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Top 10 Dive Sites in Waikiki

Waikiki, located on the south shore of Honolulu, Hawaii, is renowned for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and exceptional dive sites. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner, Waikiki offers a variety of underwater experiences that cater to all skill levels. From historic shipwrecks to vibrant coral reefs, the underwater world of Waikiki is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. Here are the top 10 dive sites in Waikiki that you should not miss.

Key Takeaways

  • Waikiki is home to a variety of dive sites suitable for both beginners and advanced divers.
  • The YO-257 and Sea Tiger are popular wreck dives that attract a diverse range of marine life.
  • Nautilus Reef and Horseshoe Reef are known for their vibrant coral formations and abundant fish species.
  • Turtle Canyon and Turtle Canyons are excellent spots for encountering green sea turtles.
  • Kewalo Pipe offers a unique diving experience with its underwater pipe structure and marine biodiversity.

YO-257

The wreck of the YO-257 is a regular on the list of top U.S. wrecks to scuba dive. Although the wreck is relatively recent, having been sunk in 1989 by Atlantis Submarines Hawaii, to provide a sightseeing point for its passengers. Now more than 30 years later, the 175ft/53m vessel is a colossal artificial reef teeming with life.

Resting upright at 97’, the YO-257 is an impressive sight with its massive bow and overall length of 175’. Maximum depth for this dive is usually around 85’, unless you’re one of those bottom-huggers.

YO-257 features large cut-outs in her hull to allow easy access to divers who want to swim through one side of the ship to the other via the oil containers. Penetration into the crew section of the ship is limited and should only be attempted by experienced wreck penetration divers. This is an advanced dive due to the depth as well as the strong current that is often present here. On days when there is no current, divers can swim over to the San Pedro wreck that is 50 yards away.

Two things to look out for when scuba diving the YO-257 are green sea turtles that seem to have taken a liking to the wreck and are regular visitors. Secondly, if you hear an engine underwater, keep an eye out for one of the local visiting submarines. Encountering a submarine while diving is a rare enough event in itself.

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Sea Tiger

The Sea Tiger Wreck is one of the top diving spots in Waikiki. This 189ft vessel, originally intended for drift-net fishing operations, was sunk in 1996 by a submarine company. The wreck lies upright on a sandy bottom at a depth of 120ft/36m, though typical dives are conducted between 80-100ft/24-30m. Despite minimal coral growth, the wreck is teeming with marine life, including schooling fish, moray eels, and nudibranchs. Eagle rays are also frequently seen circling the wreck.

Popular swim-throughs include the cargo holds, mid-ship, and the bridge, offering easy entries and exits for divers. The Sea Tiger is a must-visit for those looking to explore a well-preserved wreck with abundant marine life.

Nautilus Reef

a person swimming through a narrow underwater cave

Nautilus Reef, also known as Shark Reef, is a must-visit dive site in Waikiki. This site is renowned for its frequent sightings of white tip and black tip reef sharks, with the occasional appearance of gray reef sharks and tiger sharks. Divers of all levels can enjoy this site, as it offers both shallow sections and deeper areas reaching up to 100 feet. The reef is teeming with tropical fish and beautiful corals, making it a vibrant underwater paradise.

  • Average Depth: 25 feet
  • Maximum Depth: 100 feet
  • Marine Life: White tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, gray reef sharks, tiger sharks, tropical fish, corals

For those looking to explore further, head to either side of the pipe at about 50 feet depth to discover additional reef systems. This site is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in the rich marine life and crystal-clear waters of Waikiki.

Kewalo Pipe

Possibly the easiest dive site in Honolulu, the Kewalo Pipe is an out-of-use storm drainage pipe that has turned into a very easy-to-navigate artificial reef with a maximum depth of about 65 feet. The straight out and back dive will take you past corals, crabs, moray eels, and potentially, if you’re lucky, sting rays!

