The volcanic archipelago of Hawaii makes and its location at the Central Pacific makes it one of the most famous diving destinations in the world. In fact, scuba diving in Hawaii is the dream not only for experienced divers but even for ordinary folks looking for a dive holiday. If you are looking for the best spots for diving in Hawaii, we’ve compiled a list of some dive sites which you should consider visiting.
1. First Cathedral
Situated in the Island of Lanai, First Cathedral is undoubtedly one of the most popular diving destinations in all of Hawaii. It is a huge underwater cavern rising up to two-story high with different tunnels, ridges and passageways to explore. But the structure of this lava tube is not the only reason why it is called a cathedral. On days when the sun is at its brightest (which happens almost all the time in this tropical paradise), rays of light enter through the various openings where portions of the roof collapsed. The faint light and the dark cavern paints an eerie yet divine image reminiscent of light passing through the windows in a large church. If you want to take pictures of the place, you may want to consider using an underwater strobe for additional lighting.
Divers enter the cavern through an archway until they reach the spacious chamber. While inside, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the grandiosity of the place and the church-like atmosphere. Don’t forget to explore the many tunnels and rooms in the area as well. While exploring, keep your eyes peeled for some of the inhabitants of the Cathedral like crabs, lobsters, butterfly fish, and the endemic bandit angelfish. Be on the lookout for turtles, Moorish idols, octopus, and the occasional white-tipped reef shark that occasionally visit the place.
2. Molokini Crater
The world famous Molokini Crater in Maui is a State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District, making it well-tended marine reserve under the water and a bird sanctuary above.
The fascinating volcanic atoll is a one of the many dive sites in Hawaii that offers world-class diving experience. The visibility in the reef goes well beyond one hundred feet, allowing divers to enjoy a panoramic view all around them. With such visibility, you should have no trouble spotting some of the natural inhabitants of the reef which includes Hawaiian garden eels, masked angelfish, long-nose hawk fish and over a hundred more species of fish endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. The rich ecosystem is also home to various coral heads and nudibranchs, so you’ll want to make sure that your camera is equipped with the right underwater camera lens in order to get clear and crisp images of even the tiniest nudibranch. Looking out in the open you’re bound to see manta rays, white-tipped reef sharks, amberjacks and moray eels swimming in the distance.
3. Pyramid Pinnacle
The Pyramid Pinnacle is a dive site situated in Kona, Hawaii which offers plenty of adventures for the intermediate level diver. Aside from the thriving reef system, there are also submerged lava arches, caverns, and pinnacles that divers can explore. The environment is truly beautiful and worth taking pictures of with your diving camera, and the incredible biodiversity in the area makes it even more so.
The underwater ecosystem of Pyramid Pinnacle is filled with many nooks and crannies that provides home to an array of marine flora and fauna. There are black and soft snowflake corals that provide shelter for cleaner shrimps and lobsters, as well as a squirrelfish swimming with several species of eel. Sea turtles can be seen floating lazily in the waters, while Hawaiian flagtails swim in and out of the different swim-through. The sand channels on the west are home to helmet shells, razor wrasse and peacock flounder.
4. Sea Tiger Wreck
The Sea Tiger was originally a Chinese trading vessel which was confiscated back in the 1990s for transporting illegal immigrants to Hawaii. Afterwards, the ship was cleaned up and sank on purpose west of Waikiki, Honolulu as part of a dive enrichment effort program. Today, the Sea Tiger rests 90 feet underwater is a favorite diving destination for many advanced divers who are tired of the reefs and are looking for a different kind of diving adventure in Hawaii.
The 150-foot trading vessel is home to a wide array of marine life. Descending to the shipwreck, divers will be greeted by a host of eagle rays circling the wreck. Resident white-tipped reef sharks can also be seen in the area along with moray eels. Along with massive schools of fish, amazing sea turtles which measure up to six feet can also be seen. If you’re up to the challenge, you can penetrate the Sea Tiger through the cargo holds and the bridge and find out for yourself what lies inside the sunken vessel. Just be sure to bring your underwater dive light since there is very poor lighting inside.
5. Sheraton Caverns
The Sheraton Caverns is a prominent dive site and offers something for both novice and seasoned divers and everyone else in between. The dive site is located fairly close to shore, though you should still ask for directions from the local dive shop just make sure you don’t end up in the wrong reef.
Sheraton Caverns consists of three partial lava tubes and several archways and overhangs for divers to explore. Swathed in elegant black corals, the dive site is home to various species of Hawaiian reef fish like parrotfish, angelfish, butterfly fish, wrasse, damsels and many others. In fact, the multitude of fish swimming in every direction will make you feel like you’re diving inside an aquarium. In addition, Sheraton Caverns is also known as a playground for green sea turtles, many of which can be seen swimming beneath the arches and through the tunnels.
