On Oahu, it may be hard to know where to begin. With a endless variety of activities, from hiking picturesque trails to kayaking along the shore, Active Oahu Tours helps explorers hone in on fun activities—and safely guides them through all adventures. With the added advantage of knowing little-known spots, guides usher tour-goers to less-congested kayaking areas, tropical hikes, and rivers. Other activities such as snorkeling and destination yoga are also available, encouraging visitors and natives alike to actively explore the lush island.
Powered by twin Cummins engines, it's not a rare sight to see the good ship Kilikina skipping across Oahu's waves to speedily deliver divers to the best dive spots. Under the banner of Hawaiian Diving Adventures, LLC, she plies the waters to provide a luxurious diving experience for up to 13 passengers. Kilikina boasts a freshwater shower, rinse buckets for expensive camera equipment, and comfortable wide seating, thanks to a clever tank-storage system. She doesn’t cater only to experience divers, however; she also serves as the launch point for guided snorkeling tours, which provide close encounters with local wildlife and reefs.
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.
With its pink sails filling with ocean breezes, the Island Magic Catamaran carries passengers out to sea in search of painted sunsets, playful humpbacks, and salty sprays. During sails, the crew carefully handles the 30-passenger vessel, allowing it to float lazily on glassy water or race against the island's fast-flowing swells. In addition to cruises, the team leads snorkeling adventures near Turtle Canyon, where sightseers can splash among green sea turtles before they finish hatching into boring, shell-less lizards. Sunset cruises depart 1.5 hours before the sun dips below the horizon, allowing passengers to admire the waves as they catch the last few bits of sunlight.
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.
A manmade island floats 300 yards off the shore of Waikiki Beach. Its inhabitants shriek as they plunge from its three 5- to 15-foot cliffs or plummet down a slippery slide into the ocean below. Intrepid sorts don snorkels and masks to mingle with the aquatic fauna that skirt its hulls. Others strike out aboard kayaks and standup paddleboards, steering past an ocean trampoline and its buoyant visitors. Those who choose to remain on the island's sun-drenched surface recline in teak lounge chairs, tipping back refreshments from three bars or munching on morsels fresh from the grill. The founders of Waikiki Ocean Club might prefer to call it a catamaran, but at 145 feet long and 65 feet wide, the site functions as both an island and watery amusement park. As swimmers and sunbathers gather around its decks, scuba divers seek out marine life below the waves and helmet-diving excursions ensure that hair stays dry enough to kindle a fire. Jet skis, AquaQuads, and rigid inflatable boats ferry riders away from the club at exhilarating speeds; boat tours to secluded snorkeling locales and celebrities’ beach houses highlight resplendent scenery. After dark, the floating fairground transforms into a DJ-manned dance floor, awarding Friday-night guests with an unobstructed view of fireworks over Waikiki.