In addition to being one of the best shore dives in Makena, Nahuna/Makena Landing/5 Caves/5 Graves also takes the cake as the spot with the greatest number of names. As if four names weren’t enough already, this general area is also referred to as Turtle Town by many charter boat operators, which was concocted to sell snorkeling tours. Each of the many monikers is accurate for different reasons: Geographically, the dive lies within the Makena Landing area and is close to Makena Landing park. There are multiple caves here where sea turtles and whitetip reef sharks often hang out, all accessible to divers. You walk right past five tombstones if you choose to use the northern beach access. Nahuna is the Hawaiian name for this area.
What makes this dive so fantastic is not only the turtles, but also pelagic species such as manta rays, spotted eagle rays, bottlenose dolphins, and large ‘awa.What makes this dive so fantastic is not only the turtles, but also pelagic species such as manta rays, spotted eagle rays, bottlenose dolphins, and large ‘awa. Throughout the winter, divers are surrounded by whale song. There can also be nudibranchs, harlequin shrimp, flying gurnards, slate pencil urchins, and a wide range of eels. On calm days the visibility can often reach 100 feet, although on days where there is a south swell (usually in the summer), visibility can be reduced to 20 feet at best.
While many dive boats frequent this area, the easiest place to enter from shore is the parking lot by Makena Landing park. Once in the water, turn to the right and follow the coastline until you reach a long finger of lava. This is what’s known as the South Finger, and the depth here is only about 15 feet. Follow the South Finger away from the shoreline, and halfway to the end you will notice a large cave, which you can swim through from below. There are numerous turtles that hang out in here, and there is almost always a whitetip reef shark under a ledge. Emerging on the other side of the cave, you can kick your way parallel to the shoreline across a field of peculiar coral formations, whereby you will eventually reach the North Finger after three minutes of swimming. If you somehow haven’t seen a turtle yet, there is another large cave on the north side of this finger where turtles are known to hang out.
Since this area is popular with charter boats, arrive early before the crowds and always dive with a dive flag. For an alternate entry on calm days, park at the small beach access on Makena Road on the north side of the hill past Makena Landing park. There will be a few dirt parking spaces on the right, and the small beach access trail that leads past the five graves.
Another nice shore dive is the Ahihi Kinau cove 1.5 miles past the first entrance for Big Beach. The depth here goes to about 40 feet. Since this cove is protected from the wind, it offers pristine diving conditions as long as the surf isn’t up. Expect to find green sea turtles and the rare spinner dolphin if you’re on the outer edge of the reef. The entry into the water can be tricky since you have to navigate your way over slippery rocks, but you don’t need to worry about boats in this cove, although it can often be packed with snorkelers as the morning wears on, making parking an issue.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.