South Shore Dive Sites

Scuba Diving in Waikiki, Honolulu

Some of Oahu's best dive sites are on the South Shore!

Most people visiting Oahu stay in Waikiki, or nearby in Honolulu. Fortunately, the scuba dive sites near Waikiki are phenomenal, and usually only a short boat ride away. There are dives available for every level – from beginner dives to deep, novice, and wreck dives.

Here are the best dive sites Oahu has to offer near Honolulu on the South Shore:

Sea Tiger

Depth: 80-130 ft. / 25-40 m.
Visibility: 60-120 ft. / 20-40 m.
Category: Wreck dive.

This is the deepest wreck dive for recreational divers, and also one of the most exciting. Because of the depth of this dive, some experience is necessary. The Sea Tiger is a beautiful ship that was originally a Chinese trading vessel. It was intentionally sank in 1999 by a submarine company as an effort to create more reefs around Oahu. Because its sinking was so recent, the ship has very little decay and is incredible to explore.

The Sea Tiger has become home to flourishing marine life, including eagle rays, sea turtles, moray eels, and whitetip sharks. Additionally, there are ample species of reef fish. The ship features multiple swim-throughs, some more dangerous than others. With so much to explore, this dive site near Waikiki is wonderful for beginners and advanced divers alike.

YO-257 / San Pedro

Depth: 70 – 120 ft. / 22 – 36.5 m.
Visibility: 60-80 ft./ 20-27 m.
Category: Wreck Dive

These wreck dives are best accessed from Waikiki, giving you a spectacular view of Diamond Head and Honolulu’s skyline on the boat ride out. The YO-257 is an old navy ship that was sunk in 1989 as part of the state’s artificial reef project. There are abundant swim throughs and myriad marine creatures.

The YO-257 sits 120 feet down, with its deck around 80 feet, and is therefore only accessible to advanced divers. Only 70 feet away, and slightly shallower at 60 feet deep, is the San Pedro. This ship used to be a hospital vessel. It was sunk next to its sister, the YO-257, in 1996 as part of the same reef project. The San Pedro, however, is deteriorating at a much faster rate and is therefore not ideal for swimming through.

Both wrecks are home to huge amounts of sea life, including turtles, eagle rays, whitetip reef sharks, reef fish, nudibranches, and octopi. In fact, the deck of the San Pedro has become a turtle cleaning station! For divers seeking more of a challenge, this is one of the best dive sites Oahu has to offer. The currents around Diamond Head and into the harbor can make this site a challenge, while the depth makes for a limited bottom time. You will want to dive this site again to see all it has to offer.

Turtle Canyon

Depth: 15-45 ft./ 5-15 m.
Visibility: 20-100 ft./ 7-35 m.
Category: Boat Dive

The Turtle Canyon dive site is located in the same vicinity of the Sea Tiger, making them common sites to be explored on the same trip. This beautiful reef is one of the island’s infamous turtle cleaning stations. There are regular displays of marine life coexistence, as turtles relax to let fish munch off their shells. Other marine life includes ample species of reef fish, octopi, eels, and whitetip sharks.

Turtle Canyon Reef is far off the shore and therefore only accessible by boat. However, the cleaning station itself (which is on top of the reef) is shallow enough that it is visible to snorkelers too. This dive can be accomplished by any level of diver, since it is fairly shallow with excellent visibility.

Horse Shoe Reef

Depth: 40 – 60 ft. / 16 – 20 m.
Visibility: 40 – 100 ft. / 16 – 35 m.
Category: Reef Dive

Horseshoe Reef is an Oahu scuba diving site that is accessible to beginners, yet still entertaining for novices. It is surrounded by multiple neighboring reefs  (close enough to visit in one dive) that are slightly deeper. This reef is frequented by dragon moray eels, frog fish, and manta rays. There have even been tiger shark sightings!

The depth of this reef offers the perfect balance of bottom-time and complexity. Within a two-tank dive, you should be able to go around the entire horseshoe and witness the many wonders this reef beholds.

