Kona has the best scuba diving in Hawaii. Check out our photo gallery to see why. Our waters are teeming with amazing marine life and interesting reef structure. There are so many great dive sites in Kona that we couldn’t possibly name them all. Our coastline has miles of barely touched reef. This means pristine dive sites with interesting features and loads of critters.

Why Kona Diving is Hawaii’s Best Diving

There is lots of fantastic diving in Hawaii, but only Kona diving offers some of the best and most spectacular features that make it unique among Hawaii’s best diving. Kona diving is often regarded as some of the best scuba diving in Hawaii because the combination of things make it so good. Many divers come specifically to the Big Island of Hawaii for it’s scuba diving.

Kona offers many distinct features not found on the other islands in the combination they are found here. Among them are the excellent visibility, unique underwater lava formations, and abundance of large and small marine life. We also often have some of the calmest waters in the Hawaiian island chain.

What is the Difference between Kona Diving and Scuba Diving the rest of Hawaii?

Looking at diving Kona versus other Hawaiian islands? Here’s the difference.

Scuba diving Kona versus Scuba Diving Diving Kauai

Kauai is the Hawaiian island chain’s oldest island. It’s also the wettest with the highest annual rainfall in the world. The age of the island means there is a lot of sand. The combination of sand and runoff means the visibility is typically going to be much lower than in Kona.

The reefs in Kauai will typically have less coral. This is because of the runoff from the dirt of the island and the lack of rock substrate for the corals to cling to. Kauai has an abundance of sand and mud. This makes for great sand and beaches but not good diving.

Kauai is also home to the small island of Niihau which is located nearby. While most of the year it is far too rough to get to Niihau, during the summer months dive operators will venture out to the island to do some of Hawaii’s most spectacular diving.

Scuba diving Kona versus Scuba Diving Diving Oahu

Oahu is also a geologically older island like Kauai and so it has a lot of sand surrounding it. The abundance of sand and the relatively shallow depths even far off shore make Oahu a great place for diving some of the many wrecks present nearshore. There are lots of wreck diving options and most of them are a pretty easy dive in shallow water.

The visibility of Oahu will typically be lower than in Kona because of all of the sand. You will also see many more sand critters like large schools of eagle rays which are only found in solitary or smaller schools in Kona. The reef is typically going to have less coral as the corals need a hard substrate to grab onto to grow and Oahu doesn’t have as much of that. There will be large patches of sand where coral is not present.

Access to depth is typically much more challenging in Oahu where to get deeper water it’s necessary to go far offshore with a boat.

Scuba diving Kona versus Scuba Diving Maui

Maui is the closest geologically to the big island but it’s pretty amazing what a few million years can do. Maui has plentiful coastline full of beaches and sand. This means it’s great for frolicking and relaxing. It does not make for great diving however. The water is relatively shallow close to shore. It is also full of silt from the sand and so the visibility is not so good. To get better diving and visibility you can take a boat charter to Molokini crater or Lanai a neighboring island. The diving is typically going to have much better visibility than Maui proper. Maui does have a few shipwrecks but not in the same abundance as Oahu.


Some people love Kona diving because of the excellent visibility. Our conditions are often very good compared to most spots around the world. This is due to our tropical waters which are low in nutrients. This makes it difficult for algae to grow and obscure the view.

The Big Island of Hawaii is also the newest island in the chain. This means it’s still mostly composed of lava rock. Because of this the new reefs have not had the same amount of time to break down. As a result there is far less sand here than on the other islands. Because of this there is nothing to stir up and cause cloudiness or turbidity in the water.

Probably one of the least mentioned reasons is the steepness of the island. Because it is a new island it has steep mountain sides that drop quickly off into the abyss. This means there is lots of fresh blue ocean water replacing any cloudy water near the reefs.

The visibility range when scuba diving Big Island is typically around 30-80 feet with a normal day being around 40-60 feet. Some sites on especially calm days can have well over 100ft (30M) of visibility.

One determinant of visibility is the ocean conditions. When the swell picks up it can stir up the sandy bottom and effect visibility. This is especially a problem in sandier areas. Although oddly enough, sometimes the visibility is better on rougher days than calmer ones. Another factor that can effect visibility is rainfall. When the Big Island gets a lot of rain even in the interior it creates a lot of freshwater leaving the island underground. This fresh water carries nutrients that can feed algal blooms. These tiny microalgae can cloud the water causing reduced visibility. Sometimes you may see large translucent critters like sales or siphonophores. They are mostly transparent and alien looking.

Kona Diving with Lava Formations

One of Kona’s most unique and special features is it’s freshly made lava. The tubes and caverns formed by the lava when submerged turn into havens for Kona’s many different marine creatures. Animals like, molluscs (cowry, lobster, crabs) and fish (squirrel fish) love to use the caves and caverns as their daytime resting place. This means you can explore them during the day with a light. Some of the lava tubes are long and go very far into the island. Others have collapsed ceilings which means you will see gorgeous filtered light shining through the skylights. Some lava tubes have mostly collapsed which means only a single arch remains. There are so many different variations of terrain and the coast is so long it’s impossible to see them all.

