Oahu, Hawaii Trip Report
Oahu is quite different then the other Hawaiian Islands, with a combination of the laid back island feel and the busy city feel of Honolulu, there is a multitude of things to do.
Waikiki is a great place to get the city feel, with great shopping along the beach walk. It is to be expected though to discover that the shopping is going to be pricy even compared to the rest of the island. Waikiki is also a good place to try your hand at surfing, however because the waves are small many people who are newer at surfing or who are just learning to surf use this spot, so it is almost always crowded. If you do go surfing be polite and try to ‘share’ the waves.
Outside of Waikiki, there is some great hiking around the island. Diamond head is a good hike (not great), it’s better to start in the early morning when the sun hasn't been beating down all day. Bring water on the hike and make sure to bring a hat since there is little to no shade.
Manoa valley has a wonderful hike to the Manoa waterfall. The hike is about three fourths of a mile each way, it is shaded but buggy so bug spray is a good idea. The waterfall is beautiful so bring a camera. Makapu’u lighthouse is another great hike, and if you go during whale season (November thru late March/ early April) there is a good chance you will see whales. However it is also another one of those hikes where there is little to no shade, and water will be needed, it is recommended to bring a larger backpack where you can keep larger bottles and other things you might need. It can be a hard hike if your not used to hiking.
Hanauma bay is just okay. Granted it can be fun for a day of snorkeling, however because it has become so popular over the years the quality of the reef has decreased. You do have to pay a small fee to enter Hanauma bay, and you also have to watch a movie about how to protect the reef. Visibility is pretty bad because so many people are kicking up sand on the bottom.
North shore is fun place to go spend the day, during the winter months the huge waves hit the north shore other wise known as the Banzai pipeline (NOT FOR AMATURES!). It’s fun to check out however be careful. Haleiwa is not far away (also located on the North Shore) and has more of a small old town kind of feel.
The Pali lookout (located on Hwy 1 in between Kailua and Kanehoe) gives a spectacular view of the islands eastern side. It can be windy up there, but the view allows people to see Kaneohe, rabbit island and coconut island which is owned and used by the University of Hawaii for marine research.
The Arizona memorial is always interesting to visit. It is recommended to arrive early, as it gets crowded later in the afternoon. Purses backpacks and other such things are not allowed (so leave covered in the car or back at the hotel). It is free to go, the boat which will take you to the memorial site is also free. Please do be respectful though.
Great eating in Waikiki, but once again it’s pricy. The Yardhouse is a fun place to eat, it does get noisy and is considered a kind of sports bar. They have everything from great seafood and steak to comfort food (my personal favorite is their Mac & Cheese with chicken, bacon and truffle oil…YUM!).
Also try eating at the Hale Kulani, it's a hotel but the restaurant inside is great, the hotel is known as a romantic place with live music and an optimum view of diamond head and Waikiki. Once again it’s expensive. Try to get there around sunset, it provides a picturesque photo opportunity of Diamond Head and Waikiki beach.
Duke’s located in the Outrigger Waikiki (another hotel) is a great noisy lively place, with great food and great music. Right above is another restaurant which is slightly nicer (but also more expensive, what else is new) and less noisy then Duke’s downstairs.
Buzz’s is another great restaurant, although a car is required to get to it. Buzz’s is located in Kailua, Hawaii and is my all time favorite restaurant. The whole atmosphere is nice and laid back, very island like. The desert is fabulous (the best would be there key lime pie…). It’s worth the drive to eat at Buzz’s, plus the drive itself isn’t half bad.
Oahu diving (oahudiving.com) is a great dive company that is located in Hawaii Kai. They do a great job with beginner divers, taking them to some of the easier dive sites. They also do Waikiki pick ups and free gear rental as well as free photos taken on your dive. The two main instructors are named Erik and Jeff, and both are great guys. Safety is taken very seriously with them, and they try to accommodate to what the customers want. Their boat the Nori Z has a good dive platform, which is easy to get off and on (just giant stride in), Erik and Jeff will help get divers out of the water. During surface intervals you can climb on the roof of the Nori Z and have a jump contest! They are a cheaper company (cheaper in Hawaii terms). They also try to have water, juice and other forms of refreshments on board for divers. They are a lot of fun, and I’ve generally had a great time with them.
