Aqua Zone Scuba Diving & Snorkeling Center owner and captain Devon Merrifield and his team of certified instructors and staff share a deep love for Honolulu's sprawling, clear coastal waters. Each member of the nine-person crew sought Hawaii's warm waters after garnering experience along faraway shores in places such as Oregon, Thailand, and Kansas. Today, the sprightly team shares its passion for the sea via snorkeling and scuba-diving tours, cruises along the reef or to shipwreck sites, and onsite or in-pool diving training. Throughout each excursion, Aqua Zone's staff remain committed to sea turtle conservation, informing customers of the endangered creatures' lifestyle, behavior, and ecosystem. Staff members also sanitize each of the dive center's silicone dry snorkels and masks, as well as prescription masks, after each use, leaving divers worry-free so they can focus on ventures such as braiding an octopus's tentacles.
The light flickers heavily through the water, sparkling as it catches on pieces of dust that drift lazily past the explosion of colors from the reef. Scuba divers float above the breathtaking scene before pressing on, deeper into the ocean's unknowns. Instructors lead the intrepid underwater explorers on a variety of dives that unmask small fractions of the ocean's mysteries. They swim past sunken ships, through lava tubes, or around fish marching bands during pleasure dives or lessons leading to certifications.
A hidden world resides off Honolulu's coast. Beneath the water's surface, endangered sea turtles weave between schools of tropical fish, and vibrant coral covers the ocean's original hardwood floors. This is the destination for Aaron's Dive Shop's scuba exhibitions. A PADI five-star IDC center, Aaron's trains divers with a PADI curriculum that offers open-water certification programs.
Under the leadership of the owner, Jack, and the course director, Larry, Aaron's Dive Shop's PADI instructors guide their students through a natural progression of coursework. They start with time in the classroom, move on to train within confined swimming pools, and then eventually dive out in the Pacific Ocean. The dive masters can also develop more nuanced techniques such as night diving, wreck diving, and underwater photography. And when they're not underwater, the staff members can be found at their dive shop, which stocks gear from brands such as Aqualung and Oceanic.
H2O Sports Hawaii's licensed adventure-seekers have been helping likeminded folks safely skim over the water's mirrored surface or dive deep below rolling waves since 1986. Their certified flight and scuba instructors dispense their knowledge as they prep guests for safe scuba diving and Jetlev jetpack flights, during which a jetpack propels guests up to 30 feet in the air using a high-powered pump that, like Poseidon's Harley, uses ocean water as fuel. They also outfit nautical voyagers with equipment and safety vests for jaunts on surfboards, parasails, jet skis, and high-speed tubes.
To further fulfill their mission of adventurous memory making, H2O Sports Hawaii's staff also runs their own digital media shop, where they snap photos of watery experiences using the media chips that accompany guests on many activities. Their direct taxi service makes pesky logistics a breeze as their drivers shuttle guests between Waikiki hotels and picturesque shores.
South Pacific Watersports' expert captains send patrons on thrilling aquatic excursions, promoting both watery amusement and the conservation of Hawaii's delicate oceanic life. Adventurers cling to a rollicking bumper tube with up to three other guests as it skims the wake of Koko Marina tethered to a zooming motorboat or a benevolent plesiosaur's neck. Up to five folks can then clamber aboard a boat to Maunalua Bay, where knowledgeable instructors lead a 20-minute course imparting the basics of standup paddleboarding before turning pupils loose on the tide. Perched atop provided boards, students draw lengthy paddles through the surf while soaking in views of the ocean floor's inhabitants and mermaid sock hops through the bay's crystal-clear waters. The 90-minute outing also doubles as a full-body workout as paddlers buff up arms against rippling waters and clench abs and quads to stabilize their balance.
Somehow, every scuba-diving trip is distinct, even visits to well-traveled locations. Pearl Harbor Divers' team, for example, had visited the wreck of the USS Scrimmage, a World War II minesweeper, many times before. But one evening, while slipping through the water above the site, the crew heard a puff of air burst from the ocean, drowning out the motor. A humpback whale then crested just 15 feet from the boat. When the captain cut the engines, the crew realized they were surrounded by whales, which continued to break through the surface and catch breaths tinged with ocean spray in the moonlight.
In the shop, which is certified by the National Association of Underwater Instructors, guides work toward such unique experiences on scuba diving and snorkeling trips. They lead clients—including handicapped divers—to sunken ships, airplanes, lava caverns, and coral reefs throughout the Hawaiian Islands. On these dives, groups encounter common creatures such as sea turtles and native fish, as well as rare marine animals such as shy Pacific bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, and endangered Hawaiian monk seals. The instructors pride themselves on their ability to teach and engage by imparting the facts and historical significance of wrecks. They can also name and discuss each species that divers spot, at least the ones documented by science. On the nighttime Dive the Abyss adventure, divers are tethered within 40 feet of the boat and watch bioluminescent creatures, many of which are still not cataloged by zoologists, arise from depths of up to 2,000 feet.
In addition to dives, instructors conduct courses that work towards open-water or instructor certification. Chatter about past adventures drifts from a full-service pro shop, where technicians sell, service, and repair equipment from brands such as Atomic, Aeris, Oceanic, Mares and Zeagle.