Kona’s World Class Diving
The Hawaiian Island chain is the most isolated archipelago on the planet, surrounded by pristine waters, rare sea life, and vibrant coral reefs. Scuba divers from around the globe travel to Hawaii to explore its incredible underwater world. Kona, Hawaii, located on the west side of the Big Island, offers some of the best diving conditions in the entire Aloha State. What makes Kona a diver’s paradise? Several key factors make this little beach town a world-class diving destination:
- Excellent shore diving
- Incredible visibility
- Access to deep water dives
- Established diving community
Geologically speaking, Hawaii Island where Kona is located is relatively young. As a result, its fringing reef is close to shore and easily accessible, offering excellent access for shore diving in comparison to older islands where the reef is located far offshore. Located on the leeward side of the Big Island, Kona has a dry climate with little rainfall and no rivers. This creates idyllic conditions when it comes to underwater visibility and growing conditions for coral. Kona’s waters have visibility of over 100ft (33.3m). Kona’s underwater topography is characterized by a steep drop-off, which invites a lot of charismatic megafauna to come close to shore and cruise along the reef.
There are about a dozen dive shops centrally located in Kona that offer boat dives or shore dive excursions as well as gear rentals. While there are many great dives to choose from, here are three top dives in Kona you won’t want to miss.
Manta Ray Night Dive
Undoubtedly the best dive in Kona, this dive is often voted one of the top five dives in the world. Kona is the only place on the planet where manta rays regularly feed at night. Gliding through the water with their enormous wingspans, Manta rays perform acrobatics as they consume millions of tiny plankton. There are two locations for this dive, one by the Sheraton in Keauhou Bay and the second just north of the Kona Airport. Dive operators will take you to whichever site has better conditions.
Conditions: Both of the manta dive sites are very exposed during winter NW swells. The calmest conditions are during the summer months. Manta rays are not seasonal, but their presence varies from day-to-day. Check with the dive shop about the recent manta ray sightings before you book your dive, as they cannot refund you if you don’t see mantas. Dive Shops: try Jack’s Diving Locker, Kona Diving Company, or Pacific Rim Divers.
Crescent Beach Shore Dive
A favorite amongst local divers, this site offers incredible diversity. Because of its location right outside the Honokohau Harbor, this dive is well known for the possibility of viewing tiger sharks, turtles, spotted eagle rays, and even spinner dolphins. Caution: dive here at your own risk. Be aware that following the drop-off will take you right underneath boat traffic in and out of the harbor. It is a perfectly safe spot as long as you do not ascend or surface swim above the drop-off. Check out this site for more details.
Conditions: 10-15 minute walk over lava rock from the parking lot to a sandy beach entry. Winter NW swells make this site choppy. More tiger sharks are seen during the summer months. Dive Shops: Try Jack’s Diving Locker for gear rental and shore diving maps/directions, dive club information, and local dive-buddies.
Pelagic Magic/Black Water Night Dive
Another truly phenomenal dive, this black water dive is unique to Kona. Because the seafloor drops off so quickly and close to shore, divers can charter a boat out to the open ocean where the water is over a mile (1.6km) deep. Divers are tethered to the boat while the boat drifts through areas of upwelling that bring bioluminescent invertebrates up to the surface to feed at night. It is practically like diving in outer-space! If you’re lucky, you might see larger animals such as dolphins feeding, juvenile billfish, and even some curious sharks. It is not an exaggeration to say that this dive is jaw-dropping and wild. Some divemasters say they see unidentified species of critters on the regular during this dive.
Conditions: This is an advanced boat night dive. Most dive shops require that you have a certain number of dives logged and may even require you to book other dives with them beforehand so the divemasters can assess your skill level. Dive Shops: Jack’s Diving Locker or Kona Honu Divers. Inquire about manta and black water dive combo prices.
Are you a diving enthusiast or ocean lover whose dream is to own a home or investment property on the Kona coast? I am passionate about sharing the love of the Big Island and staying true to what the island has to offer. I’m here to help and share this slice of paradise with you. Living in close proximity to Kona’s pristine waters and world-class diving can be a reality!