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a turtle swimming under water

When you dive on the North Shore of Oahu, you are guaranteed a unique experience. From the reef topography created by the lava that flowed from the islands ancient volcanos, to the endemic species of marine life that you will encounter in the warm blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, diving the North Shore is not to be missed.

As Oahu’s volcanos Waianae and Ko’olau formed the island some two to three million years ago, lava flows solidified into the unique and interesting underwater forms that we find today when we explore the underwater world. As time has passed these lava flows have become the reefs that we know today, covered in coral, and inhabited by the countless marine life. The way in which the lava solidified as it reached the ocean has created incredible underwater topography.

Diving at Shark’s Cove on the North Shore allows you to venture into large caverns, with light streaming through the cracks and gaps that have appeared due to to erosion. Because of this effect, locations have been dubbed the Cathedral, Gap Cave, Elevator Shaft and the Blue Room, where underwater photographers are often found utilizing the streaming light to capture the extraordinary scenes. Tighter lava tubes exist for the more adventurous, with long swim-throughs in an overhead environment easy to find.

Other irregular formations are found in the area with large overhanging reefs and giant underwater arches providing great locations to explore. The proximity of such fantastic formations to each other means that in one dive you can view many of the best pieces of underwater architecture in the area, especially as depths do not generally exceed 45 feet, meaning extended bottom time.

a body of water next to the ocean

The famous swells that hit the North Shore during the winter months means that soft corals do not have a chance to flourish. Hard corals however, are able to withstand the force of the giant waves during winter and are a key element to the eco-system that exists in the region. This makes for a perfect place to look the smaller creatures of the ocean.

A great dive that exists on the North Shore not because of natural phenomenon, but due to military activity during World War II, is the Haleiwa Trench. Created to hide submarines during the war, this narrow trench is now a fun wall dive. Easily accessible from the shore, the wall drops from 15 feet to 90 feet. Because of the blasting that took place to create the trench, there are plenty of holes and crevices that have become home for the local marine life. Easy to navigate this wall is also a fantastic place to night dive, where you are likely to find everything from enormous napping turtles to vibrantly colored shrimp and invertebrates.

a close up of a fish

One of the best things about diving in Hawaii, is the multitude of endemic species of marine life that are flourishing on the islands. One of the best places to interact with fish you will see nowhere else except Hawaii, is in the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District on the North Shore. Providing protection for the marine life in the area since 1983, this area allows divers to interact with marine life in better condition, increased numbers and greater diversity than outside of the protected area. Some 25% – 30% of the species that divers encounter on a dive in the area will be endemic, meaning the diver is likely to see something they have never seen before. Diver favorites, the Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle), are also often encountered along the North Shore and are almost as curious about the diver as the diver is of them.

Easily accessible, the North Shore of Oahu is an excellent location to experience the underwater world of Hawaii and encounter all the unique features on offer, and should be on the itinerary of every diver visiting Oahu.

Hawaii Eco Divers offers dive tours and training on the beautiful North Shore of Oahu.  Visit us at for more information about diving the Island of Oahu, Hawaii.