Go under the sea for an otherworldy experience in Hawaii
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
You've most likely come to Honolulu to indulge in the bright blue Pacific Ocean. So instead of staying above on boats, surfboards, and flotation devices, dive below to a whole new aquatic world. With a seemingly endless array of boat tour, scuba and snorkeling options in Honolulu, decisions can be overwhelming. But fear not, 10 Best has compiled that absolute best snorkel and dive outfitters to guide you in the deep blue and we're presenting it right here for you.
Move past the terrestrial attractions and go under the sea and swim with dolphins with unique outfitter like Sail Hawaii, located on the sunny and warm Waianae Coast. If exploring the more busy waters of Waikiki on a luxurious catamaran with Outrigger Catamaran and go snorkeling with green sea turtles and tropical fish in the waters near Diamond Head.
For real adrenaline addicts you can dive with sharks. Yup, you heard right, sharks! Out on the North Shore two outfitters offer cage shark dives off the coast of the north side. They head at least three miles out to sea from the Haleiwa Boat Harbor and will let you hop in a cage with sharks right there and take photos. North Sore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encountersj will give you a story for every get together when you're back home.
So get out the bathing suit and the water camera, and don't forget the sunblock, because 10 Best's top ten scuba diving and snorkeling adventures is getting you out and under the sea!
10 Sail Hawaii
Sail Hawaii, based out of the Waianae Boat Harbor on the hot and sunny west side, offers several unique ocean tours included a snorkeling cruise. Their introductory morning wildlife cruise runs from 7:30 to 11 a.m. for $110 and takes cruisers view and swim with dolphins (depending on what mother nature provides) and to snorkel with exotic fish and green sea turtles. The outfitter provides all snorkeling gear and flotation devices. They usually only take out about 20 people which is less than many boats and offers a less crowded dive. The whole family can have fun here and they recommend ages seven and up, although three year-old children are permitted. ((808) 306-7273)
9 Outrigger Catamaran
Board a former championship record breaking catamaran with the Welakahao Catamaran in Waikiki. You'll explore the blue Hawaiian waters and reefs of the Turtle Canyons on the 2 � hour snorkeling adventure. They'll take you to the waters off of diamond head in search of sea turtles, dolphins and lots of exotic fish. They also offer private charters for wedding receptions and other functions. The cat is 45-feet long and during the sailing and snorkeling and sunset tour there's an open bar. Prices range from $40 to $50. ((808) 922-2210)
8 Dive Oahu
It's all about scuba with Dive Oahu, a long standing dive company that caters to residents who love to dive as well as visitors looking for dive charters. You can obtain all the dive gear you need from this company for experienced individual divers, as well as go on charters. Dive charter locations include YO-257 Wreck, the San Pedro and the Sea Tiger, all wrecks off the sores of Waikiki. The YO-257 and the San Pedro are right next to each other. Visibility at both of these is 100 feet while at the Sea Tiger it's 95 feet. ((808) 422-4290)
7 Island Divers Activities
The folks at Island Divers Activities will take you snorkeling and scuba diving (as well as whale watching, jet skiing, and para sailing) daily. They have two daily snorkeling trips with the ride out leaving at 9 a.m. and returning at 1 p.m., for just $25. They'll take you to see loads of tropical fish as well as green sea turtles. They also offer discover Oahu scuba diving trips daily. No experience is needed to try scuba diving on this mission. The boat departs at 9 a.m. and returns at approximately 1 p.m. They have the choice between two different dive locations where you can expect to see hundreds of tropical fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles along several types of eel and other sea life. Use of scuba diving equipment is included and prices are $59 for a single tank dive and $89 for a double tank dive. ((808) 423-8222)
6 Hawaii Shark Encounters
With Hawaii Shark Encounters, you'll venture over three miles out to sea where you'll have the opportunity to watch from the boat or hop into a floating cage where you can view sharks just inches away through a poly glass window. No diving or scuba experience is necessary, and you enter from the top and stay on the surface with mask and snorkel. You'll be treated to a shark education on the way out and back where you'll learn about shark safety, health and endangerment. Children as young as five years old are welcome at the rate of $75. Military and kama`aina (resident) specials are $90. Adults cost $105. ((808) 351-9373)
5 Breeze Hawaii Diving Adventures
