Oahu (also known as ‘The Gathering Place’) is the third-largest landmass in the Hawaiian Islands. Once the sacred domain of the ancient Kingdom of Oahu, it is now home to about one million people. Honolulu, located along Oahu’s Southeast Shore, is Hawaii’s state capital and main commercial / cultural hub. Some of the island’s most popular activities include parasailing around Waikiki, Diamond Head, or East Oahu, and water activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling.
In fact, ‘The Gathering Place’ is one of the best islands in Hawaii for beginner and experienced divers. It offers a plethora of amazing dive sites to start your scuba adventure. Oahu scuba diving is known for its deep shipwrecks, caves, and shallow reefs.
This guide is meant to help you discover scuba diving and learn why Oahu scuba diving is one of the best adventures you can experience when visiting Hawaii. We present a few of the most amazing Oahu scuba diving tours for beginner and advanced divers.
There are many ways to discover Oahu, but nothing compares to an Oahu diving experience. So let’s check out a few tours that cover the best dive sites and deliver the complete Oahu diving experience:
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Scuba Diving in Oahu
One reason why scuba diving is on a lot of people’s bucket list is because amazing locales like Oahu continue to offer visitors with the safest, most majestic and world-class scuba diving experience in the world. There is virtually nowhere in Oahu where you can’t discover scuba diving with your friends and family (while meeting adventurous likeminded spirits along the way).
Oahu is one of the most isolated islands on the planet. This results in a large proportion of the total marine species in Hawaii being endemic to the archipelago (and sometimes to specific islands!) Moreover, Oahu is surrounded by an incredible variety of coral gardens. Indeed, volcanic activity is known to produce unique octocorallia on the submerged rocks.
The dive sites around Oahu are teeming with endemic marine life and cherished for their abundance of unforgettable sights. From schools of exotic tropical reef fish to incredible marine animals such as sea rays, octopuses, crustaceans, urchins, eels, and Hawaiian green sea turtles, the waters off Oahu provide divers with endless joy and wonder.
With a little luck you’ll spot spinner dolphins sleeping in the afternoon, white tip reef sharks traversing coral garden, jellyfish while night diving, or giant manta rays (probably the most incredible marine creature of them all).
But some of the best scuba diving isn’t necessarily about trying to find and observe marine life. It’s also about traversing the underwater seascapes and exploring unique topographical features and industrial relics!
Let’s go over some of the unique Oahu scuba dive sites you will likely encounter on of the scuba diving tours listed in this guide (categorized by degree of difficulty):
Beginner / Introductory / Refresher / 25 – 60′ Dives
These shallow reef dives are great for beginners scuba divers and those needing a relaxing “refresher” before heading out on more experienced dives. These dive sites provide the beginner or average diver with plenty of opportunities to spot Oahu’s amazing marine life and coral gardens:
This popular scuba dive site for beginners is just a few minute from the boat harbor and gives divers the chance to see the iconic Hawaiian green sea turtle (which likes to chill on the reef ledges extending over the beautiful sandy bottom). Turtle Canyons Hawaii is a simple, shallow reef dive not far from shore where one can relax and refresh their swimming muscles.
This is a great boat dive site for beginners located about a mile west of Koko Marina. Some people call Anglers Reef “Octopus Heaven” (for obvious reasons). The coral reef has a simple layout whereby a lava rock plateau, filled with coral growth, extends parallel with the shore for about 200 feet until it blends into the sand floor. It’s a great diving experience for beginners with plenty of cool sights to witness.
Koko Craters is a relaxing boat dive site with fantastic visibility. You can expect to spot the famous Hawaiian green sea turtles who are friendly and not afraid to swim near humans. Plus lots of endemic reef fish. The ride out to the dive site takes approximately 10 minutes and you’ll be given amazing views of Koko Crater and Diamond Head once you arrive.
Located 10-15 minutes out from Hawaii Kai marina (west of Diamond Head), this pleasant reef gets its namesake because it resembles a rectangular pool table with “pockets” at its corners. The coral garden has a flat surface featuring plenty of tropical reef fish. The dive site is about 55′ deep.