Cool Blue Scuba (coolbluescuba.com) is a dive company which is located in Waikiki. Roger runs cool blue scuba, and also does hotel pick ups in Waikiki. He generally has smaller groups then Oahu Diving and with this company you are more likely to hit the dive sites on the south/ southeast side of the island. Roger does his diving from a sailboat; on good days in between dives he will unfurl the sails and take you out for a sail along the south shore. Because he does dive from a sailboat it is harder to do entries and exits. I would recommend throwing the gear overboard and putting it on in the water however it is possible to do a giant stride of the side of the boat. Roger will usually get out of the water first, at the end of a dive, and help you take your gear off in the water and pass it up to him. Roger also has refreshments on board; coke, tea, and water are almost always available. He will sometimes have chips and salsa available and if you’re really lucky he will make you a sandwich. Like Oahu Diving, Roger will also e-mail you free pictures of your dive (might even make you a DVD!) Cool Blue Scuba is a bit more pricy then Oahu Diving, but they also cater more exclusively to the customers preferences.
Island Divers Hawaii (google search it…) is another dive op. It’s not a great one, and are also located in Hawaii Kai (in fact just right down the dock from Oahu Diving). They have a larger boat (which also means it can be a cattle boat aka lots of divers). The boat has a good dive platform and good dive ladder so entries and exits are easy. They also have refreshments on board. My favorite thing about Island divers Hawaii is their three tank Sunday dives. You do have to pay to receive photos of your dive. Other wise the company is just a so-so company.
The Dive Sites:
The best-known dive site on the island is the YO-257. It is a wreck dive and more of an advanced dive; the bottom rests at about 90-95 feet. However most can be seen between 65-80 feet. The boat will most likely tie off to a mooring that you can follow down to the wreck. One of the things that makes this dive so unique is the encounter with the Atlantis submarine company. Those inside the sub will most likely take photos of you. You can get close to the sub, however you want to be aware of the turbines in the back of the sub. This site has been known to have some current depending on the days, but the captain and instructors will determine whether or not the site is still diveable. The San Pedro lays about 60 feet or so away from the YO-257, and is shallower then the YO-257. This wreck is easy to penetrate (although if you are uncomfortable then don’t), and a good percentage of the time you can find a resting white-tip reef shark inside. This site is also a good place to see turtles, eels and a plethora of other reef fish. A good way to go about doing this dive is to start on the YO-257 then move on over to the San Pedro then back to the YO-257 where you can follow the mooring line back up when you run low on air. Also try and see the Atlantis submarine as it’s passing the San Pedro. The growth on the wreck is very good, allowing for more life to thrive there.
The Sea Tiger is a very advanced wreck, with the bottom resting at about 120 feet or so. The growth is not as abundant as the YO-257, however there are good chances of encounters with palagics on this wreck. Once again dive ops will use a mooring that can be easily followed down to the wreck. There is a great chance of seeing white spotted eagle rays on this wreck. Not just one or two, but five or six at once. Eels, frog fish, octopi, etc can also be found on this wreck. It is rather large and is not recommended to penetrate this wreck unless you have the proper training. This site is also known to have some current depending on the day (it is not as protected from the elements as some of the other wrecks), once again instructors or the captain will make the call.
The Corsair is another deep wreck dive, off of Hawaii Kai. It is an old WWII plane that went down after a routine training mission went array (the pilot ran out of fuel and had to ditch the plane). Although the pilot was fine the airplane stayed at the bottom of the ocean and became of home to marine life. You can find many garden eels that surround the plane, a moray eel makes its home there as well as an octopus. Certain days the boat ride out to the site can be rough, and sometimes there can be a slight current at the site. This site like the Sea Tiger is also not protected from the elements making the ride bumpy. It rests in about 107 feet of water, and is not recommended for newer divers.
Portlock wall is a great drift dive with lots to see. There are several caves that can be entered easily, and there is a terrific chance of seeing turtles on this dive. There is also a good chance of seeing a white tip reef shark sleeping in a cave. Because it is a drift dive, you will not be using a mooring line on the way down. It is also a popular fishing area, so be aware of any line that might be in the water close to the wall. If you get entangled either ask your buddy to help you or just cut the fishing line. It’s also a dive where the group will most likely stay together.
Anglers Reef is a shallow good beginning dive. There are usually turtles and eels as well as lots of reef fish, the site is in about 40 feet of water. Like most others around Oahu there will be a mooring line that you can follow to the bottom. Corner pockets is another one of those great beginner dive sites, if your lucky then you may be able to spot a white spotted eagle ray, however you will more likely see a turtle or two and lots of reef fish. This site also sits in about 40 feet, and once again the dive companies will tie off to a mooring line that can be followed down.
The turtle cleaning station off of Waikiki is a great dive. Shallow at about 30-35 feet, it's a wonderful place to encounter turtles. It is possible to get close to them but don’t touch them please (if you get caught its an expensive fine!) Because this is a popular dive site, the turtles are used to divers, but don’t disturb their natural behavior.
During the summer months three tables and sharks cove are great dives on the north shore (however I haven’t done them so I wouldn’t know…). A good dive operation to check out if you are interested in diving these sites would be Surf n’ Sea located in Haleiwa