The Big Island of Hawaii is world renowned for its awe-inspiring natural beauty and unique ecological features, drawing nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world – most certainly including scuba divers. With exceptional visibility and an abundance of coral reefs, there are ample opportunities to observe a wide variety of marine life just offshore. While there are seemingly endless possibilities, here are seven not-to-be-missed dive sites for divers planning to explore the wild and wonderful underwater world surrounding Hawaii’s Big Island.
Located just outside of Honokohau Harbor, this dive site is best known for the large megafauna that are very regularly seen here – especially the iconic tiger sharks. From just off the beach to depths of nearly 80ft (24m), divers can have up-close encounters with dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays, sea turtles, black tips, and tiger sharks that frequent this area with a vibrant and lively coral reef backdrop.
Manta Ray Heaven
Most divers describe the manta ray night dive off Kona as otherworldly. After the sun sets, descend to a sandy bottom about 30ft (9m) beneath the surface where there will soon be giant manta rays soaring overhead while feeding on plankton – a surreal, spectacular, and thrilling experience all at the same time. Read a detailed first-hand account of diving at Manta Ray Heaven here.
Pu’uhonua / Honaunau
Water entry is a breeze at this shore dive thanks to the tiered lava formation along the shore. Divers can explore ancient underwater architecture created by lava flows centuries ago, as well as a bustling coral garden home to an incredible variety of colorful reef fish. This is an excellent dive for beginners or advanced divers to see eels, octopus, and sea turtles. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is home to a four hundred year old place of refuge and is a sacred historic site on the Big Island – important to remember when visiting this area.
Located within Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in Kona, this dive site is a local favorite. Features include well-developed coral reef, lava tubes, and sea caves. A gradually sloping bottom leads to a steep drop off revealing a sandy expanse about 100ft (30m) deep where divers have the chance to see pods of spinner dolphins, eagle rays, sharks, and even the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle.
The variety of underwater bathymetry here makes for a truly exciting dive. And since this dive site is only accessible by boat, that often means fewer people in the water. All within one dive, scuba divers can pass beneath a lava rock arch above a boulder bottom, cruise beside a large lava rock wall, explore a circular cavern spotted with skylights, and gaze out over a steep drop off into a wide expanse of clear blue open ocean.
This site is all about underwater lava caves. Divers pass through a series of caves that reveal brilliant beams of sunlight poking through holes overhead as well as a variety of marine life hiding in crevices. Whitetip reef sharks are also a common resident at this dive site. When exiting the lava caves, divers that time their departure with the surge can get helpfully ‘sucked’ out (hence the name).
Touch of Grey
Love baby sharks? This dive site is a grey reef shark nursery. Groups of these adorable sharks – some of which are only 2ft long – are spotted circling or laying underneath ledges here amongst schools of colorful reef fish like angelfish, boxfish, and snapper. Due to typically strong current, a ravine, and some complex underwater formations, this dive site is best for advanced divers.
With so many amazing dive sites to choose from, the novelty of the underwater world surrounding Hawaii seems to always deliver an incredible diving experience for even the most seasoned divers. Check out more information here when planning your next dive trip to Hawaii.