Review Date AVG ShoreDiving Site
10/08/2009 2.67 Magic Island Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Enter via a 1'-wide mini-beach at the near-left (east/Waikiki) side of Magic Island. Magic Island is the circular artificial pool at the end of the peninsula on the east side of Ala Moana park. Here's where the prior descriptions of the dive have been vague: The entry is onto ankle-deep coral/rock. Going southeast from the beach, you soon find a shallow (10'/3m deep) wall. On the deeper side is a silty boat channel. Follow this wall out to sea for about 20 meters, then hop over the wall and swim westward a few feet. If you don't make this all-important move, you'll get bored to death in a lifeless silty boat channel. Once you've swum westward a bit, you'll find yourself in clean 30'/10m deep coral canyons with good viz and a bottom made of broken corals instead of silt. Go seaward as far as the tall channel marker, and you'll surely see at least one green sea turtle. On your way back, retrace your route and pop up to the surface occasionally to make sure you're on the right path. Unsuitable as a night dive, imho, because it's too easy to misplace a buddy and become disoriented in the silt, or by the twisting/turning paths through the shallow canyons.
02/08/2008 3.36 Omijima Island Japan, Pacific
Similar to Oahu diving: stony/sandy bottom, 20~40' viz, moderate-to-poor fish life. Diveable year-round for the hardiest (dumbest) divers; otherwise, August is the only month to truly enjoy it in 3mm wetsuit or less. Unparalleled facilities, but burdened by outrageously excessive controls by management and absurdly high rent costs of air tanks. Picturesque temperate-zone picnic area above water, with beachside camping. It's passable diving if you're stuck on Japan's mainland; otherwise, head to Palau, Saipan, Maldives, Okinawa....
02/07/2008 3.43 Tanapag Beach, Saipan Micronesia, Pacific
This is the most crowded intro-diving spot on Saipan. An occasional 40-passenger greyhound bus will show up. More often, there are one or two pickup trucks with 3 or 4 customers. Find it north of Garapan, south of Nikko Hotel. It's a bit off the main road, on a suburban street, so plan to hunt, ask locals, or follow a dive truck. Bathroom's defunct, no phones unless you ask a local to use his home phone. Park on grass next to an outdoor theater/pavilion, use the theater's outer wall as a bench. Gear up, walk 10' to the perfect sand beach, look for a rope headed out to sea. Follow the rope; it slopes verrrry slowly to 10' deep, in a sandy trough (perfect for open water and intro lessons, unless there's one of the occasional fast currents blowing longshore back toward Garapan). Beware of lots of scrap metal cans (sausage "fishfood", the scuba equivalent of tying a pork chop around your neck so the dog will play with you). The rope will turn right (north, away from Garapan) and circle a few shallow coral heads with good viz. PERFECT place to use a disposable snorkeling camera. Beware of stone fish. Enjoy hordes of tiny sky-blue penny-sized fish that will "kiss" your hands in search of sausage. Also look for flounder, tiny boxfish & puffers, and at least one anemone with clownfish. Except on days with strong longshore currents or when a bus pulls up, this is the PERFECT place for an exceptionally timid diver's first intro dive. Some day, a smart businessman will probably set up a dive shop with assembly-line diving (Snuba?) at this spot. Wish it were me!
02/07/2008 4.07 Gun Beach Guam, Pacific
Inside the reef, water's too shallow for intro-dive lessons or cert pool sessions. Otherwise, this is an ideal dive, one of Guam's best. Drive past the last hotel on the far-right (facing the water) side of Tumon Bay (Guam's hotel row), on the beach BELOW Lover's Leap. Go down a short dirt road to the beach; no facilities, but a super-short walk along the shore to a hotel with a dive shop. In ankle-deep waters, gear up completely and search for a ceramic pipe and/or chain leading out through a tiny cut in the reef. Follow it out, then head LEFT (back toward hotel row/center of the bay). No currents, oodles of healthy candlestick corals. Choose any depth, from 1' to 70'. Expect hand-shaped "spider shells", small and large. Inexplicably, this dive spot is almost unused by the majority of dive shops, though it's a fine, fine dive. I've seen napoleon wrasses and white tips here frequently, and a manta once.