Some of the most interesting formations are vertical tubes or horizontal caves coupled with arches. It truly is amazing the sheer variety and difference of lava formations. Underwater canyons and valleys, bommies, archways and more make Kona Diving especially unique.

There are 2 Types of lava flow. A’a lava is rough and chunky. It’s very difficult to walk on. Think of the sound you make when stepping on sharp rocks. It breaks up into pebbles and rocks easily. Pahoehoe is a smoother kind of flow where the lava spreads out flat and is easy to walk on. The reefs are shaped by this base rock with the coral needing a surface to adhere to.

Sometimes when the lava is flowing actively into the ocean divers will dive with it. It makes a loud cracking sound as is cools and enters the water. It will explode on the surface. Underwater some divers will play with the just cooled lava using welding gloves and a meat hook to shape it’s direction. Not for the feint of heart!

Kona’s Marine Life

Kona is not known for the soft corals found throughout some of the tropical pacific islands. But what it lacks in color it makes up in abundance and diversity of marine life. Kona is home to the largest population of endemic fish in the world. Fish you will only see here in Hawaii! It’s also home to a great many cryptic fish like leaf scorpion, titan scorpion, peacock flounder, and frogfish. Sometimes we will find multiple

Some of the best finds can be teeny tiny. We have nudibranchs like shaun the sheep and Jolly Green Giant. We also have snails, and other little juvenile marine life. It’s even possible to find baby marlin drifting in the open pelagic waters. On our black water dive you will find many of these micro critters right in front of your face. From tiny translucent Sea Jellys to little baby ono or flounder.

Kona is also home to some of the world’s best large animal encounters on the planet. We have seen whale sharks, tigersharks, whales, and dolphins on dives. Of course it must be mentioned that we have the world famous manta ray dive. It offers the best opportunity to see mantas period. There is nothing else like it anywhere else.

Kona is also home to many octopus inhabiting the reef. You can see multiple octopi on a single dive! These curious critters will display intelligence and guile on the reef often camouflaging themselves. Our experienced guides can spot these elusive critters after years of practice.


Kona is home to a high abundance of these amazing fish. You will see more eels than just about anywhere else in the world. What Kind of eels do we have here?

Types of Eels found on the Big Island of Hawaii when diving in Kona:

  • Snowflake Moray
  • Dragon Moray
  • Pygmy
  • Viper Moray
  • Yellow Margin Moray
  • Green Moray

Eels can often be seen polling their heads out from coral or hiding under overhangs. From time to time eels will swim freely out in the open reef exploring for new hiding spots. Sometimes you might see cleaner shrimp feeding on the parasites or dead skin in eels mouths and on their heads. This is a unique and fascinating behavior.

Cryptic Fish

Some dive sites will be full of fish but oftentimes they cannot all be easily spotted by the untrained eye! Cryptic reef fish hide on the bottom or in the reef in pain sight! Some of these species like the lion fish can only be found here when scuba diving Hawaii. Here’s a few cryptic fish species our diving professionals can help point out:

  • Devil Scorpion fish
  • Titan Scorpion fish
  • Leaf Scorpion fish
  • Hawaiian Lionfish
  • Frog fish
  • Lizard fish
  • Flying Gurnard
  • Peacock Flounder

Join us on a 2 tank morning dive so our expert guides can point them out to you!


Kona is home to so many different kinds of shrimps it’s impossible to list them all without being ridiculous. There are several kinds of shrimps in kona and many of them have fascinating ways of making a living.

Cleaner Shrimps

Cleaner shrimps are commensal organisms that exist in harmony with other animals. You will see them when you dip your toes into tide pools and on the reef. They can be translucent or beige with red stripes down their side. Sometimes you can even get them to climb into your mouth to clean it if you are patient enough! You may see them hanging out on eel snouts or just tucked into a coral head.

Pelagic Shrimps

On our blackwater night dive you may spot a colonial tunicate called a pyrosome. This odd hollow oblong thing is often inhabited with a shrimp that lives inside and propels it through the water. Very odd but so neat to see!


Kona is home to 3 types of rays:

  • Manta Rays
  • Spotted Eagle Rays
  • Sting Rays

While manta rays are one of the great attractions to Kona the presence of eagle rays is a much appreciated surprise when diving Kona’s reefs. As for the elusive Hawaiian sting ray they are just that. Extremely elusive and a rare sight to see with divers going hundreds of dives between sightings.

Ocean Conditions

Kona’s coast is fortunate to have so many things going for it. One of them is shelter. The coast itself is varied with many different bays and points. This allows boats like ours to tuck away into coves and away from certain swell directions.

Our island also lies in the shadow of the other islands. When we receive the northwest swell that is common during the winter time it is often a much smaller version than that experienced on the other islands.

We are also on the leeward side of the Big Island of Hawaii. This means that we are often sheltered from the occasional strong winds that visit us. While it may be windy up north or down south here in Kona it will be calm and clear. There is a protected eddy that forms on the western side of Hualalai mountain. This means calm water and easy conditions.