This is the old Kaka’ako sewer pipe (inactive for about 30 years). It runs from shore to about 300 yards offshore where it ends at a depth of 19m/60ft. On top of the pipe are several different varieties of hard corals, while on either side are large fields of lobe corals. Tropical fish, eels, octopus, and turtles are common. A very nice dive during day or night.

Caution: This is one of the few actual surf entry sites on the island. Small but powerful waves can knock divers down in the surf zone. The end of the outflow pipe is no place for divers—the water jets out of the twin 6 ft diameter pipes with a lot of force that will blow a diver to the surface in about two seconds. Keep clear. Also, do not dive this site during or after hard rains. If you can’t see the bottom, it is not safe to dive.

Turtle Canyon

a couple of sea turtles swimming over a coral reef

Turtle Canyon is one of the most famous dive sites in Waikiki, located just minutes from the shore. This site is renowned for its abundant turtle population, making it a must-visit for any diver. The turtles here are accustomed to divers, allowing for close encounters and excellent photo opportunities. The reef ledges and overhangs provide perfect resting spots for these magnificent creatures.

Beyond turtles, Turtle Canyon offers a diverse marine ecosystem. Divers can explore numerous nooks and crannies, home to a variety of critters, including octopuses, eels, and even sleeping whitetip reef sharks. Bringing a dive light is highly recommended to fully appreciate the underwater landscape.

The site features a turtle cleaning station, where turtles come to get cleaned by smaller fish, akin to a turtle car wash. Depths range from 8m/25ft to 13m/40ft, making it suitable for divers of all levels. However, be mindful of the strong surge that can reduce visibility.

Turtle Canyon is accessible only by boat, ensuring a serene and undisturbed diving experience.

Horseshoe Reef

Horseshoe Reef is another great dive site in Waikiki, named for its distinctive horseshoe shape. This large H-shaped reef is covered in various varieties of hard corals and is home to an abundance of tropical fish. Turtles, moray eels, and octopus are regular visitors to this reef. The depth ranges from 9m/30ft to 16m/50ft, making it suitable for all diver levels.

Divers are likely to find White Tip Reef Sharks and Sea Turtles sleeping in the nooks and crannies of the coral shelf systems throughout the area. And if you’ve got a keen eye, you’re also likely to see an Octopus camouflaged and waiting in its hideout.

Surrounded on all sides by additional reefs, Horseshoe Reef is a great jumping-off point for multi-reef exploration. This makes it an excellent spot to discover the vibrant nightlife of Honolulu with top venues like Blue Note Hawaii and Hawaiian Brian’s. Enjoy live music, unique activities, and relaxing bars and late-night dining options.

Nautilus Reef

a person swimming over a coral reef in the ocean

Nautilus Reef, also known as Shark Reef, is a must-visit dive site in Waikiki. This site is renowned for its frequent shark sightings, including white tip and black tip reef sharks, and occasionally, gray reef sharks and tiger sharks. Divers of all levels can enjoy this site, as it offers both shallow sections and deeper areas reaching up to 100 feet. The reef is part of the larger Kewalo Reef system, making it a great spot for further exploration away from the crowds.

For those feeling adventurous, exploring the additional reef systems on either side of the pipe at about 50 feet depth can be an unforgettable experience.

The vibrant marine life, including tropical fish and beautiful corals, makes Nautilus Reef a top choice for divers looking to explore the underwater wonders of Waikiki.

Nautilus Reef

a person swimming in the ocean near a coral reef

Nautilus Reef, also known as Shark Reef, is a must-visit dive site in Waikiki. This site is renowned for its frequent sightings of white tip and black tip reef sharks, with the occasional gray reef shark and tiger shark passing through. The average depth is about 25 feet, but it can reach up to 100 feet as you venture further from shore. Nautilus Reef is suitable for both beginner and advanced divers, offering easy-to-navigate shallow sections and deeper areas for those seeking more adventure.

  • Resident marine life includes:
    • White tip reef sharks
    • Black tip reef sharks
    • Tropical fish
    • Beautiful corals

For those exploring the majestic underwater world, Nautilus Reef provides a unique opportunity to dive in crystal clear waters with vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. Don’t miss the chance to swim over to Secret Reef, where more wonders await.

