Diving and Snorkeling O‘ahu’s North Shore

During the summer, from May to September, when the ocean is flat, O‘ahu’s North Shore beaches are an amazing place to snorkel. With a mix of rocks, reef, sand, calm waters, and favorable winds, just about anywhere you jump in the water will have some interesting underwater topography, coral, and marine life.

Pupukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District

Established in 1983 to conserve and replenish marine species at Three Tables and Sharks Cove, the reserve was expanded in 2003 to include Waimea Bay, covering 100 acres of coastline about a mile long.The most abundant marine life is found at Three Tables, Sharks Cove, and Waimea Bay, which comprise the Pupukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District. Established in 1983 to conserve and replenish marine species at Three Tables and Sharks Cove, the reserve was expanded in 2003 to include Waimea Bay, covering 100 acres of coastline about a mile long. Fishing or the taking of any marine species is strictly prohibited in the area. Look for wrasse, surgeonfish, reef squid, puffer fish, the spotted eagle ray, palani, unicorn fish, harlequin shrimp, and frogfish, just some of the creatures that inhabit the area. Waimea Bay is also known for pods of spinner dolphins that frolic in the middle of the bay.

Rocky shoreline of Three Tables Beach in Oahu.

Three Tables Beach on O‘ahu’s North Shore. Photo © Leigh Meeks/123rf.

There are boat dives and shore dives available on the North Shore. The shore dives explore Three Tables and Sharks Cove, where there are flourishing reefs teeming with endemic fish and lava tubes, caverns, and walls to explore. The boat dives provide access to the extraordinary underwater topography and pristine offshore reefs of the North Shore Beaches: Atlantis is an area full of trenches, valleys, walls, and lava tubes, and Cathedrals has rock formations, reefs, and caverns where turtles, eels, and whitetip reef sharks are common; Grand Canyon is a drift dive along the North Shore Beaches where you’ll find sponges hanging from the ledges and trevallies and rays in the deep water; two reef sites, Nanny’s Reef and Nautilus Reef, are 40-foot dives with a plethora of marine life. Diving the North Shore during the winter is contingent on the size of the surf.


Surf N Sea (62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., 808/637-9887, 9am-7pm daily) in Hale‘iwa is the North Shore’s most complete surf and dive shop. They sell new gear, rent beach and ocean-related gear and accessories, and even lead shore and boat dives. They rent dive equipment by the piece at a daily or weekly rate. For snorkel gear, they rent by the piece or in a set, the latter runs $6.50 for four hours, $9.50 daily, and $45 weekly. Their guided dives are operated by Hawaii Scuba Diving, which offers shore and boat dives as well as certification courses. Their morning dives are for certified divers, while the afternoon charters to shallow reef sites are open to any level diver. One-tank shore dives are $75 for certified divers and $95 for noncertified; two-tank shore dives are $100 certified, $125 noncertified; one-tank night dives are $100; two-tank boat dives are $140. PADI diving certification courses are $375 for Open Water Diver, $295 for Advanced Open Water Diver, and $650 for Divemaster.

Deep Ecology (66-456 Kamehameha Hwy., 808/637-7946 or 800/578-3992, 8am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 8am-5pm Sun.) also has a retail dive center in Hale‘iwa town. Their shop also has clothing and ocean art for sale, and they sell dive and snorkel equipment. They rent snorkel sets for $12 daily and $60 weekly, with 2 days free rental. They also rent complete two-tank scuba sets for $60 daily and $300 weekly with two days free rental. Boat dives and night boat dives are $145, shore dives are $109, night shore dives are $95, intro dives are $109, and boat intro dives are $159. Gear is included in the price, and they will give discounts if you have your own equipment. Deep Ecology also has a broad range of PADI certification courses.

Map of North-Shore, O'ahu Hawaii

North Shore

Hawaii Eco Divers (61-101 Iliohu Pl., 808/499-9177, 7:30am-9pm daily), operating from Hale‘iwa Harbor, specializes in personalized small group shore dives. Two-tank shore dives or one-tank night dives for certified divers are $89, and one-tank shore dives for noncertified divers are $99. All gear is included in the rate along with snacks, refreshments, and photos of the dives. They will also shoot a video of your dive for $75.

If you get to Sharks Cove and discover you really want to snorkel but don’t have any gear, then you’re in luck: Right across the street is North Shore Surf Shop (59-053 Kamehameha Hwy., 808/638-0390, 10am-7:30pm daily). They rent complete snorkel sets for $15 daily and $30 for three days. They also have rash guards for rent for $5, which are great for sun protection while you’re snorkeling.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

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