So You Want to go Diving in Hawaii?
It's an American diver's dream come true. From Oahu and the Big Island to Maui, Kauai and Molokai, here are a group of exquisite, beautifully lush islands that you don't need a passport to travel to. But when compared to other, more distant Pacific pearls, Hawaii diving is sometimes overlooked and often underrated.
With its location 2,500 miles from the nearest continental landmass, Hawaii is one of the planet's most remote archipelagos. The islands' isolation from the rest of the world means encounters with endemic species.
With tempting lava tube swim-through caves and diverse marine life, there's really no such thing as a typical Hawaiian dive. What divers experience in the Cathedrals, two massive caverns near Lanai, is completely different from diving the Back Wall of Molokini Crater near Maui, where from December to May, the calls of humpback whales chill their spines.
Hawaiian dive pros say swimming with big animals at uncommon sites like South Point and Upolu Point, off the Big Island, is as much of a thrill as exploring the virginal reefs of the "Forbidden Island" of Niihau, the newest Hawaiian destination more divers are starting to discover for its wall diving, monk seal and spinner dolphin sightings and unmatched visibility.
Maui's North Shore is another area that has been little dived in the past, but now deserves more play - Puka Maui for its underwater archways and pinnacles and Little Puka for its rare and abundant animals. While monk seals, mantas and turtles are famous Hawaiian underwater residents, from December through May, humpbacks and the occasional whale shark come calling.
Several dive operators run trips to Lanai's dive sites from Maui and operators on Kauai conduct Niihau diving. But book with dive operators well in advance. And Hawaiian waters aren't always calm. Some dive shops will arrange alternate topside activities if seas are too rough.
On the Big Island, Hawaii, Kailua-Kona is dive central. At Huggo's on the Rocks, share your best underwater tales with fellow divers while downing local brews or macademia nut martinis and sampling ahi poke (raw tuna with spices and herbs). Everyone's looking for the next great dive experience, and the eagle ray cleaning station at Nai'a and the blackwater dive, are two of the best-kept dive secrets.
Topside attractions are endless, whether biking through Maui's mighty Haleakala Crater, hiking the breathtaking Na Pali Coast on Kauai, taking in the enlightening Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, eating ahi tuna sashimi at a luau, or sipping on a mai tai at a resort bar.
If you're planning a visit to Mr. Haleakala on Maui or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, check the altitudes of both places beforehand and allow enough time after diving.
Weather: Warm, with cooling trade winds. Temperatures vary little year-round, averaging 68 to 83, with September tending to be the warmest month. The rainy season runs from November to March.
Average Water Temp: Expect mid- to high 70s in winter and spring, low 80s in summer and fall.
Average Visibility: Tends to be excellent, often above 100 feet.
Entry Documents: U.S. travelers need no special documents to enter the state.