This is an article I wrote and uploaded to the CompuServe Diving Forum after
my first dive trip to Maui in August of 1993
Dear Fellow CIS Diving Forum Members:
Recently I responded to a request from a fellow Diving forum member from the UK about information on diving on Maui. Since I was just there in August of '93, I told this person some of my personal experiences. Subsequently our Diving Forum assistant SYSOP, Carl Powell [76702,457], asked me to upload this file so others could read it. So, here's a recap of my experiences from my two week diving trip to Kihei, Maui in August '93.
As a little background, let me mention that I just got my open water certificate in January '93. In August when I went to Maui, I had logged only five open water dives in Seattle, all part of my certification class here at home. I went to Maui with my buddy who took the open water class with me in Seattle and had the same number of dives as I did when we got to Maui. My only previous diving experience was four "instructed" dives on Maui in November '92 that instantly got me hooked on diving (I signed up for an open water class the day after I got back to Seattle after my November '92 trip to Maui!). I don't own all the necessary SCUBA equipment, only mask, fins, snorkel, Polartec suit, BC, and gloves. I took all of this to Maui with the exception of my BC which I left at home (on purpose). I intended to rent tanks, regulator and a BC on Maui.
Before I went on this diving vacation, I made contact with two folks from Maui here in the diving forum via the "I need a buddy.." section. My friends and I from Seattle that went to Maui met up with our CIS buddies in Maui and had a great time with them. We did lots of beach dives and partying with them. I highly recommend the "I need a buddy.." section if you are going somewhere new to dive and would like to get some "local" help.
OK, back to Hawaii.... Regarding rentals, I rented my equipment from Maui Dive shops (several on Maui - check the local phone book when you arrive. Their head office can be reached at (808) 871-8837 or by mail at Maui Dive Shop, PO Box 1018, Kihei, Maui, HI 96753. A full diving setup (tanks, reg, BC, shorty wet suit, weight belt, etc.) runs about $25 per day. Another good rental shop my friends that live on Maui use is Bob's Scuba Shack in Kihei. Sorry, I don't have a phone number. The daily rental rate is about $25 for everything at most shops. A second tank is about $7 per day with air refills about $3. There are so many scuba shops the rental prices seem to be comparably low. I also took my "instructed dives" through Maui Dive Shop. Although they are not a "hard core" dive shop like you might surmise from their name, (lots of boogie boards, tee shirts, suits, etc.) I have dealt with them quite a bit and can recommend them with no reservations. Their instructors are well qualified. They also rent Sea & Sea brand underwater 35mm cameras.
If you want to do some beach dives, buy a copy of the book "The Diver's Guide To Maui" by Chuck Thorne when you get to Maui. It's a small 80 page paperback book that sells for $10. It has detailed info on dozens of excellent beach dive locations. My dive buddy and I tried out many of the places in this book. We did 16 dives, six on boats and the other 10 on beach dives. The beach dives gave us the opportunity to have both the divers and non-divers in our party do things together. We even did one night beach dive under a full moon!
In the Kihei area (where I stayed), you will find excellent beach dives at Five Caves (a.k.a. Five Graves), Wailea Beach and Oneuli Beach/Red Hill sites. All of these are just a couple of miles south of Kihei. Five Caves was especially good with some small, short caves to explore. One of these caves went back about 20 yards and ended in a small air pocket where you could surface and breath. This was an incredibly beautiful and fascinating dive. Up above all these small caves is a sheer lava cliff which the waves crash against. Seeing and hearing these waves crash from _under_ the water was quite a sight and sound experience! This dive has easy road access with public showers and bathrooms at the entry site.
Oneuli Beach/Red Hill is a bit tougher from an access standpoint. There is a strong current that makes this a great drift dive, but you really need two cars, one at the entry and one at the exit for the drift dive. On this one dive we saw rays, turtles, and innumerable fish species. The current is quite strong in spots and is impossible to go against no matter how hard you kick! Some dive boats go here which is more convenient than a beach dive. A side benefit of this site is the exit point is Little Beach, the local "clothing optional" beach next to Makena Beach (a.k.a. "Big Beach"). If you are so inclined, Little Beach is a great sunbathing spot. About two-thirds of the people exercise their clothing-optional option, so if you are clothed, you will not be alone.
Wailea beach is also nice too with easy free public parking right at the site with showers and heads. The beach is beautiful and rarely crowded. It's right in front the Four Season's Wailea hotel, a really posh and beautiful resort. They have an outdoor bar and restaurant right above the beach for "refueling" after your dives. We dove here twice and always saw lots of turtles. The only drawback is that if the wind and waves are up, the 75 yard swim out and back in can be really rough and tiring. This is an especially good spot to visit with non-divers since the diving is good and the beach and other facilities are first rate.
