau! However, Niihau can only be visited between late spring and early autumn. In winter, the spot produces giant swells that are too difficult to combat. Nevertheless, people who are experts in ice diving can still get through but with proper equipment and by following scuba diving safety precautions.
Niihau houses a wide variety of diving spots. Some have walls that go up to 200 feet deep while others are only 20 feet deep. The site is therefore ideal for all divers. If you are a beginner however and want to book your dive vacation in Niihau then you will need to learn a few skills for safe diving. For instance, perfect your scuba diving breathing techniques, improve your buoyancy control, and learn how to save air while diving so you can stay safe underwater.
The healthy reef and clear blue water is home to a variety of marine life including spinner dolphins, monk seals, and other rare fish species.
10. Sea Tiger Wreck
If you love to see real wrecks, then this could be a great destination for your next scuba diving getaway. The Sea Tiger was a Chinese trading vessel that operated in the 90s. It was seized for transporting unauthorized immigrants into Hawaii but later bought by Voyager Submarines who cleaned it up and sunk it to the bottom of the sea at West of Waikiki in Honolulu.
The wreck covers about 45 meters and accommodates countless sea creatures such as white-tip reef sharks, sea turtles, eagle rays, moray eels, and a good number of fish schools. With such amazing residents, it is hard for us not to include Sea Tiger Wreck in our top ten spots for best scuba diving in Hawaii.
When Is The Best Time To Travel To Hawaii For Diving?
Hawaiian diving is available all year round. However, in winter, surface conditions will see some of these sites closed.
The peak season starts in December and runs through March. Most divers will flee to Hawaii around Christmas and New Year. The idea of escaping the snow and all the cold sounds great but accommodation prices are also high at this time. However, this is the perfect time to see the whales.
The low season begins in April and ends in Mid June, then September to December. If you are on a budget, this could be the best time to plan your trip to Hawaii.
The weather is amazing, the water is calmer, and visibility is great, providing the perfect conditions for scuba diving and snorkeling. For those who want to unleash their skin diving techniques, this is also the best time to book their vacation. Avoid Easter and Thanksgiving weeks, as prices tend to go to the roof, and dive spots are often crowded at these times.
Starting mid-June and running through August, this is the time when many families travel. Though attractions and hotels will be lowly priced and less crowded than in the peak season, the beaches will be jam-packed.
This may not be the best time to go scuba diving because dive spots will be packed too. Unfortunately, this is the season of the year when many divers want to go underwater because the water is warmer, and don’t have to worry much about staying warm while scuba diving.
If you have settled for a dive trip to Hawaii, then it would be a great idea to do the right preparation before you go. Here are some of the things to do:
- Prepare a scuba diving checklist and include all the things you need for the trip.
- Perfect your dive skills and learn how to prevent or deal with the most common scuba diving injures like ear barotrauma and vertigo.
- Learn how to operate your scuba equipment, including scuba regulators, tanks, BCDs, gauges, etc. Simple skills like knowing how to clear your scuba mask of water could also go a long way in keeping you safe underwater.
- Invest in quality travel insurance just to be sure you are covered in case things go awry during the trip.
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Hawaii is undoubtedly one of the most amazing places to go for scuba diving. The clear blue waters and abundant sea life will make every second you spend in the water garden worth your while.
Now that you know what places to visit, you may want to start planning your next scuba diving getaway. Just make sure to invest in the right equipment, learn the basic diving safety skills, and if possible, have a friend go with you or hire a guide. It could mean the difference between an enjoyable and disastrous trip.
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