Snuba, scuba, or snorkel with Breeze Hawaii around the islands. For scuba dives they take folks on guided shore dives in gorgeous Hanauma Bay where the fish population is the busiest on the island. They'll take experienced divers as well as new divers during an introductory scuba dive course. What's notable about this company is that they're the only one who takes people diving around all sides of the island regularly. They do boat charters island wide to get the varied diving experience. They also do snuba at Hanauma Bay, and this is a great option for children since you don't actually take the tanks down with you. They'll pick divers up in Waikiki and take them to Hanauma. ((808) 735-1857)
4 North Shore Shark Adventures
What could be more exciting than swimming with sharks? Still thinking of an answer? There's probably not anything better. With North Shore Shark Adventures, the original Oahu shark tour company, you have a choice of two tours beginning at 7 a.m. and leaving from Haleiwa. You'll travel three miles out to sea and there's a good chance of green sea turtle, dolphin and whale sightings along the way. Jump onto either vessel, the Anela or Abunai, and head out into the ocean where you'll hop into the metal cage and enjoy time in the center of a swarm of sharks. Children as young as three are invited, and ages three to 13 cost $60 to actually get in the cage! Children under three can ride on the boat for free. Adults cost $120 but lower specials are sometimes offered. Military and kama`aina (residents) can dive for $50 while a military of kama`aina child is $35. Shark sizes range from five to 15 feet and each boat is 42-feet long. Tours last about two hours. Check the website for hotel pick-ups for an extra fee. Don't forget the water camera! ((808) 228-5900)
3 SeaBreeze Watersports
SeaBreeze Water Sports is an all around water sport company providing everything from scuba diving and para sailing to flying high in the air with a jet pack on your back. Yup, you heard me right. Here's your opportunity to do some of the usual water sports in Hawaii like spend time at the bottom of the ocean diving or ride a jet ski. Or, you can relive those childhood fantasies and put on a jet stream back pack and shoot yourself high in the air and even hang 30 feet in the air for a while. The Jet Lev R200 was released just last year, and there are only eight units being used around the world - two of which are being offered here at SeaBreeze for $399 a pop. (808-396-0100)
2 Snorkel Hanauma Bay
Created from a collapsed volcano crater, this bay is protected and calm, ideal for snorkeling, as you'll see from the crowds around you. The snorkeling is truly amazing, since the preserve protects the wildlife and creates a favorite place for the fish to come eat. It offers great opportunity for viewing marine life and also boasts a terrific beach and hiking trails. Additional facilities include picnic areas, showers and restrooms, concession kiosks, a volleyball court, and lifeguards. Although parking can be difficult if you don't arrive early, a shuttle bus runs from Waikiki in the mornings and makes return trips in the afternoons. ((808) 396-4229)
1 Oahu Kayak, Hike and Snorkel Adventure
Experience the remote and breathtaking beauty of an Oahu kayak adventure along the scenic windward coast of Kualoa, one of the most historically significant places on Oahu. This Oahu kayaking, hiking and snorkeling excursion combines the scenic backdrop of the lush Hakipuu Valley and the majestic volcanic Koolau Mountain ridge with the tranquil cobalt and turquoise ocean waters of Kaneohe Bay. Your Oahu hiking adventure begins with a short hike to a scenic overlook at the entrance to Hakipuu Valley. Here you will have the chance to capture an aerial perspective of the breathtakingly beautiful landscape, from its forested valleys to its inviting ocean reef waters. From this point on, your day will continue to unfold with one unforgettable highlight after another. Once completing your instruction for your Oahu kayak adventure, you'll paddle along the tranquil and glassy waters of Kaneohe Bay. Due to the protected reef surrounding the area, this is one of the safest places for kayaking on Oahu. Your journey by kayak along Kualoa, listed on the National Register of Historical Places, takes you past Mokoli'i Island to the 800-year old Molii fishpond (one of the last ancient Hawaiian fishponds). This rock-walled enclosure was hand-built by ancient Hawaiians to maintain a ready supply of live ocean fish. As part of the privately- owned Kualoa Ranch, you will have the rare opportunity to experience an ancient Hawaiian treasure that most visitors to Oahu never get to see. As your kayak glides along the tranquil coast line of Kaneoohe Bay, your adventure includes an exclusive visit to Oahu's hidden gem known as "Secret Island". This secluded beach in the country becomes your playground for relaxation, enjoyment and a picnic lunch. Whether you want to relax in a hammock, take a stroll around the island, or return to the ocean for a quick canoe ride, you're certain not to want to leave. (1/877-877-1222)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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