02/07/2008 3.05 Lana'i Lookout (Scenic Lookout) Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Extreme Advanced Dive. See my map ( http://scubaonthe.net/lanai.html ) for detailed info. Bring flashlight, someone to watch the car for break-ins & make sure you get back, & a local guide. Leave all valuables at home, & put a sign in the window: "no cash, no radio." From Waikiki, drive past Diamond Head. At Port Lock before Hanauma, find a dive shop with a local guide. Then drive past Hanauma toward Blowhole. Lanai's the 1 parking lot between Hanauma & Blowhole: a square for 20 cars, on a barren rocky triangular point. No phones, bathrooms, park staff-- have your car-watcher bring a cell phone. Don gear, keep wetsuit unzipped, clip your fins in top clip of BCD, do a sincere willingness check, & shove your mask into the foot-pocket of a fin. Along the highway, walk away from Hanauma Bay/Waikiki & cross the road to the inshore side of the road. When you see a small valley, walk down into it & you will find a dark narrow stone tunnel under the road. If you have a flashlight, now's the time to use it; the tunnel floor has ankle-twister holes in it. & After the tunnel, there is a tiny climb down a 3' ledge, onto a slippery flat rocky point. Beware of slipping here; there's lots of moss. Best to have pressed-felt reef boots (called "tabi" in Hawaii & Japan) to grip the ground here. Let the guide show you where to enter. DO NOT go near the innermost bays; they're extreme hazards. Giant-stride entry, sink immediately. The surface is unsafe: waves, whitewater, sharp rocks. Divers meet on bottom, 30' down. Send your 2nd-best diver to the bottom first; keep your first-best at the surface 'til last, to assist divers entering the water. You'll see a 30'-wide, 10'-tall tunnel immediately below entry point. Go through; head toward the parking lot. Cut across the narrow, boulder-strewn bay beyond the tunnel, & find a wall, outer edge of the rocky point where you parked. Follow the wall, any depth >15';. Beware, the top of the wall is extremely surge-ridden whitewater, a shallow shelf covered in waves. That shelf's edge is a great place to spot humpback cowries, though. Follow the wall for 30 minutes, until a salt-and-pepper sandy plain with wave-ridges, 30' deep. This is the last safe playground/place-to-surface before the exit, & this is where your friendly guide earns his/her $. The exit area is whitewater & surge-ridden. Worse, there're misleading false exits on either side of the real. Look for a small overhang in 15' of water, with piercings in the side & front that prevent it from being a true cavern. The near side of it is a false exit; its far side is true. Better, if you have the air & a truly knowledgeable guide, he/she will lead you past the exit to the "cheesegrate" cove beyond it, where a black 30' tunnel will lead you unerringly into the middle of the true exit cove, which is J-shaped, 40' long, & sloped upward from 10' to 1'. Use its rocky bottom as handholds & let the surge bring you in. As you 'round the J, you will be brought into a hottub-like area where you can safely exit. DO NOT PAUSE at the hottub; clamber out quickly. Waves rip over the rocks & can push you back into the bottom of the J, or pull you out over the rocks into the open sea. Get ready for a steep, dry, dusty, slippery walk up to the parking lot. Iffy divers, try out & back from the exit cove to gain familiarity. Experienced Lanai Lookout divers good on air may want to enjoy "windchime canyon" past the cheese grate cove, or even try drift-diving from exit cove to Hanauma Bay's "Toilet Bowl".
03/23/2005 3.16 Lau Lau Beach, Saipan Micronesia, Pacific
Excellent site, although the roads to get there are prohibitively bad, being made of crushed pink coral and mud. During typhoon season (Oct ~ Jan) the roads can be horrible, and on days when a typhoon is imminent this otherwise placid place can be almost undivable...though it's one of the last spots on the island to become undivable during typhoons. The entry and exit are incredibly easy. You can walk in or do a giant stride entry. Exit is through an extremely murky channel, so local dive shops have put a long rope there to guide you through the near-zero viz near the exit. Excellent clown-fish in an area called "clown town", and a baglike anemone along the lengthy pipe near the exit. Excellent corals to the left; silty flats to the right. 20% chance of seeing a turtle. Very frequent assorted large life, including napoleon wrasses, harmless reef shark, turtle, eagle ray, stingray, football-size squid, and so on... best chances of seeing these are at night or dawn before the site's mobbed. No facilities, nor even a phone or loo, onsite. Occasionally a government security guard is posted there to protect dive vans from break-ins. DO NOT walk along the beach past the large cement blocks, because the locals who live there may shoot at you. DO NOT park on the beach during turtles' egg-laying season-- you may be crushing someone's family. Wear dive boots because you'll be walking over coral during entry/exit.