For a "tune-up" dive or two, in case like me you haven't been diving for a while, check out Ulua Beach south of Kihei next to the Maui Intercontinental Hotel. It has full shower and toilet facilities, easy entry and decent reef and underwater life. The parking lot has a very convenient turnaround for dropping off your gear right at the showers. Maximum depth is 40 ft. so you could dive here all day. My friends and I did a night dive here under a full moon that was really nice. You would never know it's the same place at night. This is another good spot with great snorkeling and beaches for any non-divers in your party. Lots of dive instructors use this beach for intro dives due to its easy access and entry.
My friends and I got into a routine for about a week where we would get up about 8 AM, refill our tanks at the dive shop, get some espresso, stock the cooler with food and cold drinks, pick a new beach dive spot from Chuck Thorne's book and then head out to go blow bubbles. We'd get in two dives before noon and then head for Little Beach to relax, replenish our body fluids and work on our tans until about 4 or 5 PM. Then we'd return to the condo, BBQ some dinner by the pool, swim in the pool, soak in the hot tub and hit the sack by 10 PM. Wow, what a life that was for two weeks! It took me all of one day to get used to this routine!
We also found some excellent beach dives on the west end of Maui past the Kaanapali area at Honolua Bay. We liked this place so much, we went back two times even though it was a 45 minute drive from Kihei. On the right side of the bay there is a coral shelf that seems to go on for miles! We also found an underwater fresh water "jet" under a little lava archway.
For boat dives, I took one trip with Maui Dive Shop and two with Ed Robinson's Diving Adventures. Most of these trips ran about $90 per person including all the gear, breakfast, drinks, snacks and a two tank dive. Most leave about 7:30 AM and return about noon or 1 PM. Ed Robinson is the co-author of a book titled "An underwater Guide To Hawaii" (ISBN 0-8248-1104-6), about $20. It has detailed text and many spectacular photographs taken by Ed on the marine life you see in Hawaii. Highly recommended. Ed Robinson's Diving Adventures can be reached at (808) 879-3584 or (800) 635-1271 toll free from the US mainland. Mail address is PO Box 616, Kihei, Maui, HI 96753. Ed's operation is absolutely first rate and I highly recommend his company to anyone. Ed also organizes one trip a year to Fiji and one to Palau leaving from Honolulu.
Ed himself was the divemaster on one of my trips down to 135 ft to see white tip reef sharks. What a dive that was! I would recommend making your boat dive reservations at least a week or two in advance. My experience was that unless there was an unexpected cancellation, it was hard to get a reservation on less than two or three days' notice.
Maui Dive Shop has one dive trip we took that both snorkelers and divers can go on. One of our party was a non-diver, so this worked out well for a trip to Molokini. Five of us went diving and one stayed on the surface snorkeling.
Although Molokini can sometimes look like a parking lot with wall-to-wall boats, it does have some spectacular diving. I made three dives there, two in the crescent of the crater and one on the back wall. The 135 foot dive I mentioned above was the best of the three. Ed Robinson himself was the Divemaster on this dive and being such an accomplished underwater photographer he was invaluable in pointing out some of the more exotic (and easy to miss) marine life. We spent only about 8 minutes at 135 feet (the no deco limit) checking out a half dozen white tipped reef sharks. We then started "up" the slope of the crater floor to shallower water around 60 feet where we caught a nice current and did some drift diving. We saw an awesome variety of marine life, including one more white tip reef shark under a little overhang. One other diver and I hung out for several minutes checking out this little guy. We were face to face with him just two feet away the whole time (he stayed put in his little "cave" and didn't seem the least bit bothered). These guys are really beautiful up close. Their eyes are just so beautiful, they are indescribable! Their color, texture and structure have to be seen close up to be appreciated.
The "back wall" was a very eerie dive. This is the outer part of the crater and is essentially vertical. The ocean floor is over 400 feet below, so there is nothing to see when you look down except what looks like a dark blue bottomless pit! We hung out against the wall observing the marine life there and seeing how much it varies at the different depths. We went down to about 65 feet here. Our divemaster warned us to keep our depth gage in our hands at all times and check it constantly. Without a bottom for a depth reference, he warned us it was far too easy to slowly drift down to 100 feet or more and not realize it. He was so right! I kept bouncing from 80 to 60 feet with absolutely no sensation of doing so. The hardest time to maintain a constant depth on this dive was during the three minute safety stop when ascending. We were to kick out about 100 feet from the wall so the boat could more easily pick us up as we came up from 60 feet to 15 feet. Hanging out and holding your depth at 15 feet with nothing below except dark blue was really hard!
Another boat dive outfit that I personally haven't used but is highly recommended by many others on CIS is Extended Horizons at PO Box 10785, Lahaina, Maui HI 96761 (808) 667-0611. You can contact the principal of this company, Erik Stein [72212,3724], here on CIS. He can e-mail you some information on his operation.