Kaiser Reef is another typical shallow reef that’s perfect for beginner scuba divers and showcases why Oahu is one of the best places to learn scuba diving in the world.
This is a boat dive site not far from Honolulu with a maximum depth of 35-40 feet and excellent visibility. You will see a variety of coral species, crustaceans, turtles, and whitetip reef sharks on occasion.
Another fun reef that is simple to navigate for beginner scuba diving, the Secrets Reef is a boat accessible dive site outside Kaka’Ako Waterfront in Honolulu, Oahu. Maximum depth is about 50 feet. You will get a chance to see a variety of marine life such as tropical reef fish (e.g. butterfly, trigger, frog, Moorish idol), urchins, eels, rays, and crustaceans. A perfect refresher site to get you in the mood for scuba diving Oahu.
Fantasy Reef Drift
Even though this is one of the coolest 40-60′ shallow reef dives in Oahu, it is known as a “drift dive” meaning the scuba diver will be carried along by the movement of the tides (so it’s only recommended for comfortable / experienced divers).
Having said that, the Fantasy Reef is filled with magisterial coral reef growth, endemic tropical fish, and Pacific green sea turtles. There are several plateaus of ancient volcanic rock (cooled lava formations) to create an amazing experience for beginner divers.
Certified / Experienced / Advanced / 80 – 120′ Dives
For the adventurous scuba diver, these more advanced dives are recommended for certified divers (and sometimes required). They offer some of the best scuba diving in Oahu, giving you the opportunity to leave your world and enter an intriguing past where nature’s formations and man’s industrial relics share the same majestic seascapes:
Scuba diving Oahu North Shore is a favorite place for experienced divers looking for adventure. Shore diving sites around here have spectacular underwater topography such as caves, lava tubes, cavernous passageways and of course plenty of exotic sea life.
Definitely one of Oahu’s most famous wrecks off the South East Shore, the Corsair dive site is where the remarkable intact remnants of a WWII-era fighter plan rests on golden white sand bed since 1946 (after it was ditched by its pilot during a training exercise). Maximum depth is 107′ and definitely worth checking out. You can expect to see moray eels, frog fish, and octopuses.
Like cave diving in general, exploring the Sea Cave is one of the most transporting experiences you’ll every partake in. The Sea Cave is one of the most exciting caves around Oahu too. The entrance to the cave is at 55′ depth and the labyrinth extends inward about 150′. You’ll get a chance to spot green sea turtle, whitetip reef sharks, shells, coral growth, and endemic reef fish.
The Baby barge wreck isn’t what it used to be since it’s been deteriorating for decades and there aren’t many areas to swim through anymore. However, the dive site is known for its surrounding coral reef and a cavern on the deep side of the shipwreck where you’ll spot sleeping white tip reef sharks. You will also spot some unique sea life like lionfish, frog fish, nudibranchs, and eels. The Baby Barge is at about 65′ in depth and maximum depth reaches 100′.
Also known as the ‘New Barge’, this shipwreck dive site is bigger than the Baby Barge and provides experienced divers with longer swimming opportunities and penetration points. Plus, there are some fully grown Hawaiian green sea turtles who use the Mini Barge as their playground (a major bonus). There are also large piles of blocks nearby where exquisite schooling fish swim around. The depth for this dive site ranges from 60-100′.
Considered one of the top drift dive sites in Oahu, the Spitting Caves are located near the “China Walls”, and is one of the few places where you can swim with the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. You will also spot the usual array of incredible Hawaiian marine life such as eagle rays, reef sharks, moray eels, and tropical fish.
Now let’s check out the 3 scuba dive tours that will give you the opportunity to visit these amazing dive sites:
New Diver Adventure and Island Tour
This is perfect introductory scuba diving Oahu tour for you and your friends / family. No experience is required! You’ll be directed by a PADI certified professional guide the entire time (who also has intimate knowledge of all the dive sites).