09/09/2004 3.88 Hanauma Bay Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
This is an excellent place... THE place... to dive and snorkel on O'ahu. I'd particularly recommend that introductory divers try SNUBA there. (SNUBA is like Scuba, hut with much less equipment. The tank is in a rubber canoe, and air runs through a hose down to the diver's regulator.) It's a lot less stressful than intro diving in full SCUBA gear. Beginner divers and snorkelers should enjoy the knee-depth to 12-foot depth of the "keyhole" area, the coral-rimmed sandy area on the extreme east side of the sandy beach. Beginners and snorkelers should stay clear of the narrow opening there between the inner reef and the area beyond the wave break, because the current's strong there. Advanced divers will follow Bill's advice on this page. Bring a Fuji quick snap recyclable snorkeling camera. Try not to stir up the bottom, and DO NOT STAND ON THE REEF. The reef there is 90% dead from snorkelers standing on it. The fish are accustomed to being fed bread, frozen peas, and real (environmentally OK) fish food. Near the beach, in waist-high water, silver chub may overwhelm you in a feeding frenzy. Do NOT touch or even influence the swimming of the turtles, as they are very thoroughly protected by law, and they're easily stressed-out AIR BREATHERS. The bay is closed on Tuesday mornings, for cleaning. The bay may also be closed to tourists on weekends. Ignore tour agents who try to sell van-rides to the bay from Waikiki. However, it can be VERY difficult to get parking at the Bay. Two alternatives: 1) take the 30-minute public bus ride from Waikiki (grab a $10, 7-day public bus unlimited ticket, at a convenience store !) or 2) park in the Hawaii Kai shopping center and take the public bus up to the bay (or make the long walk).
08/22/2004 3.30 The Grotto, Saipan Micronesia, Pacific
A classic must-do dive. The long 100+ step staircase and short hop to the jumping platform are tough on anyone with weak legs. DO NOT allow snorkelers outside the entrance cavern. Reason: if you're without SCUBA gear, it's easy to go out to the open ocean, but near impossible to come back in. Have at least 800psi/70 ATM in your tank when you come back into the main cavern, so you won't short-change the safety stop or get stuck on the surface outside the cavern with no way back in. This site is often divable when the rest of the island is battered by typhoon conditions. Visibility is the best in Saipan-- typically 100' and more. Watch your depth gauge carefully when outside on the deep sea cliff-- it's easy to go too deep without noticing, because of the deceptive water clarity. Expect a school of barracudas outside the right-hand ext, a small whitetip shark ("Otto") in a small cave at 70' between the two main exits, and frequent turtles & napoleons outside the left-hand exit. Lighting is spectacular, particularly in the left-hand exit. Convenient rope & buoy for safety stops. Exit is accomplished by holding a rope and waiting for a wave to sweep you up onto a small level rock shelf-- a bit tough. If you're extremely good on air, investigate the "batcave" about 100 meters to the left of the left-hand exit, out along the seawall. The Grotto, like all Micronesian dives, is best done in the very early morning in order to see the most big animals. This dive is almost, not quite, a religious experience. Of course, it can't compare to anything Palau offers, but is definitely THE dive to do in the Northern Marianas Islands (Guam/Saipan/Tinian/Rota). The place will be mobbed by throngs of Japanese tourist-divers and local dive enthusiasts, between 8am and 5pm. Get there at dawn for the best experience, but even if morning's not your thing... DO the Grotto, if you're ever in the Northern Marianas with a pair of healthy legs. Warning: There's no bathroom & the emergency phone often doesn't work. There have been thefts there, though not many. Most dive vans there will have a cell-phone, if you need it. Saipan DOES NOT HAVE A RECOMPRESSION CHAMBER. The nearest is in Guam, far to the South, so take extra precautions against decompression sickness.