On non-diving topics, there are also lots of things to do on Maui without getting wet! If you haven't ever taken the bicycle trip down the Haleakala volcano, do it! It's a unique experience. Go for the sunrise trip even though you have to leave at 2 AM. The beauty of the sunrise as seen from the crater is beyond words. Taking a day to hike down into the crater is also worthwhile. It reminded me very much of the deserts of the southwest. Two cautions: it's absolutely freezing up there (high 30s to low 40s) so take lots of warm clothes, and since you are going up to 10,000 feet, DO NOT take this trip until at least 24 hours have passed since your last dive or until your dive computer says it's OK to fly. You wouldn't want to get bent and keel over riding a bike down a volcano now, would you?
Friday night is a great time to visit Lahaina Town and walk down the main street. Friday is the "gallery walk" night and many of the artists are present to meet and discuss their art. There must be a hundred art galleries in Lahaina with media ranging from photography to metal and paper sculpture and everything in between.
After a hard day of diving, nothing feels better that a little R&R with friends, right? After many such a hard day, we stopped at a restaurant called Margarita's next to Sugar Beach at the extreme north end of Kihei. They have a happy hour with liters of excellent Margaritas for just a couple of bucks that really hit the spot along with their good Mexican food. You can enjoy your food and drink on their expansive outdoor deck in the sun that has a great view of large bay separating east and west Maui. Of course, don't drink too much. We've all been warned about drinking too much after diving when we are dehydrated.
For a quick and delicious dinner or lunch, be sure to try Alexander's Fish and Chips in the middle of Kihei. They have many varieties of fish to choose from (seven or more as I recall) as well as shrimp. Their fish sandwiches are especially good. Just a simple "fast food" kind of place with really good food at good prices.
If you are an espresso addict, like me and most everyone from Latte Land (Seattle), the only good espresso we found was at The Coffee Shop in Kihei in Azeka Plaza (they also have a store in Kahalui). This place was always full of locals, a sure sign of a good spot. It's a great little coffee place where you can get _good_ coffee and espresso drinks, pastries and lunch. You can linger over your food and drink and read the paper, write postcards, plan your day's dives, etc. They also have iced lattes, which hit the spot on a hot day. Best of all, it's right next door to a Maui Dive Shop where we rented our gear! A single stop to fill our air tanks and get our minimum daily caffeine requirement!
Another interesting town to visit is Paia on the north shore of Maui. This place has more head shops per capita than Berkeley! The "board-heads" gather here for the excellent wind and surf on the north shore. Our friends on Maui took us to a great bar/restaurant called The Wunderbar in Paia. Check it out if you get a chance - good and different food (pasta with fish fillings!), great atmosphere and good imported beers on tap.
The little sleepy town of Hana on the northeast rain forest corner of Maui is legendary. It's a very long drive, especially if you are prone to car sickness. But like the volcano bike ride, you've got to do it at least once. There are some good dive sites there according to Chuck Thorne's book, but we didn't venture up there as the surf and wind are a bit rough on the north and east coasts of Maui in the summer. Note that you can fly into Hana from either Kaanapali or Kahalui. Even from the west end of Maui (Kaanapali) it's a short 20 minute flight which leaves lots of time to sightsee there if you have just one day to spend in Hana. I did this once and rented a car in Hana just for the day. It was much more enjoyable than driving there. There are beaches in Hana of every possible color - black, white, tan, red and brown! I think Hana has some of the most beautiful and rugged beaches of any parts of Maui that I've seen.
I hope this information helps those of you going to Maui to do some great diving. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me via e-mail and I'd be happy to respond. I am planning on returning to Maui in December '94. If you are planning a trip around that time and are looking for a dive buddy, let me know
This past February, I returned to Maui for another two week diving vacation. My two good friends from Seattle, Larry and Fernd, came along as well as Larry's girlfriend Jerrol.
Larry and Jerrol are both experienced divers, but Fernd took his open water certification class just two weeks before this trip. Actually his last two open water checkout dives in Seattle were canceled due to poor conditions, so he had to scramble to arrange his last two dives with a shop in Maui that would complete his certification.
The four of us did most of the dive spots I described above, but we did a few new ones too. We also did one boat trip this time off the southern tip of Maui at Pinnacle Point with the Maui Dive Shop in Kihei.
The trip to Pinnacle Point was really great. It's about a half hour south of the public boat ramp in Kihei. It is well south of the "end of the road" in Wailea and is down around the large lava flow off Haleakala that last erupted in the late 1800's. The dive spot at Pinnacle Point is right where a large ocean channel current between Maui and the big island goes by, so the currents can be quite strong. It's about a 65 foot dive max, with the average probably around 50 feet. There are some awesome underwater rock pinnacles to be seen (hence the name...). I saw some of the biggest lobsters I've ever seen including restaurants! We also saw lots of the "7-11" crabs that are seen in Maui and several "canine" moray eels that have huge teeth.
