The Big Island of Hawaii is world-renowned for its awe-inspiring natural beauty and unique ecological features. Home to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, it draws nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world – including scuba divers. With exceptional visibility and an abundance of coral reefs, there are ample opportunities to observe a wide variety of marine life just offshore. Here are nine sites not to miss for divers exploring the wild and wonderful underwater world surrounding Hawaii’s Big Island.

Tiger Sharks Hawaii Shutterstock

Crescent Beach

Located just outside Honokohau Harbor, this dive site is famous for the large megafauna that makes regular visits – especially the iconic tiger sharks. From just off the beach to depths of nearly 80ft (24m), divers can have up-close encounters with the dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays, sea turtles, black tips, and tiger sharks that frequent this area with a vibrant and lively coral reef backdrop. Undoubtedly, the array of large marine life makes this one of the top dive sites in Hawaii.

Garden Eel Cove – Manta Night Dive

Most divers describe the manta ray night dive off Kona as otherworldly. After the sun sets, descend to a sandy bottom about 30ft (9m) beneath the surface. You’ll be greeted with giant manta rays soaring overhead, under the spotlights of the boats, while feeding on plankton. Without a doubt, this is a surreal, spectacular, and thrilling experience all at the same time. Watching these gentle giants glide and twirl effortlessly in front of your eyes is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you shouldn’t miss when visiting the Big Island. Read a detailed first-hand account of diving at Garden Eel Cove (nicknamed Manta Ray Heaven) here.

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau/Two Step

Water entry is a breeze at this shore dive, thanks to the tiered lava formation along the shore. Divers can explore ancient underwater architecture created by lava flows centuries ago. Best of all, it’s now home to a bustling coral garden housing an incredible variety of colorful reef fish. Altogether, this is an excellent dive for beginners or advanced divers who want to see eels, octopuses, and sea turtles. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is home to a four-hundred-year-old place of refuge and is a sacred historic site on the Big Island.

Pu'uhonua Dive Site Hawaii Shutterstock

Kaiwi Point

The variety of underwater bathymetry here makes for a truly exciting dive. And since this dive site is only accessible by boat, that often means fewer people in the water. All within one dive, scuba divers can pass beneath a lava rock arch above a boulder bottom, cruise beside a large lava rock wall, explore a circular cavern spotted with skylights, and gaze out over a steep drop-off into a wide expanse of clear blue open ocean.


This site is all about underwater lava caves. Divers pass through a series of caves that reveal brilliant beams of sunlight poking through holes overhead and a variety of marine life hiding in crevices. Whitetip reef sharks are also a common resident at this dive site. When exiting the lava caves, divers that time their departure with the surge can get helpfully ‘sucked’ out (hence the name).

Hawaii Lava Tube Shutterstock

Touch of Grey

Love baby sharks? This dive site is a grey reef shark nursery. Groups of these adorable sharks – some only 2ft (61cm) long – are often spotted circling or laying underneath ledges among schools of colorful reef fish, like angelfish, boxfish, and snapper. Due to a typically strong current, a ravine, and some complex underwater formations, this dive site is best for advanced divers.

Black Water Dive

Hawaii’s legendary Black Water Dive is one that you can only enjoy at night. Experienced divers venture out here by boat to meet a cornucopia of marine creatures. This dive takes place much further out at sea than the colorful Kona reefs, over deep waters. During a dive, you’ll hover off a tether at around 13 meters (45 feet). Many class the dive as a dream-like, outer-space experience. Pelagics might drift by, but the real stars of the show are much smaller. You’ll be on the lookout for the glittering siphonophores, cephalopods, and bioluminescent marine life at larval stages. 

Golden Arches

Golden Arches is another excellent site for beginners. Located on the Kona coast, it’s a short boat ride from Honokohau Harbor. It’s aptly named after two arches created by lava tubes that make a beautiful underwater landscape, perfect for snapping some stunning underwater photos. The site is teeming with tropical fish, and keep your eye out for morays, frogfish, and even reef sharks. You can swim through the arches, so bring a torch to investigate the crevices and holes in the rock around you. 

Turtle Pinnacle

Located just off the northwest coast of Kona, this dive is precisely as its name suggests. Coral pinnacles make up a cleaning station where you can spot green sea turtles coming for a bit of pampering to have any parasites removed. If the surgeonfish cleaners are already busy, you can catch turtles waiting their turn at the bottom or having a nap afterward. 

During the dive, you can also observe smaller fish around the corals, as well as eels, octopuses, or even dolphins. Schooling barracuda often frequent the site, so keep your eyes peeled for them as well. Overall, Turtle Pinnacle is an easy dive ideal for beginners that gives you a chance to view plenty of iconic Hawaiian marine life. 

Diving on a Budget in Hawaii - Turtle

Ready to Dive in Hawaii?

With so many amazing dive sites to choose from, the underwater world surrounding Hawaii seems to always deliver an incredible diving experience for even the most seasoned divers. Learn more here before planning your dive trip to Hawaii.

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