08/22/2004 3.68 Piti "Bombholes"/The Aquarium Guam, Pacific
Aside from a long walk in shallow water, this is one of the easiest, safest dives you'll ever do. It's particularly worth recommending to divers traveling with non-divers, since the snorkeling's GREAT and even non-swimmers who hate boats can pay $10 and go into the oceanarium at the end of the dock, to watch YOU diving just outside the oceanarium's underwater windows!!! Ranged around the oceanarium is a thriving community of antler corals. Fish include crocodile fish, half-beak birdfish, schools of skipjack and unicorn fish, triggerfish, and clownfish. Viz is typically 50'. Stay close to the pier and oceanarium, since the rest of the area is a bit shallow and boring. Avoid the left-hand side of the pier, out near the end, because it's where "seawalker" tours send helmeted tourists down to walk around & stir up an already silty bottom. Excellent place for open water training dives and zero-stress first-time night-dives. DO NOT use the pier for your SCUBA activities, as the owners are quite adamant that you're not covered in their insurance, and they don't need the extra traffic on their pier. Lighting's strong & this dive doesn't get beyond 30' deep unless you bring a shovel, so consider bringing a one-use Fuji Quicksnap snorkeling camera (rated to only 15', but actually good to 30~35' deep). Warning: This is a popular stop for tourists' intro-dives, so expect it to get a bit crowded. GREAT BIG WARNING: There's a 5'-long Great Barracuda there. He's usually fed hotdogs by insane tourists, so DO NOT POINT AT HIM WITH YOUR FINGERS. This is a poignant reason why the hand signal for "danger" is a fist, not a finger pointing. This barracuda has already taken one unfortunate tourist's finger, thinking the extended finger was a sausage offering. Aside from the barracuda and occasional small lionfish, this site is utterly safe. The name "Piti Bombholes" is a misnomer: The "bombholes" are actually natural sinkholes in an otherwise shallow, flat, slab-like reef.
08/08/2004 3.00 Shark's Cove Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Strictly a summer dive. Winters, the surf becomes unbearable. Adjacent to "Three Tables" dive site, so you can do 2 dives & not repeat anything. In summertime, this is the premiere dive instruction spot, so expect crowds. Toilet's be FILTHY. Sandy bottom is so flat, and so markedly contrasted with the brown lava walls, that you'll feel you're in an aquarium. EXTENSIVE cave system (I've mapped 58 tubes in all) throughout the lava stone presents fun swim-throughs AND DANGERS. Do not pretend you're a trained cave diver-- people have died there, trying. Excellent spot for all levels of snorkeling and scuba. Depths seldom exceed 10m/30ft. On the far, far right you'll see 1 or 2 yard-long turtles, and may occasionally find shore fishermen just outside the protected area, so beware of fish line & hooks. Nice night dive, with slipper lobsters, conger eels, and large red Spanish Dancers.
08/08/2004 3.53 Makapu'u Beach Park Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
It should be noted that 1) landing Rabbit Island is strictly illegal... the coast guard will fine you big-time, and will come if you even wander close to the island. 2) Never drink in the time around a dive, as dehydration can occur with this and all diuretics, and exacerbate many dive-related problems. 3) The Molokai Express, a local powerful current, moves through this area Eastward, toward Molokai/Maui. If the current blows you past the point, you're in trouble… and currents here can sometimes be powerful. Asking locals about the Molokai Express will make their pupils dilate, whites of eyes show vividly, and cause locals to break out in a plethora of scary stories. I've lived through 2 of the moderately scary stories. 4) The other commenters do not exaggerate about lobster and crabs, along the right-hand wall here, in small clefts and overhangs. If I were looking for easy lobster, I'd look here first. Be warned that lobster are off-limits, legally, during their breeding season, when young cling to the mother in great numbers. These off-limit times are the summer months. If local divers refer to "Summer Crab", they're talking about taking lobster out-of-season. This is a popular wakeboarding & body boarding spot, with a 3' tall wave pattern that's short but powerful, on most days. It's cr*p for snorkeling, but with nice beaches and Sea Life Park across the street, you can bring the non-divers here with no fear that they'll be bored. Frequent hang gliders overhead, and a nice hike to the lighthouse on the point, make this a nice place to do other things...but this would be one of my last desperate choices for a dive, unless my buds have a hankering for lobster. A hundred or so yards/meters west from here, along the North Shore, is a place where many dive shops bring introductory (unlicensed) divers. Warning: It's totally worthless. Visibility in this slightly-west spot is rarely over 10 feet with a silty bottom and only occasional round coral heads with tiny, tiny fishes. Depths don't exceed 15'/5m. So, this slightly-west spot's a SAFE spot, but will bore even beginners.
