Not all of Hawaii’s beauty is above water. What lurks below can be just as magnificent.
Although snorkeling provides adequate access to this underwater world, nothing gives you the freedom—or depth, quite literally—as scuba.
The diving on Oahu is comparable with any you might do in the tropics, but its uniqueness comes from the isolated environment of the Islands. There are literally hundreds of species of fish and marine life that you can find only in this chain. In fact, about 25% of Hawaii’s marine life can be seen here only—nowhere else in the world. Adding to the singularity of diving off Oahu is the human history of the region. Military activities and tragedies of the 20th century filled the waters surrounding Oahu with wreckage that the ocean creatures have since turned into their homes.
Although instructors certified to license you in scuba are plentiful in the Islands, we suggest that you get your PADI certification before coming, as a week of classes may be a bit of a commitment on a short vacation. Expect to pay around $100 for a two-tank boat dive (provided that you are certified). You can go on short, shallow introductory dives without the certification, but the best dives require it and cost a bit more.
Equipment, Lessons, and Tours
Surf 'N Sea. The North Shore headquarters for all things water-related is also great for diving. One interesting perk: upon request, their dive guides can shoot a video of you diving. It's hard to see facial expressions under the water, but it still might be fun for those who want to prove that they took the plunge. Two-tank shore dives are the most economical choice (prices for noncertified divers are higher), but the company also offers boat dives, and in the summer, night dives are available for only slightly more. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, Hawaii, 96712. 800/899–7873; www.surfnsea.com. From $100 (2-tank shore dives).
Aaron's Dive Shop. Whether you're diving for the first time or a master diver, this friendly and well-equipped dive shop caters to everyone. Take an "introductory" dive if you're not certified; get certified; or sign up for an offshore day or night dive excursion if you're experienced. In addition to organized group dives, the company's "Dive Concierge" can arrange private charters for those who want a completely customized experience. Snorkelers can go along on many dives as well. 307 Hahani St. , Kailua, Hawaii, 96734. 808/262--2333; aaronsdiveshop.com. From $120 for 2-tank dive.