The Kona coast of Hawaii is world-class diving destination with healthy coral reefs, underwater lava formations, colorful reef fish, and big animals. Divers enjoy seeing Green Sea Turtles, Whitetip Reef Sharks, and Spinner Dolphins. Kona is famous for the Manta Ray Night Dive and Snorkel where participants observe majestic manta rays. The water is warm and ranges from about 74 to 82 degrees depending on the time of year. Due to the typical underwater terrain of hard coral and lava rock, the visibility is typically 80’ to 100’.
Garden Eel Cove at Makako Bay: This is the bay where we conduct the famous Manta Ray Night Dive and Snorkel! This bay boasts a healthy coral reef along a shelf that starts at about 20’ and gently slopes 50-100 yards to 40’ where the drop off starts. The reef slopes dramatically and stops at a sand covered bottom that extends as far as the eye can see. As you scan this underwater landscape, you will see garden eels rhythmically dance in this watery realm. Occasionally, manta rays or dolphins make an appearance on our afternoon dives at this site. When the sun goes down, the action really begins. Manta rays come to feed off the plankton attracted to the underwater lights of divers and snorkelers – a thrilling experience for all those who seek adventure!
Suck’em Up Lava Tube: This is one of our favorite day sites! The first lava cavern is located in relatively shallow water with an entrance that starts at about 20’ deep. It’s a wide arch shaped entry with views of broad sun beams that dance on the cavern floor. As you enter the cavern, take in the beauty of this natural structure as you peek into the pukas (holes) along the cavern wall or scan the skylights above. At the end of the lava cavern is a small exit. Time your departure so you can get “sucked” out with the surge. The dive guide will then lead you to a second structure at the site called Skull Cave, a roomy lava cavern with ample opportunities for exploration. Take your dive light to illuminate colorful sponges lining the cavern walls or spiny lobsters hiding in tucked away crevices. Swim through one “eye socket”, through the “skull” and out the other “eye socket” of this natural structure that looks like something from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie! This is a good site for whitetip reef sharks, moray eels, and colorful reef fish.
Golden Arches: This site boasts one of the best lava arches on the Kona Coast. Filled with a large school of bright yellow reef fish, the first “golden” arch is a delight to swim through and explore. Bring an underwater light to illuminate the ceilings, walls, and pukas (holes) of this thick, wide lava rock swim though. After you explore the arch and walls of coral around it, your dive guide will lead you over the reef to the second arch and then back to the boat along the drop off. This site is good for triggerfish, rockmover wrasses, and whitemouth morays. Occasionally Commerson’s frogfish and leaf scorpionfish are found at the site and pods of dolphins sometimes swim by.
Turtle Pinnacle/Turtle Heaven: These sites are excellent places to view green sea turtles – a threatened species and protected by Federal law. Turtles like to rest on the reef at the base of Turtle Pinnacle where kole (surgeonfish) like eat the algae off their backs. This is site is good for moray eels, octopuses, and healthy coral reefs. Turtle Heaven is also a good place for turtle sightings and has a fun shallow water arch to swim through, healthy coral cover, and a nice drop off. Occasionally, pods of Spinner Dolphins swim by.
Honokahau: This is one of our favorite sites for beautiful, well-developed coral along with brightly colored reef fish. Resident schools of reef fish include raccoon butterflyfish, weke (goatfish), and Heller’s barracuda. Dive guides like to lead groups to the drop off for a chance to see eagle rays or pods of Spinner dolphins. This site is where we occasionally see a critically endangered species of sea turtle – the Hawksbill Turtle. On a good day, divers may get a glimpse of a tiger shark!
Kaiwi Point: Only accessible by boat, the reef at Kaiwi Point is one of the best! Colorful coral structures in large mounds and cauliflower shapes populate the ocean floor. Trumpetfish, triggerfish, and trevally cruise the reef as they go about their daily business. This dive site includes a few moorings for boats and divers may see a variety of underwater features such as an expansive lava rock wall that rises from the bottom to the surface known as “Wash Rock”, a lava rock arch that suspends above a boulder bottom, or a carousel shaped cavern with mini skylights. There’s also a steep drop off to the depths which makes for a view of wide open spaces and clear water. This site is where big things might swim by. We’ve seen manta rays, sharks, and even humpback whales at Kaiwi Point!
Other favorite sites include:
Long Lava Tube
Lone Tree Arch
And, many more . . .
Many years ago, a dedicated group of people started the day-use mooring system in Kona, Hawaii. The buoys provide a safe, simple, inexpensive way to secure marine recreational vessels with minimal impact on the marine environment. The Day-Use Mooring Buoy Project is now administered through the State of Hawaii and aided by a non-profit organization called Malama Kai Foundation. For a complete list of dive sites in the mooring buoy system, please visit www.malama-kai.org.