08/08/2004 4.45 Hale'iwa Beach Park Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
More: often divable, even in Winter when the rest of the North Shore is undivable. Exceptional showers and bathrooms and nearby phones. There's always adequate parking. The walk out to the drop-off through yard-deep shallows is LONG, often frustrating...perhaps 100 yards/meters. Try to stay underwater as long as possible when returning, to enjoy the shallows & avoid walking. // Out of 90-or-so dives here, I've twice been stopped by a lifeguard on a jet ski, telling me this area is frequented by tiger sharks. Not sure if he's telling the truth... perhaps he's just hoping to protect the turtles from divers. Turtles are THE reason to dive this spot, nicknamed "Turtle Heaven". Even on a day when viz was 6'/2m, and 5 divers held hands, we still saw 20 or so turtles by peeking into crevices. Nice cleaning stations abound near the drop-off. Bring an U/W camera if at all possible. Expect silt at the bottom of the drop-off.
08/08/2004 2.30 Waimea Bay (wall) Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
I'm baffled that no-one has mentioned the Winter season waves here. They are spectacular to look at (some of the world's largest, measuring 30'/10m on some days) but of course make Winter diving here an impossibility excepting miracles. The "jumping rock" pictured at left in the photos does, indeed have a Y-shaped short tunnel under its point, but nothing to brag about. It's about 12' long, and it's not worth the risk of being struck by falling jumpers. I've jumped off the rock, which is as exhilarating as a bungee jump, but foolhardy at low tide or if you mis-time and jump into a wave-trough. The water around Jumping Rock is quite shallow. // In other respects, when Waimea is diveable, it's like grandparents: pleasant, well-equipped for guests, but ultimately a bit boring. The shower and bathroom are excellent. Parking fills quickly, even extending far up the road to the cliff overlook. Down the street a very short walk are Hawaii's first mission church, Backpackers' youth hostel, Three Tables dive site, and Sharks Cove dive site (named for its shape, not its contents. No sharks here, folks). // Waimea has occasional small lobsters and 7-11 crabs (so called because they have 7 spots when viewed from the front, 4 more when viewed from the back). Other life is not very plentiful here. If you visit, be sure to see the BIG banyan tree(s) in the parking lot of Waimea Park (free to visit the parking lot, $25-ish to get into the park) across the street.
08/08/2004 4.30 More Guam Guam, Pacific
This is one of the easiest shore dives on Guam, and located at the far-right side of the tourist strip, Tumon Bay. Go as far right as possible on the paved road, then follow a dirt road down to a small beach alongside a big hotel. Gear up at your car, then walk 30' to knee-deep water, and follow a cable/pipe channel straight out. Returning, expect to clutch this cable/pipe to resist the rip tide in this cut. Once outside, head LEFT toward the hotels. Rightward is boring, and devastated by crown-of-thorns starfish who've killed the reef. Leftward is a paradise of candlestick corals, gradually sloping from 15' to 100' deep. Lots of spider-shells, large animals, & reef fish. Re-entry through a riptide, and the lack of a bathroom or shower, keep this from being perfect... but it's nearly perfect. Avoid snorkeling here if there are waves. Use thick felt booties, because spiny urchins and sharp rocks abound in the corals you walk across to enter.
08/08/2004 3.32 Three Tables Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Bring 1 tank for Shark's Cove (east from & adjacent to 3 tables), & 1 tank for this site. Shark's Cove is a superior dive. The entry here is far easier, with far fewer rocks & a shorter, sandier walk. Wear booties-- sand is HOT. If you're good on air, dive along the right wall (not in any of these photos) which arcs around to enter Shark's Cove. It's 30'/10m deep, and chock full of interesting holes, cowries, nudebranchs, and unicorn fish. The center of 3 tables only roused a little interest. It was rather average for Hawaii. Haven't tried the left wall-- I'll try it next time I'm there. These dive sites are a 1-minute's drive from a youth hostel, gas station, and grocery store, but a loooong way from the nearest dive shop. This site, like almost all spots on Oahu's North Shore, will probably be undivable from October to May.
