Highlights: wrecks and seasonal diving on the north shore
The YO-257 and San Pedro - These two wrecks run parallel approximately 36 metres/120 feet apart. The Atlantis Submarine often makes a visit and interaction between submarine passengers and divers is a staple of weekend tours.
The Sea Tiger - a popular dive site off Waikiki, the Sea Tiger - so the story goes - is a former smuggling vessel. She rests in 36 metres/120 feet of water, but divers can hit the wheelhouse at 21 metres/70 feet. Divers often see spotted eagle rays, puffer fish and frog fish, with green sea turtles and the occasional conger eel also making an appearance. Watch out for Larry, Moe, and Curley (three frogfish) in the wheelhouse.
The MAHI was a World War II minesweeper and is now a popular wreck dive on the westside of O’ahu. Although the wreck is degrading, it still has the “gift” of attracting large pelagics, spotted eagle rays, eels and fantastic amounts of Hawaii's best fish.
Diving O’ahu’s famous North Shore
Spring and summer visitors have the opportunity to dive off of the north shore. While, during the winter months, world-class surfers descend on the beaches to sample world-class waves, summer's calmer surf opens up dive sites such as Shark's Cove and Three Tables. It's a great opportunity to photograph local underwater life - a third of which are found nowhere else in the world.
There are more than 36 shore dives on O’ahu. The most popular include Makaha Caverns and Electric Beach on the west side and Shark’s Cove and Three Tables on the north shore. A surface float and flag are required by state law. Contact a local PADI Dive Center or Resort near O'ahu for more information.
You've come a long way to see underwater creatures that exist nowhere else so this isn't the time to learn underwater photography through trial and error. The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer specialty course can get you quickly up to speed and make sure you come back with photos you'll be excited to share.
You'll also want to consider earning your PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy, Deep Diver or Enriched Air Diver certifications before you dive off of the Hawaiian islands. Once you're there, don't forget about your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, Boat Diver or Wreck Diver certifications - O'ahu is a great place to acquire any of them.
You'll see white tip reef sharks, giant green sea turtles, moray eels, slipper lobsters, reef fish and hundreds of other critters at dive sites off O’ahu. Morning dives also offer spotted dolphin sighting opportunities. In winter, you can see migrating humpback whales topside - and even hear them sing when you're underwater.
Once you've been to the obligatory luau and tried poi and kalua pig, you're ready to dive into some real local grub. For a morning treat, try a malasada (Portuguese doughnut) with some Kona coffee. Leonard's Bakery has a main location in Honolulu and Malasadamobiles around the island. At lunchtime, try a spam musubi (rice ball with spam) or saimin noodles. If you're diving up on the north shore, don't miss Matsumoto's world-famous shave ice in Hale'iwa.
Experience 360 degree views of the island from the top of Diamond Head a volcanic crater at the end of Waikiki. The hike takes about 60-90 minutes round trip depending on the athleticism of your party. Arrive early in the morning to avoid the heat and afternoon crowds.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to visit the USS Arizona Memorial (Hawaii’s most popular tourist attraction) first thing in the morning. The visitors’ center opens at 7:30 AM.
Pick up unique Hawaiian treasures and souvenirs for the folks back home at the Aloha Stadium swap meet. With more than 700 vendors, crafters and artists, it's a great place to find high-quality goods at reasonable prices. The swap meet is open every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
The no-fly rule is a perfect excuse to rent a jeep and spend a day driving around the island. On the east side of the island is the beautiful, serene Byodo-In Temple. Best known as the home of Sun's father in the television series Lost, the Byodo-In Temple features traditional Japanese gardens, a koi pond and several peacocks.
Explore all the Hawaiian Islands:
All images are courtesy of:
- Hawaiian Tourism Authority: Sri Maiava Rusden, Ron Dahlquist, Kirk Lee Adder, Joe Solem
- Captain Steve Juarez