Kauai, Oahu, Maui or Big Island for Diving?

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Marquito

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Putting aside travel restrictions, I'm planning a trip the end of Dec 2020 / beginning of Jan 2021 to Hawaii. My wife and I are certified, with ~25 dives and ~120 dives, respectively, and after about a week in Hawaii will be joined by two friends who have never dove and want to get certified. Given the range of skill levels, I'm wondering what island folks might suggest for us? My wife and I are pretty relaxed and don't need to push the boundaries of our skill level - we're very content with an abundance of sea life, but certainly don't shy away from blue water, wrecks, drift, etc. Really I just want to get wet (~2 years since last dive) and make sure my beginner friends have an awesome experience. Research I've done so far has me leaning towards Maui. Would love to do the manta night dive on Big Island, but generally the diving there seems less favorable for beginners (please correct me) and we're not planning to island hop. Haven't looked into diving at Kauai or Oahu as those seem to show up less in recommendations.
 

Damselfish

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The Mantas are fun, but I wouldn't pick just on that. (And will your newly certified friends be ready/want to do the night thing?) I don't recall BI being less favorable to beginners, I might have said the opposite. Like most places, really depends where you dive. The islands are so different topside I might look more at that to decide. (Keeping in mind the elevations you pass to get to some places on the BI might be inadvisable right after diving.)

I preferred the diving we did on Maui, lots of memorable dives. We did the Kona Aggressor from the Big Island once, and thought the most interesting dives were further south where you probably won't get on a day boat. Also did some BI dayboats from Kailua-Kona which again were fine, but not so memorable.

Water temps that time of year will probably not be tropical, though who knows this year.

You'll be there in whale season, perhaps something else to look into, if you haven't.
 

Marquito

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Personally, I would go to Maui. There is a very diverse array of diving opportunities and many non-diving activities.
Thanks!

The Mantas are fun, but I wouldn't pick just on that. (And will your newly certified friends be ready/want to do the night thing?) I don't recall BI being less favorable to beginners, I might have said the opposite. Like most places, really depends where you dive. The islands are so different topside I might look more at that to decide. (Keeping in mind the elevations you pass to get to some places on the BI might be inadvisable right after diving.)

I preferred the diving we did on Maui, lots of memorable dives. We did the Kona Aggressor from the Big Island once, and thought the most interesting dives were further south where you probably won't get on a day boat. Also did some BI dayboats from Kailua-Kona which again were fine, but not so memorable.

Water temps that time of year will probably not be tropical, though who knows this year.

You'll be there in whale season, perhaps something else to look into, if you haven't.
Thanks! Will definitely look into whale season. What have been your most memorable dives on Maui?
 

Aloha Joe

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Edit: my first suggestion is to get certified before you come. Like, not at a resort/tourist spot. The level of instruction I got in Los Angeles blows away what I’ve seen here. For one there are no pools, and two, the emphasis is on getting you to the ocean/boat, not 100% committed to skills. Sure there are exceptions but in 2.5 years and hundreds of dives here that is my general observation.

On Maui you can stay in Ka’anapali and have Black Rock shore diving from your back yard beach. Very easy and relaxing.

Big Island has a couple spots that are very easy and protected from shore but it feels like there are less options than Maui for some reason.

Most of Oahu’s best shore diving will be off limits in December.

Kauai has the least amount of options, least amount to do after diving, and Ni’ihau is off season and too risky of a boat ride for new divers. I mean, it’s a long bumpy ride that can easily ruin the experience if you’re not devoted.

Hawaii isn’t considered a dive destination. If you’re boat diving, which you probably should with beginners (they’ll have less to think about,) I feel like there’s less difference between Big Island and Maui, maybe edging toward Maui. So I would choose Maui or Big Island based on what else you want to do while here.

I did the Manta dive as a fairly new diver. Just let the DMs know the experience level. It’s exciting as a new diver but they load you up with weight and you just kneel in the bottom for 40min so no big deal.