08/08/2004 4.01 Sunabe Seawall Japan, Pacific
This site is directly across the street from several dive shops, including at least one run by a lecherous but enthusiastic American. Youth hostel-like facilities next to this dive site make it even more ideal, and it's a short walk to pizza, fair grounds, shopping mall, and movie theater. Access to the dive site is by staircase over the concrete seawall, then a short walk over ankle-deep slippery flat slab like coral. There's a nice area next to a chain where you can don mask and put in your reg, in 4'-deep water. Then simply follow the chain and pipe outward to deeper water. Viz is a bit crap (30 to 40 ft.), and it's FULL of beginner divers. Soft corals are EVERYWHERE, and puffer fish rule this roost. it's utterly safe, and almost perfect because of its incredibly convenient location. No waves, no currents, ever. Expect animosity of you look like US military, but expect a warm welcome if you're any other sort of person. Prices are a bit high by American standards, but considerably less than boat diving in Okinawa. Stay at a hotel near this site, and do as many orientation/skills-practice/check-out dives as you care to here, before renting a car and exploring the many other shore dives on this island. (Do the Keramas boat dive at least once, though... it's almost as good as Palau.)
08/08/2004 3.65 Pukano Point Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Stick to the rock wall at the south-east end of this long beach. It's shallow, but with good visibility and, as someone else mentioned (but not emphatically enough) a nice place to find empty shells, particularly small cowries. BRING A DIVE FLAG. There's a lifeguard at this beach. In 900 or so dives on Oahu, I've only once been asked where my dive flag/dive buoy was, and been fined. HERE. Unemployment and resentment towards tourists & military runs high in Hawaii, so expect frequent theft. Leave nothing of value in your car, and leave a sign in your window saying you have nothing of value. Visibility tends to be quite nice when waves are low, and the white sand along the shallow wall make for warm, well-lit diving, with a beautiful spider web of light dancing across the sand. As with all Hawaii shore dives, call the local free surfers' advisory tel. #, listen to the recording, and avoid this spot if it's got waves enough to interest surfers.
08/08/2004 2.89 Koko Kai Park Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Also known as Port Lock. This is basically the west outside wall of Hanauma Bay. The current photos of the entry point don't do it justice. There's a wiiiide rock shelf with a rope nailed to it: entry is by giant stride; exit is by holding onto the rope and Tarzan-swinging to exit as you ride a wave onto the shelf. Junk for snorkeling, but loads of fun for jumping into the water and Tarzan-swinging. The drift dive along the wall, starting further out (south), is a tricky entry... bring an experienced local, or you may break a leg or enter in the wrong place. Generally the place is very very divable, but on one occasion of the 150+ times I've dived there, a freak current dragged 5 of us out to sea so strongly that even tying off a rope on a coral head didn't save us, nor did lining up and kicking together. Quiz people exiting, about current, and watch the water carefully before entering. // People living around this area are tired of divers & surfers, so do not expect a welcome wagon if you need a phone, parking spot, or bathroom. There are no facilities here. Moderately popular as a SCUBA training site.
08/08/2004 3.38 Makaha Beach Park (Caverns) Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Popular boat dive. Never tried it as a beach dive. When I've done it, I've been very pleased with it as a day or night dive. Plentiful room-sized caves, depths in the 45' range. Lots of corals. The turtles here are quite tame, especially "Tripod", who has 3 fins. They are so unaffected by the presence of divers that one of my students hit her head trying to surface... underneath a turtle. LOOK UP when GOING UP, silly ! ;^)
08/08/2004 3.86 Police Beach Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Also known as Hale'Iwa Beach Park and Turtle Heaven. Excellent multi-level dive, particularly if you enjoy photography and turtle-watching. I've dived here roughly 90 times, and never seen fewer than 15 turtles, averaging 20 per dive. Turtles are 6'/2m long near the drop-off, and 2'/1m in the shallow channels leading back to the grassy shallows. Excellent phone, toilet, and shower facilities in the adjoining park to the west. Often still divable in Winter, when all other North Shore dive sites are pounded by large surf. The long walk across the shallows may be intimidating to people with weak legs. There's a dive shop within 5 minutes' drive toward Hale'Iwa town. Be sure to visit the Wyland Gallery with its sea-related artwork, while in this area.
