My favourite dive sites are the Night Manta boat dive and the shore dive near Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (the Place of Refuge), where there are nice hard corals and underwater scenery, with regular sightings of Green Turtles and a pod of Spinner Dolphins nearby. The sheer beauty of the place might make you plan a wedding. Tungsten wedding bands and all right there on the shore.
Kahalu'u Bay - shore dive
This is a good site to try if the winter surf is up. It is located five miles south of Kailua-Kona and has a small car park (park at the side of the highway when that gets full), showers, toilets, shops, and a small dive and surf rental store on the mauka side of the highway.
It is really a snorkelling site because it never gets very much deeper than about 5 meters (16 feet) within the breakwater. It is a popular location, but the turtles don't seem to mind all the people and you will usually find lots of them there, munching on the weed. When I was there in December 2000, a good-sized Bluefin Trevally shot past me just as I was getting in the water, about 10 metres from the shore. We also saw some Lined Butterfly fish, which are rare outside the kona coast of the Big Island.
Kailua Bay - North of the Pier - shore dive
I did this as a night dive in December 2000. You can park on the pier for free after 7.00pm. The entry is down the ramp and then swim on the surface (away from the route that the boats take!) until you reach the reefs to the north. Descend and look around. Lots of the usual nocturnal reef fish out hunting and sleeping Parrot fish. All the tiny red eyes that you see when you shine your light down are Red Reef shrimps.
A nice site, with lots of things to see in all the pukas, without being spectacular. We also snorkelled here during the day - jumping in from the end of the pier and coming out at the boat ramp.
Kailua Bay - South of the Pier - shore dive
Enter at the sandy beach where the pier meets Ali'i Drive. It is an easy swim to the southwest, keeping out of the boat lane. We've seen turtles, eels, bonefish and all the usual reef fish. Other divers have seen Spotted Eagle Rays here too. Easy and fun - good as a night dive.
Kiawi - boat dive
This report is from January 2001. We actually did this dive after the Lone Tree Arch dive (below). While we were doing our surface interval here, a pair of Humpback Whales surfaced close to boat, before descending and swimming off. "We have dived this site several times and each time we do, the dive guides say that it is possible to see some larger pelagics here, such as Hammerhead Sharks. However, in all the times I have come here, I have never seen a fish larger than a a 0.5 metre Jack! However, we did see a couple of Green Turtles taking off and landing in resting places. We also saw a few Flame Angel Fish and shoals of Pyramid Butterfly Fish. Towards the end of the dive, an eagle-eyed member of the group spotted a Commerson's Frogfish, as well disguised as ever. We also saw a juvenile Rockmover Wrasse."
Lone Tree Arch - boat dive
This report is from January 2001. "We saw several eels at this site, including a Zebra Eel, White Mouth Moray and a couple of Yellowmargin Morays. There is an archway near the shore with lots of little pukas in the roof. In one of these we saw a Regal Slipper Lobster. The water here was only about 24 Celsius, so we were glad when the sun came out later in the dive."
Naked lady wreck - West of Kailua Bay - boat dive
The name is from the reason for the wreck and is not the name of the boat itself. This is a boat dive, although it is only a five minute ride from the pier. It lies on a sandy bottom at a depth of 35 metres (about 110 feet) at its deepest point. It went down in 1997 and was still in good condition in January 2001. It is about 14 metres (45 feet) long and has no spaces to penetrate. There are sometimes a pair of White Tip reef sharks resting underneath it and it is also home to Sunset wrasse, which are rare in Hawaiian waters.
Night Manta Dive
15th April 2003 - The night Manta Ray dive off Kona is one of the world's great dives - period! Marijke and I have been fortunate enough to dive in some great places, including Shark Fin Reef in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. This Manta dive is right up there with the best. It is worth mentioning at the outset that the Mantas don't always turn up. As near as I can tell, they are there about 80% of the time.
It was still light when the dive boat moored in the small cove just north of the Natural Energy Lab. We had already seen a large pod of Spinner dolphins leaping around the boat and Humpback whales breaching, before we even got there. We did one dive before sunset and saw three Mantas near the surface, silhouetted against the sun. After it got dark we went in again and settled on the black sand bottom, pointing our lights upwards. This attracted plankton to the light and then the Mantas came in for the plankton. It was truly awesome to see a group of these huge fish - the largest had a wing span of about 5 metres or 16 feet - swirling backwards and forwards over us. Sometimes they brushed against our heads as they came from behind. Other times they seemed to be coming straight for us, only to veer away at the last moment. It was a beautiful and unforgettable experience.
Old Airport (North) - Kona - shore dive
Park at the boulders at the end of the old runway. Gear up and walk about 80 metres north to the small bay. You might need local help in finding the entry. Entering and leaving this site can be difficult when winter surf is up, because of the uneven bottom, rocks and black urchins. There are two main ways to go - straight out west to the drop off and back - west about 30 metres and then south to some archways. Lots of reef fish, eels, jacks and other interesting things at these sites. The last time we were there (December 2000), we saw a brilliant, multi-coloured, Divided Flatworm.
Pu'u Honua O Honaunau - Place of Refuge - shore dive
This is located about 50 metres north of the car park of the honua, which you get to by driving 18 miles south of Kona and then following the signs to the park. I dived this site in June 1999 and again in December 2000. There were far fewer fish on the second visit. It could be that there was a seasonal effect, but I have been told that aquarium trade fish collectors have been very active here recently and that they have taken their toll on the site. Only marine mammals and turtles are protected here - it may not be enough.
There are two main ways to go at this site - north from the entry to the drop off (there is nothing much on the other side of the bay so don't bother swimming over), which goes down to about 35 metres, and south west around the coral heads. There used to be lots of fish and turtles at this site, but not so much recently. I'll try it again in a couple of weeks when the surf has gone down a bit and see if it is any better.