Scuba Diving

Maui has been rated one of the top 10 dive spots in the United States. It's common to see huge sea turtles, eagle rays, and small reef sharks, not to mention many varieties of angelfish, parrotfish, eels, and octopuses. Most of the species are unique to this area, making it unlike other popular dive destinations. In addition, the terrain itself is different from other dive spots. Here you can find ancient and intricate lava flows full of nooks where marine life hide and breed. Although the water tends to be a bit rougher—not to mention colder—divers are given a great thrill during humpback-whale season, when you can actually hear whales singing underwater. Be sure to check conditions before you head out.

Some of the finest diving spots in all of Hawaii lie along the Valley Isle's western and southwestern shores. Dives are best in the morning, when visibility can hold a steady 100 feet. If you're a certified diver, you can rent gear at any Maui dive shop simply by showing your PADI or NAUI card. Unless you're familiar with the area, however, it's probably best to hook up with a dive shop for an underwater tour. Tours include tanks and weights and start around $130. Wet suits and buoyancy compensators are rented separately, for an additional $15–$30. Shops also offer introductory dives ($100–$160) for those who aren't certified. Before signing on with any outfitter, it's a good idea to ask a few pointed questions about your guide's experience, the weather outlook, and the condition of the equipment.

Equipment, Lessons, and Tours

Ed Robinson's Diving Adventures. Ed Robinson wrote the book, literally, on Molokini. Because he knows so much, he includes a "Biology 101" talk with every dive. An expert marine photographer, he leads dives to South Maui and the back side of Molokini Crater. There's a discount if you book multiple dives. Prices start at $129.95, plus $20 for the gear. 165 Halekuai St., Kihei, Hawaii, 96753. 808/879–3584;

Extended Horizons. This eco-friendly dive boat stands apart by being the only commercial vessel on Maui to run on 100% locally made biodiesel. Its popular Lanai charter has divers swimming through dramatic archways and lava structures, while other trips venture along West Maui. Shore and night dives are also available. Tours are run by enthusiastic and professional guides who are keen at not only identifying underwater creatures, but also interpreting their behavior. Mala Wharf, Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761. 808/667–0611; From $119.

Lahaina Divers. With more than 40 years of diving experience, this West Maui shop offers tours of Maui, Molokini, Molokai, and Lanai. Big charter boats (which can be crowded, with up to 25 divers per boat) leave daily for Molokini Crater, Back Wall, Lanai, Turtle Reef, and other destinations. Breakfast pastries and deli lunch are included. For uncertified divers, there's a daily "Discover Scuba" lesson off one of the Turtle Reef sites or the Mala ramp wreckage, depending on conditions. 143 Dickenson St., Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761. 808/667–7496; 800/998–3483; Diving packages from $389.

Maui Dive Shop. With three locations islandwide, Maui Dive Shop offers scuba charters, diving instruction, and equipment rental. Excursions go to Molokini, Shipwreck Beach, and Cathedrals on Lanai. Intro dives are done offshore. Night dives, scooter dives, and customized trips are available, as are full SSI and PADI certificate programs. 1455 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, Hawaii, 96753. 808/879–3388; 800/542–3483;

Mike Severns Diving. This company has been around for nearly four decades and takes groups of up to 12 certified divers with two dive masters to both popular and off-the-beaten-path dive sites. Boat trips leave from Kihei Boat Ramp, and go wherever conditions are best: the Molokini Marine Life Conservation District, Molokini Crater's Back Wall, Makena, or beyond La Perouse Bay. Kihei Boat Ramp, S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, Hawaii, 96753. 808/879–6596; Dives from $139; charters from $1,670.

Shaka Divers. Since 1983, owner Doug Corbin has led personalized dives, including great four-hour intro dives, refresher courses, scuba certifications, and south shore dives to Ulua, Nahuna Point or Turtle Town (also called Five Caves or Five Graves), and Bubble Cave. Typical dives last about an hour. Dives can be booked on short notice, with afternoon tours available (hard to find on Maui). Shaka also offers night dives and torpedo-scooter dives. The twilight two-tank dive is nice for day divers who want to ease into night diving. 24 Hakoi Pl., Kihei, Hawaii, 96753. 808/250–1234; From $40.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba. Owner and dive master Tim Rollo has led customized, private shore dives along West Maui since 1995. He'll take only four to six divers at a time, and can cater to the most novice diver. Intro dives include gear and air. Night dives, scooter dives, and scuba certifications are also offered. 104 Kaanapali Shores, Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761. 808/870–0878; Dives from $89.