08/08/2004 2.26 The Great Cathedral site, Anilao Philippines, Pacific
Usually a boat dive, the "cathedral" is a simple thich cross set up in 45' of water beside two large rocks that almost reach the surface. It's a so-so dive because of moderate visibility and limited life. (This part of the Philippines is heavily fished.) I've dived VERY happily in a nearby sandy, uninhabited bay, but wouldn't bother doing a second dive at the Cathedral. Be forewarned that Anilao is extreme countryside. Your hotel will be civilized, but will be your only source of "facilities". Staying in Anilao, you'll be impressed by people's friendliness and accommodating nature, but you must constantly be on guard for unexpected charges. Hotel food, for example, may be free-- but any liquid refreshment with meals are 8 bucks a glass ! Hotels may be ridiculously expensive, by Philippine standards. A ride into town may cost $20 in the hotel's jeepney, but just a dollar in the public jeepney used by locals. ...And so on. Philippine dive masters impressed me as thoughtful, experienced, safe, and accommodating.
08/08/2004 4.15 Turtle Heaven Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Turtle Heaven is also called Police Beach and Hale'Iwa Beach Park. I started calling it Turtle Heaven, for lack of a better name, in 1992 when a snorkeler suggested it as a good spot for deep shore dives. We quickly discovered that this site is spectacular for sea turtles, and an ideal multi-level dive. It can be reached by heading East from Hale'Iwa town. Shortly after passing Wyland Art Gallery and a large, famous shaved ice shop, you'll pass over a small bridge made from two white half-circles of concrete. This bridge was made famous in the Elvis film "Blue Hawaii", I think. Immediately after the bridge, you'll see a parking lot and beach with great facilities: BIG bathrooms, showers, and phones. Stay on the main road, don't go into the beach park yet. Pass by the main parking lot, and just after the bathrooms you'll see a short straight road that heads down to the beach. Go down that road & park. You'll be next to a low wall and nice outdoor showers. On your right is Police Beach; on your left is Hale'Iwa Beach Park. Look to the farthest west point of land you can see. Between you and the land is a small channel-marker buoy. This is your destination, and marks a 45/15m' deep drop-off. Walk to it, dive down, and follow the lower edge or middle of the wall right (eastward). Keep looking in crevices and upward for monstrously big turtles. The drop-off bottoms out near a silty tower, at around 90', after 10 minutes. After this, lift up to about 50~60'/18m, and continue at this depth for 20 minutes. You'll come to a set of sloping channels that lead shoreward. Follow any of these channels, and you will run into at least 10 smallish turtles as you make your safety-stop & work your way 1/2 way back to shore. This approach to land will take about 30 minutes. Go slow, enjoy, and look for cleaning stations & morays. You'll finish in a very shallow grassy plain close to Police Beach. A typical dive will allow you to spot 15~25 turtles. Be wary of jet-skis. Also, I've twice been warned by lifeguards about tiger sharks in the area, and once discovered a dead baby hammerhead shark on the beach there. I've SCUBAed there about 90 times, and never personally seen a shark or anything remotely dangerous. Bring a camera. This site is often divable when all other North Shore sites have prohibitive wave conditions.
08/08/2004 3.27 Rainbow Reef Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Rainbow Reef is an alternate name for Magic Island. This is the reef immediately offshore from the peninsula at the East end of Ala Moana Beach Park. That's the Westernmost edge of Waikiki, where the Ala Wai canal empties into the ocean. It's featured in "Gilligan's Island" as the spot where the SS Minnow sets out of Ala Wai Boat Harbor, in that comedy's opening titles. To dive here, park at the south-easternmost extremity of Ala Moana Beach Park. Gear up in the parking lot, but don't zip up your wetsuit yet, because you've got a long walk over a hot asphalt walk ahead of you. Walk along the Easternmost edge of the peninsula, to a tiny pocket-beach next to the lagoon at the end of the peninsula. Walk down the sea-wall and into the water here. Walk Eastward and drop into the boat channel. For obvious reasons, stay close to the wall as you swim southward along the boat channel. About 15 minutes later, you'll be in 30'/10m of water. In this general area, move West over the top of the wall, away from the boat channel. You'll find a series of wide coral valleys. 4 turtles make their homes here. It's a good place to find the coveted checkered cowry, one of the rarest cowry shells in Hawaii. When you've got about 1.3 your air left, surface briefly, orient yourself toward that pocket beach, and return the way you came. Wear thick-soled booties, because sharp corals and urchins abound. Lousy night dive-- it's easy to get turned around, and visibility can drop off quickly if the silt is stirred up near the boat channel. In rainy conditions, the first 3' on top will look muddy but underneath, the water will be clear. The effect is like flying through a huge, low-ceilinged room.
