Kona Dive Boat Operators

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tarponchik

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Kona Honu is very good. They have all the specialty dives - small boat long range, black water, Manta etc..all good. (Try to get your wife to do Manta snorkle while you dive. Easy and great IF Mantas are around. Ask first.) I'd mention you're a DM and also maybe join their club for discounts. I routinely get 100cuft Nitrox tanks from them, which I like very much. Just had a great dive with KHD last Wednesday: I also like Kohala Divers for up the coast. Super nice people who love diving. Jack's and Big Island Divers I have also enjoyed in the past.

Btw: there is a very good shore dive right out from Crescent Beach (aka Dog Beach), by Honokohau Harbor, where dolphins and sharks are frequently seen. It's literally a short walk from Kona Honu boat dock. The portion on a lava trail is slightly sketchy - i bring hiking pole for steadiness. Puako has nice beach dives too as does two-step and there's lot's more. September is warm/hot in the air and water and pretty thin on tourists too !! Make sure the operator you want isn't dry-docking then.
I like Kona Honu too, but regarding the Crescent Beach shore dive, I've seen Tigers there, but I've never seen any dolphins--not underwater, not even on the surface while between the dives. To see dolphins, you have to go south of Kona, to Honaunau or Hookena.
 

peterak

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I've seen spinners (from above water) north of the boat channel near Crescent Beach numerous times, but it's been a couple of years since I've been there. They're also commonly seen in the vicinity of Kawaihae, Mahukona, and various South Kohala sites.

BTW, @tarponchik's "Shore Diving the Big Island of Hawaii," available from Amazon, is very good.
 

peterak

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I've been hearing a lot of good things about "Blue Wilderness". They're a little north of Kona, but diving more secluded non crowded sites with small groups. I'll be diving with them on my next visit. I heard the small drive is worth it.

Yeah, Blue Wilderness is a good outfit, but in my experience not better than the Kona outfits mentioned above. Their boat is a not very big, but fast RIB, which I happen to really enjoy. With all these operators a lot depends on which crew you happen to get on any given trip. As you've alluded, the main thing makes BW worth the drive is that they go to different sites than the Kona crowd.

BW also does a night Manta trip to the Mauna Kea resort. Last summer I took a group of mainland visitors on this trip. At the time the two manta sites to the south—one off the airport, the other a Keauhou—were in the midst of a prolonged manta drought and the only site were mantas were seen on the night we went out was Mauna Kea. BW is one of only a couple of operators to use the MK site. So it pays to check out recent manta sighting reports before booking. You can call a few different operators—they're usually quite honest about recent manta numbers—and you can view reports on Jack's Dive Locker's web sites.
 

deepsea21

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There were no mantas on several manta dives when we were there as well as the night we did the Manta dive. That was a bummer to see so many boats, so many divers and snorkelers, enough light to illuminate the area like Candlestick Park and then have a no-show. Apparently that prior LONG dry spell with no Mantas (that lasted several months) was a first for the island so something must be changing but who knows what exactly? Kona Honu does guarantee you will see a manta on the manta dive or you are free to keep diving that dive until you do. We probably could have gone the next night but were glad we didn't as they were a no-show that night as well. When no Mantas show up after about 10-15 minutes Plan B for "Bummer" is the fall back and the dive turns into a night dive. I was not impressed diving Kona at night as there was little to see. I expected more marine life to be out and about at night but learned Kona night dives can't compare to Caribbean night dives in my opinion so it is all about the Mantas.
 

RVBldr

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Just another +1 for KH. I've done trips with them over a couple years and they run a nice operation. Just this last December we saw dolphins at Dog Beach from the outbound boat, and I've seen them from the water as well hanging near the surface while we were on the bottom. This year the local big Tiger made a close pass as well. Aside from KH, Jack's does run a good operation and you can't go wrong with either.
 

