Windward Watersports, home to one of the only certified kiteboarding schools on Oahu and professional kiteboarder Jeff Tobias, feeds wave-hungry visitors a steady diet of water-sport thrills on kiteboards, sea kayaks, and surfboards. Beginners steam toward an off-shore sandbar to safely launch into a kiteboard lesson with a certified instructor on a two-way radio helping novices navigate the warm crystal waters and grasp the kiteboarding basics, such as how to set up a four-line inflatable kite, kite theory and the wind window, and how to ensure heirloom swimsuits remain in the family using the double-knot technique. Waterbugs wishing to explore the rolling spray via the self-guided kayak eco-tour will take in a host of native coral, birds, turtles, and if lucky, a glimpse of the rare endangered monk seal. Kayak rental also includes paddle, safety vest, and the combination to Davy Jones' locker.
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.
Oahu endears itself to both visitors and locals with its truly breathtaking scenery. The Ko'olau Mountain Range slopes across the island with rolling green hills and steep peaks that overlook Kailua Bay. Off the sandy shore, the ocean plays host to an array of aquatic wildlife, such as sea turtles, dolphins, exotic fish, and kayakers. The last of these creatures comes from Twogood Kayaks, whose trained naturalists lead tours through the area's brilliant turquoise waters and offshore islets filled with natural coves and 12 species of seabirds.
In addition to garnering a reputation for making and selling some of the swiftest kayaks over the past 30 years, the staffers also train the next generation of competitors during camps and clinics.
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.
Spash! Hawaii has been outfitting swimmers in suits and accessories for more than 30 years. Amid the din of fine shops and restaurants at the outdoor Ala Moana Center mall, the brightly lit store teems with racks of sport and recreational swimsuits from top lines such as Roxy, Volcom, and Billabong, as well as from local designers such as Honey Girl Water Wear. Its mannequins display lacy beach cover-ups and casual apparel, and a rainbow of Havaianas flip-flops sweeps down its display stands.