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Hawaii is several destinations in one, as each of the major islands has it's own unique dive experience. But, while each island is unique, almost 30 percent of everything you see, you will only see in the islands of Hawaii From December to May the waters off all of Hawaii, fill with the haunting song of humpback whales. The Big Island, with the active Kilauea Volcano, is actually still growing as hot lava flows into the sea almost every day. The largest of the Hawaiian islands also has 12 of the world's 16 climate zones, from glacier to desertscape. And, underwater the folds and caverns and arches that make up the reef reflect the volcanic origins and hard corals dominate. You'll a bit of everything from frogfish and reef octopus to dragon morays and lots of sea turtles. You'll also have the chance to see big tiger sharks, pilot whales, mantas, oceanic white-tip shark and pods of spinner dolphins. Diving off the island of Maui centers around the famed Molokini Crater, a marine preserve, and the nearby island of Lanai Topside the photogenic and waterfall riven Road to Hana is one world's prettiest drives. And, sunrise on Mt. Haleakala is a must experience. The world's view of Hawaii centers around the Island of Oahu, where Waikiki sees nearly as many tourists as the entire rest of the Pacific islands. Underwater, you don't have to look too far for world-class dives, they're right beyond the surf break of Waikiki, the wrecks of the YO-257 and the San Pedro. Of course, if you want to surf, then this is the place to be, or shop, or get that Hawaiian shirt you've always wanted. If the world's view of Hawaii is Oahu, then Hollywood's vision for paradise is the island of Kauai, with its stunning Na Pali Coast, and lush green mountains. The dives ripple with the movements of sea turtles, and it's almost guaranteed to see them here. Also, accessed from Kauai is the "forbidden island" of Ni'ihau, which is the place to encounter endangered monk seals.

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Destination Information

When to go:

The weather and water are temperate year-round, but rough currents and waves during the winter can make some dive sites less accessible.

Marine Life Seasons:

Whales migrate to mate in Hawaiian waters from November to May, and can be seen (and heard) during those months.

When to Get the Best Deals:

Mid-April to Mid-June.

What to Pack:

5 mm wetsuit, hood in winter, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sturdy shoes that can get wet for hiking, DAN card, Hawaiian shirt for going out and blending.

Water Temperatures:

Seasonal averages: 23°C/74°F in winter and 27°C/ 81°F in summer

Air Temperatures:

Seasonal averages: 24°C/76°F in winter and 26-°C/80°F in summer.

Currency:

US Dollar; Credit Cards widely accepted.

Visa/Passport Requirements:

Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.

Departure Tax:

Included in your airfare.

Immunizations:

None required.

What to Eat:

Each island has a long list of great place to eat from world-class restaurants to local lunch trucks. Don't hesitate to wander into the smaller eateries and try to multicultural cuisine - starting with pupus (appetizers). Take in a luau (local feast) offered at many resorts, usually including entertainment, and sample the pig roasted in an underground oven, taro leaf wrapped fish, and poi (which tastes a lot better when you add sugar.)

What to Drink:

Hawaiian grown coffee, especially from Kona, is a must to start your day. There are several local breweries now producing great beer for after dive enjoyment. You'll also find lots of fruity cocktails - like the Mai Tai and Blue Hawaiian - to quench your thirst.

Top Adventures/Shopping/Culture:

Shopping in Waikiki; surfing the North Shore of Oahu; sunrise on Haleakala on Maui; Bamboo Forest on Maui; Road to Hana on Maui; Na Pali Coast, Kauai; Hike Waimea Canyon; snowboard on Mauna Kea; cliff jump from South Point, Big Island; Volcanoes National Park, Big Island; Sample Kona Coffee, Big Island.

Customs and Culture:

The aloha spirit and general surf culture prevails.

Top Festivals/Events:

Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in April, Hilo, Big Island; Maui Film Festival in June; Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival in July, Waikiki, Oahu; Triple Crown of Surfing in November and December, North Shore, Oahu; Kauai Coconut Festival in October, Kapa'a, Kauai.

Electricity and Internet:

110V/60Hz. Internet is common.

Drink the water?

Water is safe to drink.

Language:

English.

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Amazing Marine Life

Triggerfish:

Large diamond-shaped fish with striking color patterns, including the wonderfully named state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (a word which translates from Hawaiian as "little fish with a nose like a pig").

Humpback Whales:

During the months of November through May, humpback whales migrate from Alaska to mate in the warm, shallow waters off Hawaii Even if you don't see them on a diving day, you can hear their eerie songs carried through the water.