deepsea21

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I will add, if diving with KH, we had an absolutely fantastic DM named Rob who was our DM for the diving we did and is our local island friend's preferred DM when diving with KH. Very knowledgeable, excellent pre and post-dive briefings, fantastic at finding the little critters some of us want to see and great at monitoring the group as a whole. I was very impressed that while KH sends out a BIG CATTLE BOAT it doesn't seem like a cattle boat as there is a max of 6 divers per DM and each group heads in their own direction guided by their individual DM's. That's not your typical cattle boat experience. KH is doing a lot of things right. Also, KH offers Nitrox FREE OF CHARGE so while diving in Hawaii is expensive by some measures, free Nitrox makes up for a little of that. Not that you need Nitrox as most dives are pretty shallow but if you're certified for it and want that extra level of safety it provides? Heck yeah I'll be diving Nitrox free of additional charge! I will also say the boat's HOT WATER SHOWER in February was VERY NICE. I'd just hang on the back and pump my wet suit full of that hot water from the neck warming up between dives. I may have even been a bit of a hot water shower hog but if no one else wanted to use it, I was gonna use it to its full potential as I HATE getting cold/chilled.

Also, if you have a group of 4-6 book an advanced group dive on KH's 32' World Cat or look to get on one of their Saturday dives when the Cat is now just starting to run every Saturday. Yeah, it costs a bit more but the sites you'll see are far better than the common sites the cattle boat visits. I was very impressed with the more northern sites we visited on the Cat for the day we splurged for a longer range dive trip. The dives weren't any more demanding nor did they require any advanced diving skills so I'm not sure why they call it an "advanced" trip. You're not heading in to the deep blue and are still in very close proximity to shore if you ever needed to swim to it but the 2 sites we visited were far better and healthier in my opinion than the common sites we visited from their big boat. Like everything, ya tend to get what ya pay for and the splurge for the advanced small boat for a day was worth it (if you can call a 32' World Cat a small boat!)
 

tarponchik

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I've seen spinners (from above water) north of the boat channel near Crescent Beach numerous times, but it's been a couple of years since I've been there. They're also commonly seen in the vicinity of Kawaihae, Mahukona, and various South Kohala sites.

BTW, @tarponchik's "Shore Diving the Big Island of Hawaii," available from Amazon, is very good.
Thank you! :) I hope you got the 2nd edition?
 

tarponchik

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There were no mantas on several manta dives when we were there as well as the night we did the Manta dive. That was a bummer to see so many boats, so many divers and snorkelers, enough light to illuminate the area like Candlestick Park and then have a no-show. Apparently that prior LONG dry spell with no Mantas (that lasted several months) was a first for the island so something must be changing but who knows what exactly? Kona Honu does guarantee you will see a manta on the manta dive or you are free to keep diving that dive until you do. We probably could have gone the next night but were glad we didn't as they were a no-show that night as well. When no Mantas show up after about 10-15 minutes Plan B for "Bummer" is the fall back and the dive turns into a night dive. I was not impressed diving Kona at night as there was little to see. I expected more marine life to be out and about at night but learned Kona night dives can't compare to Caribbean night dives in my opinion so it is all about the Mantas.
I've seen Morays and Conger Eels hunting at night, and also a zillion of Marbled Shrimp get out. Otherwise, it is hard to compare with the Caribbean, where the quality of marine life is highly variable.
 

deepsea21

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Just this last December we saw dolphins at Dog Beach from the outbound boat, and I've seen them from the water as well hanging near the surface while we were on the bottom.

When we were taking KH's advanced boat north a week ago Saturday we saw a pod of perhaps 150 - 200 dolphin (from the boat of course) a bit north of the airport. The DM said basically take what you see on the surface at any point in time and multiply it by about 3 and that will give you the total size of the pod. At any time there were probaby 50-70 on the surface so that is how he calculated a total of 150-200. Bottom line, they were EVERYWHERE. I am guessing they may not have been spinner dolphin as none were jumping out of the water and spinning but perhaps some others here can comment on that? No shortage of whales either... Whales everywhere. On the 15-20 minute run north we probably passed and spotted 6 or 7 groups ranging from 2-3 per group.
 

lamarpaulski

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I like Kona Honu too, but regarding the Crescent Beach shore dive, I've seen Tigers there, but I've never seen any dolphins--not underwater, not even on the surface while between the dives. To see dolphins, you have to go south of Kona, to Honaunau or Hookena.


Just saw them Saturday. And a Tiger. Videoed both. I see them about 1/3 of the time. A pod of spinners hangs out just outside Honokohau Harbor mouth and are quite visible from shore, more often than not.
 
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