Hawai'i is not one of the glossy magazines' premier dive destinations. However, if you want to do something more than diving, it's a hard place to beat. You have a wealth of other activities to enjoy while you're on the island. Those with non-diving spouses or children will appreciate the variety. And yes, the diving is pretty good too.
There are lots of books that will guide you through the topside attractions, my favorite is Big Island of Hawaii Handbook. Unfortunately it's out of print. The Lonely Planet guide is a good second choice. Dive Makai will send you a local guide which proved very valuable for finding good local restaurants.
You want to be near Kona, since most of the diving is in the Kona area. We were 20 minutes north of Kona at Waikoloa. This was a good location for us because there were virtually no mosquitoes and the evening skies were clear enough for some stargazing. Condos are good, but not nearly as available as hotels.
Be sure to check out the City of Refuge and Kealakekua Bay. City of Refuge is an especially good shore diving site. There is also a state park and historical site. It was one of the few opportunities we found to learn about Hawai'ian culture.
Most boats are half day trips. This leaves the afternoon for sight seeing. Be absolutely sure to try the Manta Ray dive. You can either take a boat out there, or dive from the shore at the Kona Kai Hotel.
We went out with Dive Makai. The crew is great. My daughter made her first scuba dive ever at turtle city with Tom (intro dive). He was great. She was ready to lget certified right then and there. The boat and food are so-so. Some sort of head on the boat would make a huge difference. They use 72 cu. ft. steel tanks; nice because they are heavier, lousy because they're too small for big guys like me. I'd have been happier with an Aluminum 80.
There are other dive operations on the island. I've read good things about Jack's Diving Locker, and Aloha Dive Company.
Plan to take an entire day for visiting Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Don't you dare go there without seeing the volcano, either. Even from a mile away, the lava flowing into the sea is awesome.
There is a K-Mart and a Costco near Kona. This takes some of the bite out of the high prices. K-Mart, is a particularly good place to get your film developed. The local grocery stores are good places to visit too. A local fishmonger gave us an excellent recipe for Mahi Mahi. [Please send me some ground kukui nut if you find some.]
Rent a van. They're only a few bucks extra and they have room for all the gear.
Above all: get away from the tourist areas and get a good taste of Hawai'i. There's a unique mix of cultures on this island. The locals are very nice and I practically have to tear myself away each time I visit. If you can, purchase your souvenirs from the locals. They offer fair prices and treat kids right.
Take your binoculars. Get away from town at night and look up. Even at sea level, the skies are very dark. The summer Milky Way is high in the south and is just spectacular.
Take your dive knife. Hawaiians fish. They always have. You will occasionally find monofilament line underwater. Take a light. They make wonderful pointers in the daytime.
Good dining abounds in Kona. I really liked Cebu, an Indonesian restaurant. Sushi is very expensive. Odd since the entire island is surrounded by fish. If anyone finds a reasonable sushi place in the Kona area, please send me e-mail.
Hawaiian has some long words that only look complicated. Please pronounce them properly. We found several books on the Hawai'ian language at the local book stores. They really helped us appreciate the island.
The one downside to visiting Hawai'i; I've always had a hard time getting on the airplane to go home.
Let's Go Shore
Dive'n is invaluable. Print these and
you can skip the diving guidebook.
Kona Hawaii Scuba Diving Links has lots of good pointers to Big Island dive companies.
Copyright 1998, 2000, 2001,
David Ambrose All rights reserved.
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