Our family of three planned an extensive July 2010 vacation to Hawaii and included a little scuba diving. To understand my veiwpoint it is important to know the divers involved. My 25 year old son would be considered a beginner since he became certified only a couple of years ago and had never experienced clear water diving. My 60 year old wife had logged 60 dives between 1976 and 1985 when she stopped diving. She would be considered an advanced diver due to additional training. I am 58 and logged 180 dives from 1971 to 1986 when I last dove. I am probably an expert since I am a divemaster, tour leader, was a scuba instructor and rescue diver instructor. Armed with our background and experience, I planned dives for Kauai and Maui.
The first stop was Kauai. An Internet search and avalance of email came up with "Bubbles Below" for the Kauai leg. Email from the operator provided directions to the boat harbor, so we drove out to the location the previous day and found several dive boats anchored in the Small Boat Harbor at Poipu. I did not have the email in hand but most of the directions fit. Arriving a dawn the next day we waited for the dive boat to arrive. When the appointed time came and went I phoned "Bubbles" and they explained my error...we were about 10 miles short of the boat launch. We rushed to the correct site (Small Boat Harbor at Port Allen) and quickly completed the paperwork, boarded the boat and put on wetsuits.
All of the diving would be on the Southeast coast of Kauai. The first dive was at Hale O Honu, a 20 minute boat ride Northwest along the coast. "Bubbles Below" provided all of our gear execpt for mask, snorkle and booties. After donning the gear the boat captain and dive guides required us to perform a seated back entry from sides of the boat. Normally that would not be a big deal, except that my wife and I had not dove for 24 years and the last time was in the warm waters of Bonaire. The colder Pacific water combined with the back entry was very disorienting. It took me a couple of minutes to get the mask cleared and calm my breathing. My wife had a small panic attack and wanted to get out of the water. The dive guide did a commendable job of calming her down and we began descending the anchor line (a giant stride from the stern platform would have eliminated the disorientation). After a few minutes underwater the temperature became comfortable so we started off on a "critter hunt". The bottom ranged from 30-80 feet with a shelf drop off to several hundred feet. Several turtles (Honu) were visiting cleaning stations and you could swim within inches of them without scaring them off. There was a small amount of reef fish and I began finding small moray eels in the nooks and crannies. The dive guide found a parasitic crab living in a sea cucumber. The dive ended as a success and the three of us came up happy.
Plans changed for the second dive because one diver got sea sick. We went back to the dock to drop he and his new bride off, then proceeded to Shela's Shelves. Back entry was easier this time because we were expecting the cold water. This dive was again in 30-80 feet of water with a bottom of sand and lava rock. Similar amount of sea life here except no turtles. I would rate this site as "not interesting". We returned to the dock and drove 25 miles back to our room. My son and I would be returning for a night dive.
My email with "Bubbles Below" clearly indicated I wanted third "night" dive for the same day. The departure time for the night dive was 16:30 hours, which seemed odd since the sun set at 19:00 hours. We made a fast drive back to the boat dock (with a maximum 45 mph speed limit no drive is fast) and found everyone ready to go. That was when I discovered the breakdown in communication with the dive operator. Most of the dive operations in Hawaii offer a day/night dive combination. Night dives only are the exception. They had charged me for the combination dive and the boat would not be returning to the dock between dives. So my son and I boarded the boat and headed out to Angela's Arches. This was a pretty good dive with interesting lava arches and overhangs. Bottom was 30-80. With the dive complete the boat returned to Hale O Honu for the night portion. As we waited for the sun to set the wind began to cool down and most of the divers started feeling cold. At dive time several of us ran hot water down our wetsuits to warm up. Everyone geared up and got in the water. Everyone except me; I was shivering and decided to abort the dive. My son decided to make his first night dive and I quietly asked one of the dive guides to keep close eye on him. Forty five minutes later people began to surface. When everyone was on board, the boat made it's way back to the harbor. My son said the dive was interesting but there was very little sea life. I would not recommend a night dive along Kauai's rocky coast.
We spent another day or so in Kaui, then three days on Hawai'i (the Big Island), the flew to Maui. The next dive site would be Molokini crater. We arrived on a late flight and made a bee line to Ed Robinson's Dive Shop in Kihei to pick gear for the next day. The staff made sure we were satisfied with the equipment (wetsuits and fins; the remaining gear would be on the boat). I did not bother locating the boat dock since it was only 2 miles from the shop.
On dive day we had to drive 30 miles from the condo and arrived at the harbor just in time at 06:45 hours (again, driving in Hawaii is slow). Gear was loaded aboard and the boat was launched. Molokini is 6 miles from the harbor and the seas were calm. Both dives were in the crater bowl with bottom depths of 30-90 feet. The boat had ample room; water entry was a giant stride from the sides or stern. There was plenty of small reef fish, eels, nudibranchs, a resting white-tipped shark, yellow tail jack fish, and a moderate amount of coral growth. The water was noticeably warmer than Kauai with very small waves. The boat returned to the harbor by 11:30 hours so we had the rest of the day for other activities. After the two dives, my family rated Molokini as "good" and Ed Robinson's operation as "great".
If I had to do it again, I would put Molokini as the first stop to get us back into the rhythm of diving, add extra time on Hawai'i for some Kona coast diving and follow up with Kauai.
As they say in Hawaii, aloha.