One hundred feet beneath the surface of Maunalua Bay, the Corsair⎯a World War II airplane—rests on a sandy floor. Its massive shell and magnetism for schools of soldier fish lures deep-sea explorers to the site every year. As divers propel themselves alongside the plane's wing and fuselage, they get an up-close look at the wreck's current residents, which range from colorful goatfish to reclusive moray eels.
With more than 30 years of experience, the scuba instructors at Waikiki Diving Center lead daily dives for certified divers to submerged sites such as the Cosair wreck. Earning a five-star Instructor Development Center designation from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the center's team coordinates parties of 12–14 people and takes them out on one of two customized dive boats—The Submariner or Snoopy V—for adventures ranging from snuggling sea turtles to earning PADI open-water certifications. To enhance visitors' experiences, Waikiki Diving Center's crew arranges complimentary shuttle service to and from Waikiki hotels.
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.
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.
Founded with the goal of curating unique island adventures that promote up-close encounters with local wildlife, Island Water Sports Hawaii facilitates humans’ return to nature with intimate tours and activities. Working out of the Hawaii Kai Marina, Island Water Sports’ passionate staff of boat captains ferries guests out into Maunalua Bay to partake in aquatic adventures including snorkeling. The company’s signature eco-friendly submarine scooters secure riders' heads in clear, bubble-like helmets that draw on the principles of diving bells to safely seal air inside and keep faces dry, comfortable, and breathing easily throughout underwater tours. On boat tours, the balmy sea air tussles the manes of Island Watersports’ skippers as they point out awe-inspiring vistas and wildlife such as humpback whales that migrate to Hawaii from Alaska to nurse, mate, and take their sundresses out of storage.
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.
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.