Some of the finest diving in the Hawaiian Islands can be found off the sparsely populated island of Lanai. It’s my favorite dive target when I’m visiting the island of Maui, and Hawaiian Rafting Adventures is one of my go-to operators, because nobody knows this area better than Capt. Steve Juarez. Over the years, he’s led me to some truly awesome sights and thrilling animal encounters off this volcanic rock. Whether it’s the awe-inspiring caverns of First and Second Cathedrals painted in heavenly light from above, shallow coral gardens flush with fish or deep dark lava tubes where the coolest creatures hide, he’s never failed to deliver the goods.
In March I spent a day aboard his tricked-out yellow RIB, the Hoku, and we hit one of my favorite sites, Shark Fin Rock. Named for a dramatic formation that protrudes above the water line, the site is a long lava finger that forms a shallow wall down to 80 feet that’s encrusted with the region’s signature hard corals. The vertical face is pocked with small lava tubes that are ripe for exploration. Inside the black holes, I’ve encountered sea turtles, white tip sharks and other critters seeking refuge, including one of the most bizarre worms I’ve ever seen underwater.
Beyond the wall lies a thick hard coral garden that’s populated by plentiful marine life, including eels, octopus, damsels, angels and too many species of butterflyfish to count. It’s also home to a rare white tang that’s colorless thanks to a genetic anomaly that robbed it of the species’ signature yellow hue.
But not all of Lanai’s oceanic attractions lie deep below. A huge pod of Hawaiian spinner dolphins frequent the Auau Channel between Maui and Lanai. And they’ve made an acrobatic appearance on nearly every dive trip I’ve taken there. On this day, they paraded by the boat during our surface interval, offering the chance to jump in for a visit on snorkel. The encounter didn’t last long, as they did not stop to play, but even watching the graceful mammals pass by just under the surface was exciting — just par for the course when diving on Lanai.
For more information on diving Lanai and Hawaiian Rafting Adventures, visit goscubadivemaui.com.