6. Three Fingers
Three fingers is another popular dive site that is suitable for both novice and seasoned divers alike. Located about one hundred feet out of the harbor, Three Fingers is the perfect place to for first-time divers to get acquainted with what can be expected when diving in Hawaii.
The name Three Fingers is in reference to the three lava extensions running 20 to 70 beneath the water’s surface. These “fingers” and the surrounding ecosystem provides a thriving environment for the different marine flora and fauna existing in the place. With clear, calm waters allowing for visibility of more than fifty feet, divers should have no trouble spotting the wide array of aquatic creatures in the area. Some of the notable wildlife residents of the dive site include blue striped grunts, surgeon fish, different species of angel fish, and plenty of wrasse and damsels. Watch out for moray eels hiding in the rocks as well.
7. Brennekes Ledge
Diving in Brennekes Ledge is generally allowed only for divers who have logged several dives before because of the strong currents, but intermediate level divers are also welcome to join in on the fun when the water is calm. The ledge which goes down to depths of over seventy feet isn’t as interesting as other dive sites when it comes to topography, but the array of marine wildlife in the area makes for a good dive. There are nudibranchs, arrow and hermit crabs, spider crabs and lobsters, conchs and plenty of other critters on the ledge. You’ll also encounter moray eels hiding in the rocks.
At least one hundred feet below and under the ledge, black corals abound which provides shelter to many more marine creatures. And when you look out into the blue, it is common to see giant tunas, white-tipped reef sharks and even whales and dolphins swimming by.
An interesting feature of the Brennekes Ledge is that the structure also acts as an echo chamber, and being able to listen to the song of humpback whales (even if it’s just an echo) is a truly exciting experience that you won’t find in any other dive site.
8. Kahuna Canyon
Kahuna Canyon, located near Mokule’ia about five miles west of Haleiwa Harbor, is one of the most topographically interesting dive sites in Oahu’s North Shore. It is often considered are Hawaii’s version of the Grand Canyon, and offers one of the most magical diving experiences.
The Kahuna Canyon is actually a volcanic crater which starts at 90 feet and reaches its top at 35 feet. The sea-facing side of the canyon has already collapsed, while the remaining structure (particularly the eastern side) serves as a massive chasm rising from the sea bottom, creating the illusion of a veritable underwater Grand Canyon which extends 200 yards towards the shore.
The inside part of the canyon serves as a home to the various marine creatures that thrive in the area. These include crab, octopi, slipper, and spiny lobsters. Fish of varied shapes and sizes like giant trevally, parrotfish, and unicorn tangs congregate in the canyon. If look out into the blue, you’re pretty likely to see occasional shark swimming in the distance.
The walls of the Kahuna Canyon are filled with underwater caves and offers sanctuary to different species of parrotfish, unicorn surgeonfish, amberjacks, and moray eels.
9. Mahi Shipwreck
If you’re looking for another shipwreck diving adventure, then this one’s for you. Situated about an hour away west of Waikiki lies the remains of the ship Mahi, a 170-feet minelayer Navy ship that sunk in the 1980s. Unlike other shipwrecks in Hawaii, not many people visit the Mahi despite the excellent visibility, calm waters, and marine creatures living in the area. However, this also means that there are fewer people about making it the perfect dive site for those wanting to get away from the crowd.
The Mahi now lays under ninety feet of water, but the main deck rises to about sixty-five feet. The wreck is encrusted with various corals, and is now home to an array of marine wildlife. Residents include butterfly fish, tangs, puffers, and many others. But the real star of the show are the white-spotted eagle rays that swim around the shipwreck and greet divers on their descent. And because of the excellent visibility which exceeds one hundred feet, divers will have no trouble spotting these majestic creatures.
The main deck of the Mahi isn’t as well-preserved as that of other shipwrecks, and there are plenty of protruding metal so be careful not to cut yourself. As a safety precaution, always wear dive gloves. Penetrating the ships isn’t recommended, but there are holes and hatches where you can take a peek inside the ship. Also, because of the deep dive you’ll want to keep an eye on your scuba gauge and dive computer to monitor your air and ensure you have enough air remaining for the ascent.
10. Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular diving destinations in Hawaii so expect to share the waters with a lot of divers when visiting here. Despite the abundance of visitors, the marine wildlife are pretty friendly and will even swim right up to your scuba mask at times. The reef will most likely be populate by snorkelers, so scuba divers will be better off exploring the Witch’s Brew, the cove, and other structures on the outer portions of the reef.
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Hawaii is truly an amazing diving destination and a haven for divers with its wonderful reefs, fascinating shipwrecks, and awesome lava tubes and rock formations. And the amazing marine wildlife in the area makes diving in Hawaii nothing short of spectacular. For all of its wonder and glory, scuba diving in Hawaii should definitely be in your diving bucket list.
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