The rough lava rock can mean difficult shore diving conditions. Most divers choose to dive Kona by boat for the convenience and amenities it provides. Scuba diving Hawaii also includes a guide to help you find critters and tour the best parts of the reef. This means your sure to see all of the best parts of the reef.

Kona Honu Divers has some of the most experienced guides in Hawaii. Our professional crew is looking to deliver an experience that will exceed your expectations. We love taking you diving and showing you a good time both above and below the surface.

The clear, warm, calm waters mean Kona Diving is truly some of the best. Add in the abundance of critters and unique structure and rock formations and you have one of the top-rated diving destinations in the Pacific Ocean. Add in the ability to reach Kona with a direct flight from many major metropolitan areas and the allure of the Big Island is undeniable.

Kona Honu Divers has won multiple awards from scuba diving magazine readers for all aspects of our dive business. We our focus on safety ensures you will have a trouble free experience out on the water with us. Combined with the nicest dive boats in Hawaii Kona Honu Divers is constantly striving to be Hawaii’s best dive operator. Kona Diving Done right.

The combination of factors going for Kona truly make it world-class diving. Kona Honu Divers works hard to ensure your experience measures up to the world-class experience you expect from such a distinction. To see if for yourself visit www.konahonudivers.com to book now! Or call (808)324-4668

Frequently Asked Questions

How is Diving In Kona?

The diving in Kona is excellent. Clear, calm, warm water is the norm, the marine life is varied and abundant, and the lava features set it apart from other destinations.

Is the Big Island Good for Scuba Diving?

The Big Island of Hawaii has the best diving of all of the Hawaiian Islands. This is due to a combination of clearer water, more reef, easy access to depth, distinct lava features, calm seas and top rated dive operators like Kona Honu Divers.

How Does Kona Diving Compare to The Other Islands?

Compared to diving on the other Hawaiian Islands Kona and the Big island are geologically much newer. This means the island is much closer to the volcano it started out as. And in the case of the Big Island it is still an active volcano. So the rock here was recently formed. This means the corals have not have very long to grow on the shores here and the ocean has not had much time to wear away at the shoreline. This means much of the underwater views are of lava rock covered in reef. Lava arches, tubes, caves, caverns, pinnacles and more make for interesting topography that is unique to Big Island diving.

How Does Kona Diving Compare to Maui Diving?

Maui is the second youngest island in the Hawaiian Island Chain. This means compared to the other Hawaiian Islands it is the most similar to the Big Island of Hawaii. It still has a summit with a caldera and is relatively tall. Its different sides are easily similar to the big islands coasts just on a smaller scale. Underwater is a different story however. The millions of years Maui has been around longer than the Big Island means it has undergone much more weathering along the coasts. This is because erosion and coral formation and subsequent destruction by parrot fish and waves have created a great deal of sand. This is why many tourists will go to Maui for the miles of white sand beaches. When you get in the water you will see the visibility is typically going to be much lower than the visibility in Kona. This is because of all of the shallow sand. In Kona the sand is typically more prevalent in deeper water off of shore. The waves will stir this sand up and the tiny particles are what make for the cloudy visibility.

Maui also has shallower sides while the Big Island has steep sides because it’s essentially a giant mountain (the world’s largest) poking out from the ocean. While Maui’s slopes have been eroded away by millions of years of ocean swell pounding it into a flatter smaller island.

How Does Kona Compare?

Diving in Hawaii can be varied with a mixture of terrain types depending on which island you are diving on. Some islands like Oahu have lots of wrecks and a flat sandy bottom. Kauai has mixed conditions year around with some months being typically difficult or impossible for diving locations like Niihau. The reefs in Hawaii feature mainly hard corals of varying color and shapes depending on the site. Black coral can be seen typically in the harder to access or deeper spots while we have very few gorgonians or soft corals.

Who would not like Kona Diving?

Kona diving is great for beginner divers because it’s relatively shallow and there is typically very little current. People who want to dive deep wrecks will be disappointed with diving in Kona because we have very few wrecks. The deepest wreck in Kona is about 130 ft (40 meters). It’s a small airplane. If you want to dive lots of wrecks in Hawaii, Oahu is the place to go. Also, if you’re looking to do wall dives of drift dives Kona is not the place for that style of diving. Scuba diving Kona does however have many great benefits over other scuba diving destinations. Like it’s over-abundance of lava arches, caves, pinnacles, and swim-throughs.

Kona Diving: An Underwater Photographer’s Paradise

How is the underwater photography in Kona? As you can see from the gallery below it’s fantastic! We have so many great photography opportunities here on the Big Island. Some of the world’s best photographers live and visit here regularly. The clear water and large amounts of varied marine life make this one of the best underwater photography destinations in the world.

Animals like sharks and manta rays make for excellent subjects. Kona is home to over 13 resident species of marine mammal. Dives like the Blackwater Night Dive and the manta ray night dive make for excellent material for photographers.