It’s done. Cold Water Diver’s first purpose trip to a dive destination has come off successfully, with only a few hitches! Lessons were learned, dives were conducted and long surface intervals were taken. So, wondering about hitting Oahu for some diving? This post is all about diving in Oahu, giving a decent general overview of how to get there, how to get around, when and who to dive with, and hazards. I’m a firm believer in learning from others experiences (and mistakes), and I hope this helps you!
Flights are your only real option. I recommend using an online travel service to plan the whole thing out; you’ll save a lot of money in the end by being able to combine flights/hotels/car rental into a single bundle. Your flight will come into Honolulu International Airport, if you’re from a cooler climate (like me) make sure you can peel down to a t-shirt quickly, there are a lot of open walkways in the terminal!
Alright, this one comes down to what your overall plan is, and where you’ll be diving. If you’re diving the North Shore, a car rental is essential. It’s at least 1hr to get there in the morning from Waikiki, and 1.5hrs to 2hrs to get back in the afternoon/evening because of increased traffic. There is a decent public transit service, but then you’re lugging your gear from point to point and still have meet someone or get to the dive site after you get dropped off. Taxis are out of the question for anything but airport to hotel.
Fortunately, almost every dive shop/group has hotel pick up services for dives on the West, South and Windward (East) shores of the island. Just be sure they know where you are and your alarm clock is set.
When to Dive:
Diving is year round in Oahu; but things do change up a bit. Vis gets a little gritty (still great by my standards!) on the South Shore after September; and the North Shore switches from diving (spring, summer) to surfing (fall, winter) depending on the season. The temperature is nice all the time though, with the lowest I’ve experienced being in the range of 22˚C to 26˚C depending on depth (maxing out at 35.5m). From what I understand, during the fall/winter, South and West Shore are the way forwards.
I haven’t dove the Windward Shore yet (next time!), but the dives are more or less in three categories for Oahu: Reef, Wreck and Rock. Reef dives feature the familiar, low but steadily growing reefs that I’ve come to know and love off the island. Wreck dives are pretty self explanatory, but it’s worth mentioning that penetration isn’t recommended for many of the wrecks; check before you enter! Finally, Rock dives. Oahu is a volcanic island, and as such, has come pretty awesome rock formations and swim throughs, definitely worth checking out! The North Shore is all about Rock and Reef. The South Shore is all Wrecks and Reefs, as is the West Shore. Keep your eyes peeled though, especially on the South Shore, I’ve been on numerous dives there, in the same locations, and found different fish and invertebrates every time!
Who to Dive With:
Last time out, I was with Dive Oahu; and it was a blast! This time out, the shop I went out with was… well, lack lustre. I got the strong feeling that Deep Ecology’s focus was more on training quality divers than dive trips. I have to say, they produce very, very good divers (and Divemasters), but I was a little let down with the shore dives I did with them; although the wreck dive was decent if short. Maybe I caught them at a bad time. What blew me away this time were the independent dive operators I dove with! Michelle Martus and Eva Ramos were amazing! Michelle brought life and interest into a dive site I’d written off as a training location; and Eva proved more than able in dives off the South Shore. Both specialize in small groups (four or less) and know their dive sites very, very well!
Over all, for picking who to dive with, it really comes down to research and impressions (which I’ve talked about before, here). There are numerous online services now for this as well, rating different dive shops and groups; but don’t hesitate to hit the forums and get some word of mouth. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new! I was a bit bummed after a disappointing set of shore dives and missing the first boat dive because of a dodgy ear; but it got turned around fast when I switched up who I was diving with!
Oahu has few underwater hazards past the usual for a tropical location. Several types of Scorpionfish call the area home, as do some very poisonous shellfish and urchins. Fish are usually avoidable, but avoid picking up and odd shells or kneeling on/putting a hand on urchins. Currents can range from mild to heavy, depending on the site, tides and season. A lot of the wrecks are fairly deep as well, so DCI can be a risk if you’re not paying attention to your bottom time (computer or tables).
That’s it for this week, in the coming weeks you can expect a Tropical Sub Aqua update, some dive sites, and more!