Oahu... Thoughts and Advices After 1-Year On the Island...Come Dive with Us!!!
Bottom Line Up Front: Oahu Diving is Awesome and Highly Underrated... Come dive with us...
When you ask world traveled divers, which of the Hawaiian Islands are their favorite, Oahu rarely ranks above Kuaui, Maui, Kona, Molukini... they all seem to rate much higher; however, does that mean that Oahu is bad... I firmly disagree.
After a year on this island, I have found that Oahu offers great dives, healthy reefs, lava tubes, pelagics, easy entries, plenty of boats, and room to explore. So why does Oahu have a bad rep as compared to sister islands? My opinion timing and population.
First, population. Pure and simple, Oahu is crowded with both tourists and residents. Hawaii's state population hovers around 1.4 million and nearly 1 million of that reside on Oahu, mostly in the Honolulu/Waikiki south shore area.
Consequently, most of the dive operations and nearly all the dive boats congregate and launch from the downtown area. Moreover, due to rising costs and economic efficiencies, these same operations rarely venture far from the Kewalo Basin Harbor or Hawaii Kai Boat docks. Divers on holiday traveling into Oahu will most frequently jump on any number of dive boats, which,
however, limits their range. Then, the bulk of the holiday season correlates with the school schedules... so let's analyze best diving seasons in comparison to the peak travel seasons.
Best time to dive South Shore / Waikiki sites: Winter to Spring. Oct/Nov through Apr/Sep.
- Why? Seasonal currents and trade winds. During the summer months, which correlates to peak summer travel, south shore has a southern swell, high winds, and rough seas. Summer traveling divers will seldom explore shore diving sites without guides or personal experience, so they tend to stick to the boats. Shops on island absolutely offer guides for shore dives, but it's not the focus, divers know boats, and it's more of an oddity than the norm. Result, trip advisor and yelp reviews stacked up through the summer months detailing poor vis, dusted reef, and limited marine life... but that's not the whole story.
Best time to dive North Shore.. All summer long... that's right! The Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Close-Out Waves and the man-killer 30'-80' waves of North Shore... they blast the reef and coast all winter long, starting September through April. But then something cool happens come late April and early May... it goes flat. I'm talking 0-2' swells, sometimes glass like flat with wild conditions.
Then there's the West Side, from Ewa Beach all the way to Kaena Point. Diving here is decent
year round, but seemed to be best Winter-Spring. Calm waters of the lagoons in Ko'olina offer simple try-dives. Electric Beach offers a nice sandy bottom with a several coral heads and easy training areas for check out dives. Makaha Beach has a nice healthy reef close to shore and then some cool caverns at about 400m swim out,
typically reaching the caverns at half a tank for the average diver, so be careful getting out there, getting mesmerized, then ending with a long surface swim back. Further north, you'll find sites like Yokohama Bay or Makua... all of which are subject to experiences with Monk Seals, Eagle Rays, Turtles, and plenty of reef fish, eels, and macro. Boat Diving off the west side is possible with wrecks to include the Mahi, an old a cable layer. Also, boat dives take you to unique sites, with walls, drifts, caverns, such as Two-Holes, Black Rock, and several finger reefs.
RECOMMENDATION: For local divers... explore. Find some buddies you trust and take the training to make yourselves competent and independent divers... then get out there and just dive. For traveling divers in the summer months, recommend you hire a guide (cheaper than a boat) and explore North Shore's sites, such as Shark's Cove, Three Tables, Cathedral, Turtle Bay, Waimea Bay, Haleiwa Trench, to name a few. For the winter
season, enjoy South Shores boat dives and shores with sites such as the Sea Tiger, YO-257/San Pedro, LCU, Paradise Reef, Turtle Canyon, and Secrets... be sure to find Froggle Rock with two resident Frog Fish. Year round, swell dependent, you can check our the West side shore diving listed above. Also, recommend using the surf forecast apps to see the swell size, period, energy, and wind. Dive forecasts are not nearly as robust for Oahu as the surf apps.
Shore Diving Advices: As far as shore diving on Oahu and your vehicle... live with Aloha in your heart, be kind, and you'll not have any issues. Disrespect the island, its spirit, or its people and you're sure to find trouble. Live with Aloha and you'll be amazed at how kind the Hawaiian culture truly can be. Still, as any shore diving advice goes around the world, leave valuables home or out of plain sight, only take what you need, pack out your trash, and try to leave the place better than you found it.
This winter we'll be exploring the south side beyond Hanauma Bay to check out areas around Blow Hole and Sandy Beach, then working our way around to the Windward side as the season permits... Look for an update next year on the far South and Windward sites. Hope this entry helps folks consider a trip to come visit us and dive with Sitnalta Divers, we only have another year and then it's time to move on to the next adventure.