The Best Dive Sites in Oahu – Freediving and Scuba
Updated: Aug 9, 2022
I am a huge advocate for keeping special spots under wraps. I have seen it time and time again where word gets out about my favorite dive sites and a once quiet location is filled with people. However, there are some places that are worth the crowd. These are the best dive sites in Oahu and there is a reason you will fall in love with them.
Sharks Cove is by far one of the best places to dive in Hawaii. It is a great spot for scuba diving and freediving. This infamous spot offers something for everyone.
This site got it’s name decades back. There was a butcher shop just across the street from the main bay. All the trimmings and scraps used to be tossed into the water at the end of the day, attracting the cove’s namesake. Although sharks used to be abundant at this spot, ever since the close of the butcher shop they are hardly, if ever, spotted. Unfortunately, I have never been lucky enough to see one there.
Now, Sharks Cove is most famous for its’ intricate system of underwater caves and lava tubes. With entrances at various depths and swim throughs varying in length there is a little something for every experience level.
WHAT TO EXPECT
As a freediver, you can expect to explore caves of various sizes and geology. Some start as a tight squeeze and open up into a larger bright blue opening. While others take you through the arches and tunnels closer to the sea floor.
As a scuba diver, you can spend a little extra time inside each cave examining the details. You’ll notice the feather corals clinging to the roof and small animals hiding along the sea wall. Scuba divers weave through the lava tubes and arches like they are going through a “coral” maze. This is definitely some of the best shore scuba dive sites on Oahu.
Whether you are enjoying the caves or spending time at the large sandy patch practicing skills and breath holds you’re almost guaranteed wildlife. Sharks Cove is part of a marine life conservation district meaning fishing, taking, or injuring marine life is not allowed. This spot hosts turtles, octopus, tons of fish, crustaceans, eels, and the occasional monk seal.
If you’re looking for a consistently good dive site no matter the time of year, Electric Beach is the spot for you. Sharks Cove is primarily a summer diving spot, as the big winter swell rolls in and can make it dangerous to dive. Electric Beach, although best in summer, is by far one of the better winter diving locations.
Electric Beach is definitely one of the best dive sites in Oahu. It gets its name because of the large electrical power plant located across the street. The ocean water is used to cool the plant and there are two large pipes that push the hot water back into the ocean. This is one of the reasons this spot has what I would consider one of the highest densities of life on the island. Be careful diving near the mouth of the pipes. If you aren’t a great swimmer it is really easy to get pushed out with the rushing water. It can be a long swim back.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Whether you are freediving or scuba diving, you can expect an abundance of life at this spot. I have had some of my most special diving interactions at this spot.
There is always a wide variety of different reef fish hanging around the pipe structures and surrounding reef. Sea turtles are often swimming near by and you may get a glimpse of a passing by endangered Hawaiian monk seal or reef manta ray. I have seen some small shark species at this spot. While it isn’t very common be sure to be aware of your surroundings so you don’t miss these epic predators.
If you time it right, you may get a fly by from a pod of Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Please always be respectful of the wildlife! There are definite Do’s and Don’ts of interacting with spinner dolphins. It is always a good rule of thumb to give any animal space and let them approach you if they want.
The average depth of this dive site is around 15-30ft. So this can be a great place for beginner scuba divers and/or freedivers. The sandy patches that frame the reef-covered pipe structures are perfect places to practice skills and work on your bubble rings.
Sea Tiger Wreck
Located on the south side of the island is one of the most famous wreck dives on Oahu. The Sea Tiger Wreck is a huge ship sunk in 1999 as part of a program for diving enrichment. This wreck is popular among local divers and visitors as it is just a short boat ride from Waikiki. Although, this dive site isn’t as easy to access as walking in from the beach it is worth the extra effort.
This dive ranges in depth between 90-115ft so this is for primarily Advanced certified scuba divers. If you’re a kick ass freediver you can attempt this location but if you really want to enjoy the wreck I would recommend scuba.
WHAT TO EXPECT
When you reach the wreck you’ll have about 20-25 min of bottom time in which you can explore the decks of the ship and enter into the cargo holds and bridges where you may encounter interesting wildlife. This spot is known to have a few resident whitetip reef sharks that cruise along the sand. Other notable creatures using the wreck as artificial reef are moray eels, giant green sea turtles, eagle rays, and large schooling fish.
As the wreck was specially cleaned and prepared to be sunk as an artificial reef it is still in great condition. This dive site is great for the adventurous diver who enjoys the structural aspects of wrecks and the wildlife it attracts.