I would probably choose Maui. Good shore diving, good boat diving (Molokini, Lanai, Carthaginian wreck, and nice hotels, more resort feel.
 

Marquito

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Edit: my first suggestion is to get certified before you come. Like, not at a resort/tourist spot. The level of instruction I got in Los Angeles blows away what I’ve seen here. For one there are no pools, and two, the emphasis is on getting you to the ocean/boat, not 100% committed to skills. Sure there are exceptions but in 2.5 years and hundreds of dives here that is my general observation...
Thank you for this particular input (in addition to your other suggestions). I've been thinking about suggesting as much to my friends.
 

jonhall

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joined by two friends who have never dove and want to get certified.

Would suggest friends get certified before the trip, including their checkout dives. That would allow them to do all dives in Hawaii with you.

Would love to do the manta night dive on Big Island, but generally the diving there seems less favorable for beginners

Have been to 3 of the islands - dove on 2 of them - dives on short Oahu stay got cancelled the morning we were supposed to go.

Between Kauai and the Big Island I would choose the Big Island for beginners although on my first dive in Kauai, I saw a humpback whale about 50 yards away which was the diving highlight on that trip. Not saying Kauai is a bad place for beginners but, of the islands, it wouldn't be my first choice.

On the Big Island I would say that a beginner can and would enjoy diving. I have been able to dive two different parts of the coast. In Kona (southwest), dives weren't particularly hard with dive times averaging just under an hour and depths just over 60 ft. (no AOW needed.) Also have stayed in Waikoloa and dove about 10 minutes away in Puako (northwest.) Dive times averaged just over an hour and depths just under 60 ft. First time diving on a RIB and found the process of the dive shop we used, of entering and exiting the water, to be pretty easy. Visibility was very good both places with mostly calm surface and slight currents.

Although I was able to dive with about 100 spinner dolphins in Kona, topography dominates the diving, I enjoyed the diversity of smaller life (frogfish, wrasse, octopi) farther up the coast.

The Manta Ray dive/snorkel was a highlight of our first trip to the Big Island. We did the snorkel as we had 2 non-divers in the group. It's cheaper to do the snorkel and IMO there would be no difference in what you see - mantas swimming up to you versus mantas was swimming down to you.

If you're staying in Hawaii 2 weeks and diving isn't the main activity, you might consider what other topside activities interest you. Each island offers something a little different. If on Oahu and staying in Honolulu, you can get to most every tourist attraction, such as Pearl Harbor, on hop on/ hop off trolleys. Dive shops will pick you up from your hotel. In Kauai and on the Big Island, you would need a car depending on where you stay as you will likely have to get to a dive shop or marina on your own. Tourist attractions on the Big Island are all around the island - although there are tour companies, having your own vehicle allows you to make your own schedule.

Our traveling friends came over one evening with plans of us going to Maui in late 2021, but somehow it turned into 2 weeks in Cozumel.
 

jwcfbd

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I've been to the big island and Oahu. Out of the two The big island hands down. We stayed in Kona and had great dives everyday. Our first day we went out with a shop on a boat dive and had a blast. The rest of the week we did shore dive. If you go you have to go to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Two Step)
 
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I haven't done any of the islands but BI, but I would recommend it. I did my cert and first 15 dives there, including the mantas and night dive. There's a lot of diversity in the water. This year (I spent all summer there) sea life is calm, abundant, friendly, and free of tourists. Can be said for the people of Hawaii too :wink: Quite varied diving on the north Kohala Coast (reco Kohala Divers and Blue Wilderness), than K-Kona (reco Jacks and Kona Honu). With small groups and no tourists these days, often the captain asked what we wanted to see and we voted; eels, sharks, reefs, caverns, lava flows, etc. Super laid back right now because it's all locals. There's also great snorkeling (two step) and free diving for the times you don't want all the gear. For the record, I am a Hawaii resident (London for work), so I may've been treated a bit different. Probably not a bad island in there, but as the BI says "we mo' betta'"

EDIT: I have to say, the mantas is magic. Bucket lister for sure.
 
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