Oahu, Hawaiian IslandsOahu, also called “The Gathering Place,” is the pulsating heart of Hawaii. While it’s famous for its laidback surf towns, dramatic landscapes, and bustling city life, beneath the waves lie some of the best scuba diving sites in all of Hawaii and the Pacific—many of which are only a short boat ride away.
Geography of Oahu
An in-shore Oahu scuba diving and snorkeling site, Turtle Heaven, also known as Haleiwa Beach Park, lives up to its name. The channel features a mild current and warm, shallow waters with excellent visibility, making it a safe spot for beginners. Beyond the channel lies a steep vertical drop, which is great for multi-level divers. If you’re lucky, you can catch 40 to 50 friendly turtles resting on large coral mounts. The arches and overhangs are also home to an abundant variety of fish and colorful coral.
Waimea Bay transforms from a popular big wave destination to a fun-filled diving spot when the waters and winds are calm. The south point of the bay boasts a heart-thumping wall dive at 35 meters deep with lots of swim-through lava tubes and caves where myriad sea creatures take up residence. In summer, the site is frequented by green sea turtles and spinner dolphins.
Makaha Beach is believed to be one of the places where big wave surfing was pioneered. Be prepared for some intense finning as the site extends to about 450 feet. Though marine life is not as diverse and abundant here, the mystical lava-formed caverns and solitary giant turtles swimming about are sights to behold.
Tech Reef is one of the best reef dives in Oahu. The site is located a few miles off Kahe Point Beach Park. Fin out from the entry lagoon, descend until you’re 25 meters deep, and you’ll find a sandy bottom with a plethora of caves, swim-throughs, and various sea life. Turtles and white tips are frequent visitors here. Exit to Electric Beach for some relaxed snorkeling—just watch out for the outflow pipes from the HECO electric plant.
Several multi-level dive sites can be found near Maunalua Bay. Angler Fish Reef is one of them and is accessed via a 10-minute boat ride from the shore. This shallow site boasts an advanced diving feel with its coral-encrusted lava rock plateau and circular craters formed when Koko Head erupted 10,000 years ago. The site’s warm waters attract droves of marine life including green sea turtles, morays, octopus, snapper, striped belly puffer, scorpionfish, and schools of reef fish.
A rewarding spot for beginner and experienced divers, Pukano Point features an extensive coastline bursting with life. Expect a warm, well-lit dive when the tide is low and the wind isn’t strong enough to interest a surfer. Overall, the dive is shallow with the deepest point a mere 30 meters, but there are several caverns and tunnels to peer into. The trail leading to the entry cove is a bit rocky, so take caution.
Vought F4U Corsair Wreck
Wreck diving opportunities in Oahu are plentiful. Survey the underwater wreckage of the WWII American fighter aircraft, now a playground for garden eels, stingrays, and jacks, approximately three miles off the Hawaii Kai Marina. The site can only be accessed by boat and its unpredictably swift and strong currents make it an advanced dive. The sandy bottom and clear viz make it a joy to observe the coral-covered wreck and abundant reef fish feasting in the grassy meadows.
To get better visibility, swim beyond the silty boat channel and descend up to 60 feet to spot rare biological jewels thriving under the lava ledges. If you’re a beginner, swim westward along the shallow coral wall and follow it out to the open water until you find deep coral canyons. This spot is a good last resort when there’s a weather advisory up north, and the best part is it’s only a few minutes’ drive from Waikiki.
Divers with a taste for action shouldn’t take Honolulu out of the list as it has some of the best underwater wrecks. The Sea Tiger, a former Chinese trading vessel deliberately sunk in 1999, offers 150 feet of incredible drift dives and swim-throughs. The wreck, whose stern and interiors are decked by various species of coral, is prime real estate for myriad sea creatures like six-foot sea turtles, eagle rays, reef sharks, and massive schools of fish.
Marine Life in Oahu
- Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa - Or humuhumu for short is a species of reef triggerfish that can be found in massive schools throughout Hawaii. It’s the state fish for a reason.
- Green sea turtles - Locally called honu, these gentle giants are loved throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Their favorite hangout spot is the warm waters of the island’s North Shore.
- Spinner dolphins - Also known as naia, these playful mammals love to swim with the boats along Waianae Coast and Maunalua Bay.
- Manta rays - Scuba diving in Oahu offers the chance to get up close and personal with these mysterious batoids, locally called hahalua. Their wingspans can expand up to 30 feet wide.
- Hawaiian monk seals - These friendly mammals are endemic to the islands of Hawaii and used to frequent its rocky coastlines. But now the species is critically endangered, with sightings becoming rarer.
- Humpback whales - On your way to deep dive entries, you might chance upon humpback whales cruising in Oahu’s warm and thriving waters.
- Reef fish - With dense corals sprinkled around the island, it’s easy to spot unique species of tropical reef fish, including clownfish, angelfish, gobies, groupers, parrotfish, and more.
- Leahi (Diamond Head) - Take the trail to the summit of Diamond Head near Waikiki for spectacular views of the valley and Oahu’s South Shore.
- Pearl Harbor - Soak up some sun and WWII history in perhaps the most famous landmark in Hawaii.
- Paradise Cove - Your Hawaiian holiday won’t be complete without a traditional luau at Paradise Cove. Watch the sunrise, feast on local fare, and get entertained for hours on end.
How to Get to Oahu
You can get to Oahu from just about anywhere in the world. The island’s major airport is Honolulu International Airport (HNL) and it serves all major domestic carriers and many international airlines.
While there’s no ferry service from the mainland to Hawaii, cruises are a feasible option if you have plenty of time and cash. Typical cruises from the contiguous United States leave from Los Angeles or San Francisco and dock in Honolulu Port in Oahu.
Best Time to Visit Oahu
Required Trainings & Certifications
The currency in Oahu is the US Dollar. ATMs are available throughout Hawaiian towns, so getting cash is fast and easy. Most credit cards are accepted, as well as traveler’s checks.
Hawaii observes Hawaii Standard Time (HST) and does not follow Daylight Savings Time (DST).
Just like in the mainland, Hawaiians drive on the right side of the road. Expect busy freeways in urban areas and winding, cliffside roads outside Honolulu.
The 808 telephone area code covers Oahu, as well as the inhabited and uninhabited islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.
ISO 3166 code
ISO 3166 alpha-2 code “BS” is the entry for Oahu in ISO 3166-2.
.us is the Internet country code top-level domain for Oahu and the rest of The Hawaiian Islands.