Situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the islands of Hawaii are an oasis for underwater wildlife that would otherwise have nowhere to go. From menacing looking moray eels to graceful green sea turtles, the ocean around Oahu is abundant with marine animals. Whether you're an avid diver or a first timer, there is something for you on Oahu. Here are a few of our favorite underwater experiences on offer in Oahu:
Photo by Thomas Shahan via Flickr
One of the great things about Oahu is its abundance of shore dives—meaning you don't have to take an hour-long sea sickening boat ride to arrive at the dive site. Shark’s Cove is the second most popular shore dive on Oahu. Surprisingly, you won't find any sharks here, as the name actually comes from the fact that the cove closely resembles a shark when seen from the air. What you will find, however, is the dive's most famous feature: an underwater cave called the "Elevator." It's a hole that spans 10 feet in diameter and allows divers to descend 20 feet into its depths, exiting through one of three different tubes.
You'll find that not all reefs here in Hawaii were formed naturally. Many of them were helped along using manmade materials. In the case of Kewalo Pipe, the underwater steel pipeline that gives the spot its name has become an artificial reef harboring exotic animals like octopus, leaf scorpion fish, and devil scorpion fish.
Rainbow Reef and Magic Island
Photo by sheraca via Flickr
Another easy and convenient shore entry, these dive spots are located near Ala Moana Beach Park on Oahu's South Side. These are perfect spots for beginners due to the lack of currents, easy access and abundance of marine life. In the past, the fish here have been hand fed, so it won't be long until you're approached by a vast array of tropical fish looking for a handout. Popular sightings include porcupine fish, spotted puffer fish, morays, Moorish idols, triggerfish, and fantail filefish. If you're lucky, you might even see the odd manta ray and turtle or two.
The YO-257 was a Navy yard oiler which was sunk to form an artificial reef off Waikiki back in 1989. The YO-257 is one of the south shore’s more popular boat dives. Since its submersion, it has become the home to many colorful fish and moray eels. The ship itself has been adapted for diving with large access holes cut through the structure so you can swim inside. Like so many other dives on Oahu, visibility is normally superb and over 100 feet. A decent line is always rigged to mooring buoys on the wreck making decent to this deep dive a breeze. In 1996, a new ship, the San Pedro, was sunk within 50 yards of the YO-257 as an additional dive attraction.
Photo by David Siu via Flickr
As the name suggests, this dive site located in Maunalua Bay is one of the best places to see sea turtles. Several large turtles can often be found resting on the seafloor or on the lava ledges. Be sure to peek under the numerous overhangs and ledges as a wide array of various critters hide here in the shadows.
Photo by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr
The small islet of Mokolea is a seabird sanctuary found off Oahu's East Coast. While the islet might be a seabird sanctuary, underwater you'll have the opportunity to see whitetip reef sharks, parrot and unicorn fish and a plethora of different corals. Check out the walls of the caves that are covered in lobster.
Photo by Roy Niswanger via Flickr
The Mahi Shipwreck is one of Oahu's most popular dive sites, originally sunk in 1982 as an artificial reef project. It is located a quick 15-minute boat ride that takes you just 1/2 mile from the Waianae Boat Harbor. You'll immediately notice that this is one of the artificial reef project's best success stories. Schools of 20 spiny puffer fish have been spotted, and a large school of milletseed Butterflyfish and ta'ape always seem to be waiting for handouts. A couple of Whitetips named "George" and "Martha" are sometimes spotted here, as well as eagle rays. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you might even encounter a whale shark!
Photo by mikepmiller via Flickr
This artificial reef developed completely by accident as the pilot of this Corsair ran out of fuel on a training mission in 1946 and ditched his aircraft into the ocean. Luckily, it was on a calm day and settled intact in 107 feet of water. The white sand bottom reflects plenty of light in waters that rarely have less than 100 feet of visibility. A large Antler Coral has established itself just behind the open cockpit, with schools of tropicals swimming the oasis amidst an oceanic desert. Green sea turtles, reef sharks and eagle rays also visit this artificial reef for shelter and to seek food.
Have you ever been diving in Oahu? What other spots would you recommend?