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The World Below: Scuba Diving in Hawaii

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Being a coastal dweller, I’ve always fostered a keen interest in all things aquatic. In addition to swimming, paddle boarding and surfing, I love to explore the entire world beneath the water’s surface. On the coast of Northern California, this isn’t exactly a safe endeavor, so whenever I travel somewhere that is undertow and man-eating shark free, I’m sure to peep beneath the waves and get my scuba on.

One of the best places on the planet to rub fins with some of the most diverse and colorful aquatic species is hands-down Hawaii. Year-round warm water and an abundance of endemic marine life make it the prime locale, and each island has a distinct personality and unique features to explore. Also, Hawaii is rich with snorkeling and scuba schools, so if you’ve never been before, you’re in good hands.

Hawaii’s geographical isolation translates into a significantly varied experience from island to island, so be sure to choose the proper setting for your undersea adventure. Oahu is the perfect choice for a first time visitor. It has all that Hawaii has to offer, aptly earning it the moniker “The Gathering Place.” Honolulu has everything anyone could ask for – a plethora of restaurants, hotels, museums and nightlife, literally right alongside awesome natural beauty.

Photo by John Fowler

If you’re on the newbie side, I recommend testing your sea-skimming fortitude with a few snorkeling trips before foraying into scuba diving. All you need is fins, a mask, a snorkel and enthusiasm. Kuilima Cove, located on Oahu’s North Shore, is one of the best places for beginners as it is sheltered, calm and safe. Enclosed by a natural rock barrier, the white sand, colorful coral reefs and shallow water equate to a serene, aquarium-like experience.

When you’re ready to see more fish than ever, head over to Hanauma Bay. This place is revered for having the highest population of fish in Hawaii, coupled with calm water. It’s on the eastern side of Oahu in an old volcanic crater and now enjoys the designation of Nature Preserve. Years before, visitors flooded in such high numbers that the park was severely overused, so significant effort has been put forth on behalf of the city and county of Honolulu to reverse all damage and educate all visitors. You’ll have no problem seeing why they have gone to such lengths to preserve it – crystal clear water and hordes of multicolored fish!

Photo by David D

After getting your feet wet, so to speak, with snorkeling, it’s time to ratchet up to scuba diving. Of course, this takes considerably more time, effort and education. You have to become certified before going out on your own, so visit one of Hawaii’s many diving programs with professionals. Don’t be surprised when you start out in a pool. It’s by far the safest and least intimidating way to learn the ins and outs of scuba diving. There is a lot of gear to acquaint yourself with and an understanding of buoyancy, scuba breathing and fitness is crucial. For most of us, the excitement of being able to freely swim alongside glorious schools of tropical fish and beautiful coral reefs will outweigh the frustration of the learning curve. Key points are knowing how to master the equipment, breathing apparatus and hand signals, then you can begin exploring the watery wonderland.

Venture out to Kauai for the most amazing scuba diving experience in Hawaii. The lush, green island and the remote, pristine island of Niihau create a breathtaking backdrop for more than 30 dive sites teeming with life. The most captivating and unbelievable experiences you will ever have awaits!

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Filed under: Hawaii, USA

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Vagabond Journey scours the globe for the most interesting, informative, and straight up strangest stories out there. has written 15 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.