08/08/2004 2.58 Halona Blow Hole Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Monstrous currents can develop from near-zero starting conditions, in the course of a single dive. As a dive master trainee, I was purple with embarrassment for being stuck at the surface with an unfightable West-bound current and a diver who couldn't equalize her ears. I'd planned to get out at Lanai Lookout, but a HELICOPTER called in by a local fisherman got there first. To the east is Sandy Beach, the place where most cervical vertebrae fractures occur in Hawaii (off-road biking, body boarding, wakeboarding). The walk down from the parking area is intimidating if your legs are weak. Usually turtles are there, in shallows quite close to the beach. Visibility is poor near shore, due to wave action, but typical (30 to 40 feet) for Hawaii shore dives, further out. Car break-ins are common here and at nearby Lanai Lookout. It's a dive that can be moderately rewarding on a good day, and your worst nightmare on a bad day. No phones nearby, unless you're willing to walk to Sandy Beach. Not every dive in Hawaii is a winner: This one's like a dollar on top of a mountain-- a small reward for big effort and big risk, unless conditions are juuust right...or you like helicopter rides.
07/17/2004 3.53 Magic Island Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Decent dive, year-round. Bring a cart and a landlubber to watch the cart & sun himself, while you're underwater, so you don't have to lug your gear from the car across the paved path to the entry. FORGET a swim-entry through the pool-wall's barrier: the pool's always silty (despite the amazing viz in the photo on this page), and the openings in that barrier are almost always too shallow. The entry beach is sand, but then you're walking on fairly sharp coral/lava, so wear tabi-type boots. Follow the boat harbor channel wall outward to the tall, metal channel marker pole, and you often see 4 turtles there. Depths top off at 30~35'. Rare checkered cowries are here. Occasionally silty rainwater creates a "ceiling" of brown on the surface, but underneath, the seawater's still clean. Not a great night-dive, as conditions can often be muddy-viz and divers can feel lost in the coral canyons.
07/17/2004 4.06 Kahe Point Beach Park Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Facilities are great-- short walk from parking, benches, shade, stinky bathroom, and shower. Maybe no phone. Many homeless camp there, and break-ins DO happen, so bring a land-lubber to watch the car & enjoy the sun. The beach is made of big rocks and medium-size stones. Chest-high waves assault you & wreck viz at the entry, so inflate vest to half-full, wade out in pairs to chest-height, THEN don fins & swim out on your back with regulator in place. Excellent place for a night dive, if you stick near the artificial reef/ pipes. Lots of humpback cowries live in the pipes, and many empty shell-fragments can be found in front of the pipes...along with morays. Advanced divers may enjoy tumble-gliding in the pipe exhaust, but don't try it if equalizing & buddy separation freak you. Lots of flat sandy patches amid corals, for Open-Water SCUBA skills. No depths over 25'~30'. Good viz (30'-ish) year-round.
07/17/2004 2.66 Lana'i Lookout (Scenic Lookout) Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
The parking lot has frequent car break-ins while you're underwater or whale watching. Screwdriver entry. I've dived here roughly 100 times, got robbed 3x. The walk down to either entry point is a little challenging. Entry/exit west of the parking spot is medium-hard. Entry on the East outcropping is very challenging, and should not be attempted without watching other divers do it first. There's a broad set of tunnels under the East entry point. DO NOT GO INLAND through those tunnels, because of whitewater surge. Going west thru the tunnel's OK. Avoid the silty cave near the east entry. There's a (narrow) tunnel near the exit-point, as well. The 90 minute drift dive into Hanauma Bay / toilet bowl is strictly for the most advanced divers, and there's no way to quit en route, so avoid that until you have great experience there. Straight out on the main point is a shallow shelf that always has humpback cowries.
07/16/2004 3.35 Hale'iwa Beach Park Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Excellent place to see turtles. I've never seen fewer than 15 turtles there, 1/3 being 5'+ in length. LONG surface swim or walk (100 yards) from the beach to the wall. Best done as a multilevel dive: go off to the mid-left, drop down off the wall to 45'~90'. Swim east along the wall's bottom, then rise to 60' for 20 minutes, then follow one of the channels back toward shore in 30'~15' of water for the remainder of your air + safety stop. Big turtles at the wall; yard-long turtles in the channels. Beware of jetskis.