Oahu - Dive Sites

A different Hawaii greets anyone with a mask, snorkel, and fins. Under the sea, you'll find schools of brilliant tropical fish, lumbering green sea turtles, quick-moving game fish, slack-jawed moray eels, and prehistoric-looking coral. It's a kaleidoscope of color and wonder.

Hanauma Bay: It can get very crowded, but for clear, warm, calm waters, an abundance of fish that are so friendly they'll swim right up to your face mask, a beautiful setting, and easy access, there's no place like Hanauma Bay. Just wade in waist deep and look down to see more than 50 species of reef and inshore fish common to Hawaiian waters. Snorkelers hug the safe, shallow inner bay--it's really like swimming in an outdoor aquarium. Serious, experienced divers shoot "the slot," a passage through the reef, to gain access to Witch's Brew, a turbulent cove, and other outer reef experiences.

Wreck of the Mahi: Oahu is a wonderful place to scuba dive, especially for those interested in wreck diving. One of the more famous wrecks in Hawaii is the Mahi, a 185-foot former minesweeper, which is easily accessible just south of Waianae. Abundant marine life makes it a great place to shoot photos--schools of lemon butterflyfish and taa'pe are so comfortable with divers and photographers that they practically pose. Eagle rays, green sea turtles, manta rays, and white-tipped sharks occasionally cruise by, and eels peer from the wreck.

Kahuna Canyon: For non-wreck diving, one of the best dive spots in the summer is Kahuna Canyon. In Hawaiian, kahuna translates as priest, wise man, or sorcerer. This massive amphitheater near Mokuleia is a perfect example of something a sorcerer might conjure up: Walls rising from the ocean floor create the illusion of an underwater Grand Canyon. Inside the amphitheater, crab, octopi, slipper, and spiny lobsters abound (be aware that taking them in the summer is illegal), and giant trevally, parrotfish, and unicorn tangs congregate. Outside the amphitheater, you're likely to see the occasional shark in the distance.

Shark's Cove: The braver snorkelers might want to head to Shark's Cove, on the North Shore just off Kamehameha Highway, between Haleiwa and Pupukea. Sounds risky, we know, but we've never seen or heard of any sharks in this cove, and in summer this big, lava-edged pool is one of Oahu's best snorkeling spots. Waves splash over the natural lava grotto and cascade like waterfalls into the pool full of tropical fish. There are deep-sea caves to explore to the right of the cove.

Kapiolani Park Beach: In the center of this beach park, a section known as Queen's Beach or Queen's Surf Beach, between the Natatorium and the Waikiki Aquarium, is great for snorkeling. We prefer the reef in front of the Aquarium because it has easy access to the sandy shoreline and the waters are usually calm. It has the added advantage of being right next door to the Aquarium in case you see any flora or fauna you would like more information about.