There is nothing that beats the freedom of taking off on your own to dive some of Hawai'is pristine reefs. If you like shore diving, you are in luck, the island has some amazingly accessible sites. Your gear, your rental car, and your sense of adventure are all you need to create some lasting memories. Below are some scenes from our favorite shore dive sites (all pictures by B.J. or Lauren).
The Local Dive Shop
We've mentioned Blue Wilderness Dive Adventures before, located just across the main road from our condo in the Queen's Marketplace, these guys are your one-stop shop to gear up for shore diving. We use them to get tanks, but they will also rent everything else you need.
Important Tip! The shop doesn't fill tanks on site, they stock filled aluminum 80's. If you need a different tank size, they can usually accommodate you with at least a day of advanced notice. They also have a free "refill" policy. Rent a tank and you can bring it back for a full one within 24 hours. When we're making a pair of dives in Puako, we'll come back on our surface interval, exchange our empties, and head right back out!
Our Favorite Shore Sites
If you aren't already familiar with the Shorediving.com site, you must have a look while planning your Hawaiian dive vacation. They actually catalog shore diving sites worldwide, but here's a convenient link to their Hawai'i section. We're still working through the list mentioned above ourselves, but here are a few we like so much we return to them again and again.
This is an entire region just to the north of our condo. You could dive every day of your stay at Puako and still not see the same thing twice. Puako is a residential area, but the shore is accessible via any of a number of public access right-of-ways. Most divers use the access at the "end-of-the-road" (see Shorediving.com for details). We also recommend the access at "House 40", so-named because it is right next to house number 40.
Mile Marker 4 in Kona
This is a very underrated site right in downtown Kona. Divers mark it down because it has poorer visibility than other sites, due to it being shallower and in close proximity to a large sand-bed that feeds a small but popular beach next door. What this site does have is some very luxuriant coral growth over a dramatic lava base. A large number of caves and fissures, some of them swim-through, provide for a a dramatic dive. Some of the caves have channels opening to the reef top, and the sunlight filtering down through the particulates in the water create surreal shafts of light. Once again, see Shorediving.com for directions to this site.
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau
(Place of Refuge)
This site is also known world-wide as "Two-step" and is perhaps the easiest shore entry anywhere. Park your car, don your gear, walk out over a lava shelf around 25 yards, step down the "two steps" that formed naturally at the lava edge, and fall in! This is just an amazing dive, crystal clear water, a healthy reef and abundant life, including sharks, rays, and even a pod of spinner dolphins (sighting them is not guaranteed). You can also go deep here really easy. The reef has a nice vertical wall to explore that ends in sand around 60 feet, then plunges to well over a hundred and beyond very quickly. For directions on getting here, see Shorediving.com.
Here is a video showing what you can expect when you shore-dive Hawai'i!