Manta Ray:

Can be seen during the day, but night dive, especially those off the Big Island, bring in up to 30 of these plankton feeding giants at a time.

Hawaiian Monk Seal:

The only seal endemic to the islands, the monk seal is endangered, and can be found mostly near the northern isles. Ni'ihau is your best bet for encountering them, although conservationists are reintroducing them to other areas.

Green Sea Turtle:

Iconic in its petroglyph form, the green sea turtle (honu to Hawaiians) can be found nearly everywhere in the islands. They can be inquisitive or evasive, and it is well for divers to respect their moods as well as their cultural importance.

Dragon Moray:

One of the most colorful, and elusive, of the eel family, finding this toothy creature is worth the hunt.

Raccoon Butterfly:

Hawaii's butterflies as a group are colorful and ubiquitous, with the raccoon butterfly's telltale black mask perhaps the most striking.

Spinner Dolphins:

These brilliant acrobats get their name from their spinning leaps from the water. Underwater, they form large schools.

White-tip Reef Sharks:

These can be seen napping in lava tubes and caverns.

Slate Pencil Urchin:

One of the more colorful, and common, invertebrates on Hawaiian reefs, this urchin sports orange, finger-like spines with rounded ends, quite unlike its venomous black-spiked cousin.

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Top Dive Spots

Island of Hawaii, Keauhou Bay:

Just south of Kailua-Kona, this is a fantastic night dive for meeting manta rays. Floodlights shining into the water (from the hotel on shore, as well as from dive boats that flock here) attract plankton, which bring the mantas in to feed. Accessible from shore or by boat.

Island of Hawaii, Puako Reef:

This rocky reef along Puako, north of Kailua-Kona, is the kind of place where you can have a dozen different experiences from the same entry-point. Sea turtles and reef fish abound, and when you finish diving, the picture-postcard Hapuna Beach is just minutes away.

Island of Hawaii, Punahonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge):

The reef here stretches down to meet a sandy bottom at 30 meters/100 feet, where you can sometimes find garden eels waving in the current. The reef itself teems with fish and sea turtles, and you can visit the Place of Refuge between your dives. Stay alert to the occasional motor boat, as locals often put in small craft here.

Island of Oahu, Makaha Caverns:

Look closely at the reef (but keep your fingers out of the pukas, or holes) to find octopus, moray eels, fan corals, and intriguing invertebrates. Keep an eye out also for reef sharks and eagle rays. The caverns (lava-tube formations with swim-throughs) and nearby Mahi wreck provide interesting nooks and crannies for marine life to inhabit and divers to explore.

Island of Oahu, Haleiwa Wall:

In addition to a fascinating wall-dive (steep drop down to 27 meters/90 feet), divers can also see a natural turtle-cleaning station at work. Up to two dozen turtles at a time may float here while reef fish nibble algae off their backs. Look for scorpionfish,, eels, and invertebrates as well as reef fish.

Island of Kauai, Tunnels Reef:

Kauai's reefs are among the islands' healthiest, perhaps because they are the oldest. Tunnels Reef writhes with marine life, including octopus and myriad other invertebrates, largely undamaged coral formations, sea turtles, and many species of reef fish. Because of rough currents and wave action in the winter, this site is only recommended from April through October.

Island of Maui, Molokini Crater's back side:

This crescent-shaped crater harbors a shallow sheltered reef in its interior, but it's the back side that's truly memorable. A dive boat will drop you some distance from the crater wall and allow you to angle down through open water to the sheer face. If you dive at the right time of year, humpback whale songs will echo off the cliff while you drift-dive with the current along the wall. Bring a small dive light to illuminate those critters in the crevices.

Island of Lanai, Fish Rock:

Lanai dives are generally undertaken by boat from the neighboring island of Maui. Lanai is home to the Hulopoe Bay Marine Sanctuary, and Fish Rock (true to its name) is a veritable rainbow of reef fish. The nearby Cathedrals (lava-tube formations) are also worth a visit if you're up for a multi-dive day.

Island of Molokai, The Cove:

In the winter months, this protected cove is a bonanza of marine life, notably large formations of antler coral, butterfly fish, and (on night dives) manta rays and several species of lobster. Watch for currents if you stray out of the protected cove itself.

Island of Niihau:

The island itself is owned and populated by native Hawaiians and not open to tourists, but divers can take a boat from neighboring Kauai for the marine experience. The Hawaiian monk seal may be spotted here, as well as dolphins and (thanks to the nearby seabird sanctuary) a wide variety of endemic seabirds.

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