The Best Places to Scuba Dive on Oahu

The Best Places to Scuba Dive on Oahu

Picture of Gil Zeimer

Gil Zeimer

Gil took a resort course on Grand Cayman in 1981 and has been hooked on diving ever since. He received his PADI certification in 1985 in a reservoir south of Dallas. He’s explored three oceans — from Australia to Micronesia, four Hawaiian Islands, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, California’s Monterey and Channel Islands, Florida’s Keys, Walt Disney World’s Living Seas Exhibit, three Bahamas Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Little Cayman Island, and Aruba.

Oahu is the Gathering Place for all of Hawaii and home to nearly one million people — nearly two-thirds of the Aloha States population. With days in the 70s to mid-80s year-round, gentle trade winds, and a shoreline of 227 miles, you may think there would be lots of places to dive in Oahu. Youd be right. In fact, about 40 sites are frequented for shore and boat dives. 

As with other islands in this chain, the diving is generally quite good — depending on what you want to see — with warm water and generally good visibility which is almost always better in the mornings before afternoon winds kick up. There are some huge, interesting wrecks to explore here. With so many options, here are the best places to scuba dive in Oahu.

What You Can See

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are plentiful around all these islands, so you can enjoy watching them on most dives, but dont hassle them. You’ll see octopi, hundreds of species of colorful fish including the yellow-black-and-white Humuhumu” state fish, tuna, and snapper along the reefs, plus a variety of vibrant corals, sharks, rays, and moray eels. Whales can also be spotted off Waikiki. Another warning: Dont swim with spinner dolphins or manta rays, either.

Water Temperatures

The average water temperature around Oahu ranges between 76 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is warmest in the fall months, but its comfortable year-round for diving, snorkeling, or swimming. Consider wearing a shorty wetsuit, hoodie, and gloves to help prevent heat loss while underwater and stay below the surface longer without getting chilled.

Feature photo: Ryan Pernofski

Photo: Travis Thurston

Electric Beach, Kahe Point, West Side

Marvel at all kinds of colorful fish with 50- to 60-foot visibility. Once you get past the big breakers, small, protected bay next to a power plant offers a great place for a shore or boat dive. Park nearby and walk down to the sheltered beef.

Photo: Christian Joudrey

Haleiwa Shark Diving, North Shore

If youre the adventurous type, you can climb into a shark cage and motor out three miles. This dive operator says its safe, fun, and exhilarating for the whole family,” and adds,shark sightings are 100% guaranteed.” Besides gray reef sharks, you may also see Galapagos, sandbar, tiger, or hammerhead sharks, plus dolphins, sea turtles, and humpback whales during their November through May migration.

Photo: Brian Bondoc

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Southeast Side

About 10 miles east of Waikiki, youll find the entrance to whats been called,The Best Beach in the U.S.” For decades, this half-mile-long, semicircular bay hosted up to 3,000 swimmers, snorkelers, and divers daily to frolic in its shallow waters, but now its limited to only 720 people, helping to preserve this Marine Sanctuary. Divers can see dozens of Hawaii Green Sea Turtles and tropical fish of every color in the underwater rainbow. Parking costs $3; entry fee is $12 per person.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Landing Craft Utility Wreck, West Side

Not far away is another wreck. The LCU is a huge sunken ship, upside-down at an 85-foot depth, surrounded by large concrete blocks, where you can see fish swimming upside down near the boats bottom (top), as well as reef sharks. Visibility can be fairly good (about 80 feet), but varies.

MV Mahi, West Side

Built in 1943 and intentionally scuttled as an artificial reef, this dive site is located at a sunken minesweeper ship that sticks out of the sandy bottom at about 90 feet. As one of the west coasts only wrecks, its home to lots of reef fish, spotted eagle rays, and is frequented by a few white tip reef sharks affectionately called George and Martha as an homage to Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Turtle Bay, Northwest Side

About 10 minutes past Turtle Bay Resort, youll find the Pupukea Marine Conservation District. Snorkelers and shore divers (sorry, no boats) can choose from four sites with unique topography and very descriptive names: Sharks Cove, Three Tables Cathedral, Turtle Carwash, or Waimea Wall. The first two offer large sea caves and lava tubes. Best diving here is summer; avoid it during the winter months because of high winds and huge, 30-foot waves popular with surfers. Parking is available right next to the dive site with showers and public restrooms; access to the beach is a few hundred feet away.

Photo: Brent Storm

USS YO-257 & San Pedro, Waikiki, Southeast Side

Two miles beyond Waikiki, packed with dozens of swimmers, outrigger canoers, stand-up paddleboarders, catamarans, and such, youll find a few interesting wrecks. The YO-257 is 175-feet-long navy oil ship sitting upright in sand about 100 feet deep. Dive boats provide a great view of Diamond Head and Waikiki on your way to this vessel which was sunk in 1989 by Atlantis Submarines to create yet another artificial reef. Nearby is the San Pedro, a 125-foot hospital ship, at a 60-foot depth. Both attract dozens of types of colorful fish.

Vought F4U Corsair, Maunalua Bay, Southeast Side

At a depth of 113 feet, this wreck is even bigger than the MV Mahi. The Corsair was an American fighter plane in WWII and Korea, you can still see one engine, its twisted propeller, and most of the fuselage. The pilot was reportedly rescued; it is now visited by stingrays, eels, jacks, and smaller reef fish.

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