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced diver, Nautilus Reef promises an unforgettable underwater experience.

Turtle Canyons

person scuba driving underwater

Turtle Canyons, located off Waikiki, is a mesmerizing dive site known for its series of lava fingers and overhangs that provide turtles with places to sleep. This site is particularly famous for its turtle cleaning station, where cleaner fish help turtles get cleaned, much like a turtle car wash! The depths range from 8m/25ft to 13m/40ft, making it suitable for all diver levels. However, be cautious of the strong surge in the area, which can stir up the bottom and reduce visibility. Accessible only by boat, this site offers a unique diving experience.

Divers can expect to see several large turtles resting on the bottom or on the reef ledges. The turtles are used to divers, providing a great opportunity to get close and take pictures. The reef overhangs host a variety of critters, including octopuses, eels, and sleeping whitetip reef sharks. Bringing a dive light is highly recommended to explore all the nooks and crannies.

Embark on a mesmerizing diving adventure in Turtle Canyons and explore vibrant marine life, shipwrecks, and diverse underwater landscapes with expert guidance. Indulge your senses and create lasting memories.

Horseshoe Reef

Horseshoe Reef is a must-visit dive site in Waikiki, named for its distinctive horseshoe shape. This reef is a fantastic starting point for multi-reef exploration, surrounded by additional reefs on all sides. Divers can expect to encounter a variety of marine life, including White Tip Reef Sharks and Sea Turtles, often found sleeping in the nooks and crannies of the coral shelf systems. If you’re observant, you might even spot an Octopus camouflaged and waiting in its hideout.

The reef is covered in various types of hard corals and is home to an abundance of tropical fish. Turtles, moray eels (including the elusive dragon moray), and other sea creatures are regular visitors. The depth ranges from 9m/30ft to 16m/50ft, making it suitable for divers of all levels.

For those looking to explore more, Horseshoe Reef offers a unique opportunity to dive into a vibrant underwater world teeming with life. It’s a perfect spot for both novice and experienced divers to enjoy the beauty of Waikiki’s marine ecosystem.

Discover the enchanting beauty of Horseshoe Reef, a hidden gem in the heart of the ocean. This stunning reef is a must-visit for diving enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Ready to explore more breathtaking destinations? Visit our website for exclusive travel packages and start planning your next adventure today!

Conclusion

Waikiki offers an unparalleled diving experience with its diverse and vibrant underwater landscapes. From historic shipwrecks to thriving coral reefs, each dive site presents a unique adventure for both novice and experienced divers. Whether you’re looking to explore the depths with a PADI Dive Master or simply enjoy the colorful marine life, Waikiki’s top dive sites have something for everyone. So pack your gear, book your dive package, and get ready to discover the underwater wonders of Waikiki. Happy diving!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to dive in Waikiki?

The best time to dive in Waikiki is during the summer months, from May to September, when the water conditions are calm and visibility is at its best.

Do I need to be a certified diver to dive in Waikiki?

While some dive sites in Waikiki require certification, there are also options for beginners, including introductory dives with professional instructors.

What marine life can I expect to see while diving in Waikiki?

Divers in Waikiki can expect to see a variety of marine life, including green sea turtles, colorful reef fish, moray eels, and occasionally, dolphins and sharks.

Are there any wreck dives in Waikiki?

Yes, Waikiki offers several wreck dives, including the popular YO-257 and Sea Tiger, which are both accessible to advanced divers.

What equipment is provided for diving in Waikiki?

Most dive operators in Waikiki provide all necessary equipment, including fins, masks, snorkels, BCDs, regulators, dive computers, and wetsuits. Equipment hire can often be pre-booked.

Is it safe to dive in Waikiki?

Yes, diving in Waikiki is generally safe. All dives are accompanied by PADI-certified dive masters, and safety briefings are provided before each dive.

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