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  • Tré Barnes

Best Scuba Diving in Oahu, Hawaii | Sharks & Turtles

If you are planning on visiting Hawaii and will be on the Island of Oahu, this is an experience you cannot miss. I’ve dove throughout the Caribbean and the U.S. and have had incredible experiences but diving in Oahu was a one of a kind experience.

There are numerous beautiful reefs to dive in Oahu such as those along the North Shore but I would recommend sticking to dives on the south side of the island to experience what makes Oahu diving so unique — wreck diving. The ample amounts of sunken ships, planes, and barges provide exquisite ecosystems for a haven of sea-life.

Once we decided where we wanted to dive we began looking for an outfitter that offered multiple diving packages, at an affordable rate and had great reviews. I know what you are thinking that's a lot to ask for! After a bunch of research, we decided on diving with Reef Pirates and I’m so glad we did. They offer a multitude of different diving packages but we decided on the Morning Dive | Deep Wreck & Shallow Reef dive.

We went this dive for a few reasons, getting up at the crack of dawn is never a blast especially since the ship launched at 7 am and we stayed at the Ko’olina Marriott Beach Club on the west side of the island (wake up extra early if you are leaving from this side of the island the traffic is really bad in the mornings heading through Honolulu).

Benefits of the Morning Dive | Deep Wreck & Shallow Reef dive.

  • You get first access to all the marine life before they are scared off by the hordes of tourists that appear during the afternoon.

  • You get to experience the best of both worlds (Wreck Dive & Reef Dive).


For two dives with everything included the price was $135 a person if you have your own gear or are Active US military they will subtract $15 from the fee.

Our Experience

Wreck Dive

At 7 am after gearing up we launched from the bay and our guide (Crash) began to go over safety instructions about our first dive for the day— the WWII Corsair Fighter. This fighter went down in 1946 during a training mission and sits intact at 105 feet. In addition to seeing an intact wreck, you’ll see eels, octopus, frogfish and if you dive during the winter you might see and hear humpback whales.

We chartered out through the choppy waters to the dive site, dropped anchor and then Crash jumped in the water following the guideline to check the conditions. Unfortunately, the drift was too strong and presented unsafe conditions to dive so we had to scratch the wreck dive. It was a big bummer because this dive had been on my bucket list but I would rather be safe than sorry.

We chartered to another dive which was about 75 feet deep and explored a deep reef loaded with fish, octopus, a sea turtle, and even a white tip reef shark. We were told that we had a good chance of seeing a resident white tip reef shark but I didn’t actually believe we really would, she was a beautiful sight to behold.

After ascending we loaded up and chartered to our scheduled shallow reef dive. On the way to our second dive, we were given water and light snacks to munch on as our tanks were switched out. Unfortunately, my diving buddy got sick with the back and forth tossing of the ship and had to sit this dive out. I started to feel seasick myself but luckily I got in the water fast enough.

Shallow Reef Dive

As we descended I felt a little underwhelmed at the surroundings, I expected a vibrant reef with ample amounts of sea life yet all I could see was an empty uneventful bleached reef. Right as I thought this was going to be a boring dive our dive guide pointed out a massive Hawaiian green sea turtle off to my right. A few feet ahead of us I noticed another sea turtle sitting on the seafloor, I signaled to crash our guide to check it out he seemed uninterested and waved me to follow. I was pretty confused because we had barely seen any turtles and here was a massive one and he wanted to move on.

About two minutes later a turtle appeared out of nowhere and guided us to a ledge as we floated over the ledge crash signaled us to look down, sitting on the seafloor were four massive turtles with schools of fish dancing around. Two more sea turtles gracefully glided around us. I have seen turtles before but these turtles or as the native Hawaiians call them Honu were massive. Out of the 7 different types of sea turtles Hawaiian green sea turtles are the largest in the world, they can reach up to lengths of 4 feet and weigh over 300 pounds. They also have large lungs which give them the ability to stay underwater for hours, the longest record time is 5 hours.

To be right in the middle of a turtle cleaning station with these majestic sea animals gliding around was truly a magical experience. We stayed on the bottom of the seafloor for what seemed like hours just taking in the special moment we were in.

As our air began to dwindle we started our ascent and I think I understood what Lucy Pevensie the fictional character from the Narnia book series must’ve felt the first time she had to return from the magical world of Narnia and re-enter the familiar world. I realized as we were ascending I didn’t capture as much footage as I wanted because I was so awe-struck with my surroundings and I was a little bummed but right at that moment I turned around to see if I could see one more and to my surprise one was following me. As the rest of the group was in front of me I was able to have this magical private moment between me and this curious sea turtle. He floated within inches of me and just glided with me (remember even if a sea turtle approaches you it is illegal to touch one whether on land or sea, help protect them). At the end of the video above you can see this moment.

As we continued our ascent the drift pushed us back and forth and I began to feel seasick under the water but I really did not want to vomit in my regulator. Once we surfaced and I reached the boat nausea hit full force and I lost the contents of my stomach. It must’ve been a rough day at sea because 2 other people had gotten seasick as well.

Would we do it again?

YES! YES! YES! I would dive with Reef Pirates again and I know I will because I’ve got some unfinished business with a WWII Corsair. From my experience, Reef Pirates lived up to the great reviews. Did it suck that we didn’t get to see the wreck dive? Yes, but they can’t control the daily weather conditions and all divers know that’s the nature of the beast. Despite that setback, they were prepared with a backup plan and still turned it into an incredible experience.

When we go again I will come more prepared to encounter rough seas, in addition to myself and my dive buddy two others got seasick as well. Once again you can’t really blame this on Reef Pirates they are at the mercy of the sea. I’ve been on the sea hundreds of times and have never gotten sick so I didn’t think I would get sick here. For whatever reason, these waves got to me! Next time I will bring a seasickness band.

For $135 Reef Pirates delivered an unforgettable experience. The one word I learned in native Hawaiian that sums this entire experience up would be Kulani which means Resembling Heaven.

Things To Bring

-Gatorade (It will replenish your body if you get seasick)


-Sea Sickness Band


-Cash for a tip

* This experience was made possible with the kind support of Reef Pirates. As usual, all thoughts and opinions are our own. There is a possibility that some of the links within this article are affiliate links, these have no effect on you they allow us to continue providing this service.

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