Also during this dive, a school of about 10 dolphins came zipping through our dive group and exhibited their normal curiosity. As soon as they showed up, it seemed they were gone. I was not lucky enough to see them underwater, but about half of the dive group did. These same dolphins followed our dive boat on the return trip and provided us with lots of entertainment with the antics!
February is also the peak of humpback whale time in Maui. Each year, hundreds of humpbacks that spend the summer in the Gulf of Alaska migrate to Hawaii to give birth to their calves and spend the winter. The mothers give birth a hundred miles or so off the coast of Maui. They then come into Maalea Bay in Maui to raise their babies to prepare them for the long journey back to Alaska.
Everywhere we went diving this past February, you could hear the whale songs and sounds underwater! At some places, the sounds were almost deafening. Unfortunately we didn't see any whales while we were underwater, but we did seem many, many "breaches" where the whales come up out of the water. Everywhere there were scenic outposts on the roads, there were dozens of people stopped to watch the whales. It was quite an amazing experience I will never forget.
Our closest encounter with a whale came for me and Larry at a new dive site we tried out this trip at McGregor Lighthouse. (If you've been to Maui, this lighthouse is along the highway from the airport to Lahaina just as you start to head east - it's a very well known landmark). The downside to this dive site is the "mountain climbing" you do to get down to the water. If you didn't have all the gear to contend with, it would be no big deal. But strap on 15 pounds of lead, your wetsuit, BC, tank, fins, etc., and you might wish you had a sherpa guide and donkey to help get down the narrow, steep slippery path! Fortunately Larry's girlfriend Jerrol offered to be our Sherpa and photographer on this dive and she carried down a great deal of the gear.
The dive itself was awesome - very clear, great walls with lots of interesting life all around the point. Plus there were four whales just 100 yards off the point when we went in. We could hear them as if they we right next to us! One of the bigger ones slapped her big fluke on the water and it felt to us like a small bomb went off. We actually felt the concussion wave against our chests along with the tremendous sound in our ears.
The entry and exit looked like they might be a problem. To get in, you have to step off a rock ledge into the water. The ledge is about 6" above the water, so the only problem is it's covered with slippery algae and is very treacherous. At least the water is deep enough (15 feet plus) at the entry so that is not a problem.
For the exit, Larry and I though we would have to climb back up over this ledge and act like a couple of seals to drag ourselves out. Boy were we wrong. It turns out there is a moderate surf surge just off the ledge. When we came to exit, we took off our masks and fins and tossed them up onto the rocks. Then just as we were getting ready to pull ourselves up over the ledge, a small swell came along and lifted us both up and plopped us down every so gently onto the ledge! We just busted up laughing at how easy it was. Then right after that we both slipped and fell a couple of times on the algae - so much for the easy exit <g>.
We also discovered a dive spot that is so easy to get to and so seemingly easy that we, and many others I'm sure, just blow it off as a "snorkeling" spot. It's at "Black Rock" in front of the huge Kanapali Sheraton hotel. We entered on the west side of Black Rock. If you drive up to the hotel, just keep on going to the end of road where there is a golf course. Park there and haul your gear down to the very long beach that stretches out to the west for a half mile or more. Enter at the extreme east end of the beach and swim around to the Black Rock wall.
It's only 25 or 30 feet deep max, but what an amazing "wall" dive. We went back a total of 3 or 4 times this trip. Larry has done a couple of night dives here and has seen "Conga" eels that are about the diameter of a large man's thigh! We came across one once on a night dive in Wailea and actually thought it was a shark!
On one of our dives at Black Rock, we saw four different frog fish. Although they are not what would be considered rare, they are seldom seen as they usually look like a big hunk of sponge or rock and are very easy to miss. They are "angler fish" and park on a rock and stay perfectly still and wait for some poor unsuspecting fish to come by and BOOM - they get sucked into the frog fish's mouth for a tasty meal. We were fortunate enough to actually see one do this - it has to be seen to be believed.
I think at Black Rock I've seen more varieties of fish and other marine life than I have ever seen at any single dive site except for Molokini. You simply must dive here if you get the chance.
As far as non-diving events go, we did the obligatory trip or two to Front Street in Lahaina. We or course had to have at least one meal at Cheeseburger In Paradise (great food, great view, endless Jimmy Buffet music). The newest thing in Lahaina this year was the new Planet Hollywood. Like all the other Planet Hollywoods, overpriced average food but interesting movie memorabilia all around.
- Kevin Talbot