Kewalo Pipe

Depth: 35 – 65 ft. / 11 – 20 m.
Visibility: 40 – 100 ft. / 16 – 35 m.
Category: Boat Dive

The Kewalo Pipe dive is a great spot for beginners diving near Waikiki. This spot is – you guessed it – a pipeline! It is made of steel and has now been broken into smaller pieces. This dive features plenty of reef fish, including a large amount of scorpion fish and wrasse.

Due to the shallow location of this dive site, you can enjoy a longer bottom time than with the other nearby wrecks. However, the depth can be what you make it, since the pipe runs from shoreline all the way to 65 feet in depth. Natural reefs flank either side of the pipe, providing bright colors and abundant marine life.

Anglers Reef / Koko Crater

Depth: 40 ft. / 13 m.
Visibility: 40 – 100 ft. / 16 – 35 m.
Category: Boat/Reef Dive

These shallow dive sites are perfect for beginners. Located on the East side of the city near Hawaii Kai, Angler’s Reef and Koko Crater offer plenty of entertainment while diving. Angler Reef is popular to dive at night, when crustaceans and Spanish Dancers come out to play. The dive will take you out and back along a reef wall, home to many reef rish, eel, and turtles.

Koko Crater is a bigger reef system nearby. A local dive company sunk Buddha statues around the dive site to make an interactive experience for divers! While these dive sites are great for beginners, the current can get strong and divers should always be careful to watch their air gauge.

Fantasy Reef

Depth: 45 ft. / 15 m.
Visibility: 60 – 120 ft. / 20 – 40 m.
Category: Drift Dive

Here’s a dive for all you adventurers out there! Fantasy Reef is one of Oahu’s best dive sites, but also one of its most dangerous and least consistent. The site is well off the shore, with a 25 minute boat ride to get there. Many times, upon arrival the conditions will be too rough and the group will have to turn around to dive elsewhere. However, on the days that the conditions are favorable, this dive may be the most beautiful in the Hawaiian islands.

Fantasy Reef is comprised of three plateaus made from ancient volcanic rock, now covered with reef and coral. Each plateau features overhangs, caves, and swim throughs. The area is prime real estate for turtles, who use the space to hide from nearby tiger and Galapagos sharks. Far less trafficked than many of the more popular spots, this dive site is pristine and unique from any other Oahu dive.

China Wall (Portlock Wall)

Depth: 35 – 100 ft. / 12 – 33 m.
Visibility: 60 – 150 ft. / 20 – 50 m.
Category: Wall Drift Dive

China Wall is one of Oahu’s most famous dive sites, located off the East side of Honolulu, near Hawaii Kai. One of the most popular ways to experience this dive is with the sea cave, where divers often find Hawaiian monk seals and sharks. Outside of the cave, the current is very strong. You will immediately drift along this long reef wall, with the current bringing you in towards Hanauma Bay. Many of Hawaii’s endemic fish species are found here!

For extra adventure, you can even find the above-water China Walls – a cliff jump spot behind a Hawaii Kai neighborhood!

Corsair

Depth: 107 ft. / 35 m.
Visibility: 100 – 180 ft. / 35 – 60 m.
Category: Wreck Dive

 

The Corsair offers something unique among all of the best south shore dive sites – this is the only non-artificial wreck in Oahu! The small airplane crash landed in 1946, when the pilot was running out of air and ditched the vessel. He managed to escape the crash and survive! The plane remains completely intact at 105 feet deep.

The Corsair offers another unique quality. This dive site is one of a few that hundreds of endemic garden eels can be seen. They are always surrounding the wreck and playing hide-and-seek with the divers. Large stingrays often visit the area as well.  This site has one of the best visibility ratings of the island, with an average day offering 100 feet / 35 m. of visibility.  However, visibility reaches close to 180 feet/ 60m. at best!

Oahu's best dive sites in other areas:

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Oahu Scuba Diving: Boat and Shore Dive, Snorkel Adventures!