You will travel to either the western side of Oahu or the North Shore to visit one of many possible dive sites depending on certain conditions. Safety, equipment, and dive site briefing will be provided once you reach the Oahu diving site. From that point you will embark on your magical, all-encompassing discovery of the marine life and underwater seascapes that Oahu scuba diving is renowned for. The New Diver Adventure and Island Tour is also a great opportunity to take photographs due to its relaxing nature.
What You’ll See:
- Shallow reefs
- Endemic tropical fish
- Coral gardens
- Pacific green sea turtles
- Amazing marine life & topography
- Equipment rental
- Professional guide (training if necessary)
- Snacks & refreshments
- 3 underwater photos
Two Shallow Reef Dives
This is an excellent Oahu diving tour for experienced scuba divers who want to have a relaxing day chilling underwater. It’s not that difficult and provides experienced divers with a leisurely “refresher” experience by letting them enjoy a guided diving Oahu tour of two best dive sites for shallow reef diving. Even though this is a great refresher tour for experienced divers, anyone can join including beginners (because no experience or certification is required).
The Two Shallow Reef Dives tour is for morning people seeking an afternoon adventure. You will begin a chartered 10:30 AM tour that will last into the late afternoon. There are numerous reef sites and incredible seascapes you could potentially visit depending on the divemaster / boat captain’s discretion. Our guide already describes them all.
After the first dive site you will get to relax a little bit on a stylish / comfortable boat with snacks & refreshments before setting out for the next shallow reef. You will have a PADI certified instructor guiding you the entire time.
What You’ll See:
- Shallow reefs
- Endemic tropical fish
- Coral gardens
- Moray eels
- Sea rays
- 1-on-1 Introductory skills training
- PADI-certified scuba diving guide
- Premium gear rental
- GoPro camera rental
- Snacks & refreshments
Morning Wreck & Reef Dive
This is the tour for experienced divers who want to start their day out with an exhilarating adventure in the water (before catching the ‘Golden Hour’ sunset with a Mai Tai at the local seafood restaurant).
You will be swimming along with a group of Certified Divers in the morning to two amazing dive sites (7:15 AM charter). Certified Divers only. The first dive site will be one of Oahu’s famous deep shipwrecks. The second will be one of the shallow reefs that makes Hawaii the best place in the Pacific Ocean to go snorkeling and scuba diving.
What You’ll See:
- Deep wreck sites
- Shallow reefs & coral gardens
- Tropical fish
- Green sea turtles
- Humpback whales
- Hawaiian monk seal
- U.S. Coast Guard certified diving vessel
- Professional guide
- Premium gear rental / near gear purchases
- 2-tank dive: 1 deep wreck dive at approx. 100′ & 1 shallow reef dive at approx.. 30-40′
Ready For Your Oahu Scuba Diving Adventure?
You and your family are probably like countless people around the world who have thought about going scuba diving in majestic locations like Oahu.
The underwater seascapes of Oahu are as wondrous as any place you will explore on the planet. Dynamic underwater realms, biodiversity, and untouched ecosystems (such as coral reefs and deep shipwrecks) will transport you beyond your wildest dreams.
The different tours and dive sites described in this scuba diving in Oahu guide are unique. Each offer a variety of distinctive attractions which will appeal to beginner and advanced scuba divers.
When Should You Go?
Any time of the year! Oahu diving is a year-round activity.
Weather conditions in Oahu are mostly favorable throughout the year. Average water temperature ranges from 75 – 83°F (24 – 28°C).
Underwater visibility is always good in the waters around Oahu, and especially off the western side and the North Shore. Visibility ranges from 60 to 100 feet. The west coast of Oahu is the most tranquil part of the island, and heavy storms are uncommon.
What To Wear / Bring
Just wear what you are usually comfortable wearing to the beach and for water activities. Oahu’s weather is very favorable year-round.
Here’s a useful checklist of items to bring:
- 3 – 5mm wetsuits for diving
- Polarized sunglasses
- Casual swimwear / footwear
- Water-proof camera
- Snacks & refreshments