It had been two years since our last dive (Indonesia), so this trip to Hawaii was much needed! With travel a bit unpredictable, we decided to stay in the U.S. and visit one of the best places to dive in the states – Hawaii!
The biodiversity – above water and underwater – is incredible, so there was no shortage of life to marvel at during our dives. Spoiler alert – tiger sharks were the highlight of our trip, especially since we had already 😉 dove with manta rays in Indonesia. But manta rays are incredible creatures and I was also excited to spot some nudibranchs too!
Keep reading for more about our Big Island diving experience and all the tips to plan your trip!
Big Island Diving Quick Tips
- Visit the dive shop the day before your first dive to get your gear in order.
- Map out places to get a quick lunch if you are diving all day.
- Make time to get breakfast, find the marina, and do a final bathroom break to be on time.
- There are high elevation places around the island, so plan your vacation to avoid these the day after diving.
- Factor in the cost of renting a car. You’ll need it to get around the Big Island.
- Don’t forget reef safe sunscreen!
When to Dive in Hawaii
Diving is enjoyed year-round in Hawaii. The average water temperature is 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. We dove in September, one of the warmest months, and wore 5mm wetsuits. Humpback whales are likely from December to March.
Plan your diving around activities above water too. If you’re planning to summit Mauna Kea, keep in mind the moon cycle for the best views. Because of elevation, you should not visit Mauna Kea or the north part of the island near Waimea within 24 hours after diving.
Where to Stay on the Big Island to Dive
Most if not all boats leave from the Honokohau Marina, which is about 10 minutes from the center of Kailua-Kona on the West side of the island. Stay in this area for ease of access. We rented a condo on Ali’i Drive, one of the main streets, which was very convenient. There are a handful of hotels, but also plenty of cost-effective vacation/condo rentals that include a parking spot. There are no diving-focused resorts on the Big Island.
Best Hawaii Big Island Dive Shops
We dove with Big Island Divers for three days and had a great time. They use multiple boats and usually have enough divers for two groups of six. The groups will be divided by your experience. The guides are knowledgeable and eager to find sea life to share. The equipment was fairly new when we were there. I had a brand new wetsuit and BCD one day.
Other dive shops I considered were:
How Much is Diving in Hawaii
Diving, like most things in Hawaii, is not cheap. A two-tank dive will cost about $179 – 300, depending on if they are local, advanced, or long-range dives. The manta night dive is $149 – 200 and you can book one or two dives. Gear rental will be $40-50 per day.
If you go on the manta night dive and no manta rays show up, the dive company will likely invite you back for free (based on availability).
Best Dive Sites on the Big Island
If you’re diving with a company, they know which sites to visit based on the audience and conditions, but they’ll take recommendations.
Manta Night Dive – Of course, I have to mention this one. This is THE dive people come for and it makes many “best dives in the world” lists. Dive companies bring huge lights to place on the seafloor while divers sit in a big circle, like a campfire. You sit for about 45 minutes while manta rays swoop above the lights to feed. Don’t miss Frank, the eel that stays in the middle light. This dive happens at dusk, so it is a night dive. Dive instructors are experts at this dive and make sure you don’t get lost back to the boat.
Crescendo – This was one of our favorite dives in Hawaii because we saw three huge tiger sharks!
Pipe Dreams – I loved this dive because we saw so much life. There is a huge broken pipe here and coral has built upon it.
Blackwater Dive – One dive we didn’t do is the blackwater dive. This is a night dive tethered to a line connected to the dive boat. You can expect to see wildlife you typically don’t see in the daytime, like jellyfish and other translucent creatures.
What You’ll See Diving in Hawaii
If you want a small glimpse of what it’s like diving Big Island, check out this livestream! Sealife enthusiasts will keep you informed in the comments.
Here are some of the noteworthy things I saw diving in Hawaii: manta ray, tiger shark, frogfish, leaf/paper fish, harlequin shrimp, scrambled egg nudibranch, milkfish, eel, urchin, octopus, and dartfish.
Those may be my highlights, but you’ll also see an abundance of fish!
I’m so glad we were able to experience diving in Hawaii! This was my first time diving in the U.S. after getting certified in Austin. I can see why it’s one of the best places in the U.S., though traveling there is a long journey. If you have the chance to dive in Hawaii, take it!