Is Scuba Diving Better in Maui or Kauai? (+ Their 5 Best Dive Spots)

Whether you’ll find a holiday scuba diving better on Maui or Kauai can depend on what else you want from the trip and how experienced a diver you are.

Both these Hawaiian islands offer fantastic diving, along with gorgeous natural scenery and numerous activities on land.

Suppose you’re planning an all-out diving trip.

In that case, you may find Maui the better choice in terms of the wider variety of diving it can offer across your holiday.

If you’re a beginner diver, Maui waters tend to be calmer year-round, which may be more suitable for you.

If you’re splitting the trip between diving and want to explore the stunning scenery above water, or tend to prefer a more laid back island atmosphere in general, then Kauai is probably the best choice.

This article will take you through visiting and diving both islands to allow you to make the most informed decision.

Diving in Hawaii

If you haven’t dived in Hawaii before, you’re in for a treat whichever island you pick.

A wide range of scuba diving is available from all of the islands, from calm shore dives to more adventurous offshore boat trips.

Check out this short video for a first impression:

Boat diving trips are usually 2 or 3 dive charters visiting specific areas depending on sea conditions and the diver’s experience and preference.

Hawaii’s diving industry is well established, with an excellent selection of dive shops with experienced staff.

In terms of wildlife, there really is a chance to see everything and anything here. 

Large and exciting life, including several Shark species and Manta Rays, can be seen. 

The seas teem with reef fish and critters, many of which can only be sighted in Hawaii’s waters. 

It’s even possible, if you’re lucky, to see Humpback Whales passing the islands.

Many divers like to include a night dive in their trip itinerary to see the underwater world in darkness. On these dives, it’s possible to be fortunate enough to see giant Manta Rays feeding.

Water temperatures in Hawaii range between 74-80°F / 23-27°C throughout the year.

Deep waters surrounding the islands generally mean good visibility of around 65ft / 20m to 100ft / 30m.

Diving in Maui

About Maui

Maui ranks as the second-largest and also second most visited island in the Hawaiian chain.

Maui gets the nickname the “Valley Isle” from the broad isthmus of land that runs through the island between the dominating Northwest and Southwest volcanic peaks.

A vast range of beaches can be found, particularly on the west coast of the island. The eastern side features lush green rainforest valleys.

Maui isn’t as developed as Oahu. However, it still has a wide range of resorts and hotels around the island to choose from.

Entertainment might not be as lively, but plenty of shopping, restaurants, and bars are still found, especially in Lahaina Town.

As well as the main island, Maui County is made up of numerous smaller islands and offers a massive range of excellent dive sites.

What are the 5 Best Dive Sites in Maui?

Molokini Crater

Molokini is probably Maui’s most famous dive site, and for good reason. 

Approximately 30 minutes by boat from Maui, this stunning crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic cone rises from a 300ft seabed. 

It gives a wide choice of dives to suit all levels. 

Beginners and those looking for a relaxed time can enjoy the more sheltered and calm reefs inside the cone. 

Advanced divers can drift dive the outside wall. Here, currents can bring sightings of Sharks, Manta rays, Turtles, Dolphins, and schooling fish in excellent visibility.

Mala Wharf

Huge waves caused by Hurricane Iniki severely damaged this pier in 1992. Since then, over half the structure has collapsed underwater, and it has become home to vast amounts of coral growth and fish life. 

It’s known as a paradise for photographers who can find all manner of critters hiding on the piers wreckage.

Carthaginian II Wreck

The Carthaginian was deliberately sunk in 2005 as an artificial reef and diver attraction.

She regularly attracts large schooling fish and the opportunity for divers to see reef sharks circling the wreck.

Sitting at 97 feet deep, the wreck is generally regarded as an intermediate level dive and almost always features excellent visibility of over 100ft / 30m.

Olowalu Reef 

Olowalu, also known as Turtle Reef due to the high chance of meeting turtles on the dive, is the “Crown Jewel” of Maui’s coral reefs. 

It’s Maui’s largest coral reef at over 1,000 acres, as well as its healthiest and is home to stunning hard corals and associated fish life.

Fantastic opportunities also exist for the diver to see Manta Ray and Black Tip Reef Sharks here.

Lanai Cathedrals

A famous site that provides spectacular dives inside tall underwater lava tubes. 

Divers swim inside underwater caverns and tunnels with awesome light penetrations that make it resemble a stunning cathedral underwater.

Diving in Kauai

About Kauai

Kauai is the fourth most visited island in Hawaii. It is known as the “Garden Island” due to the lush tropical rainforest covering most of its surface.

Generally, you’ll find smaller resorts on Kauai than on Maui. However, it still caters to all budgets.

While known for a more laid back atmosphere than Maui or Oahu, Kauai still boasts fine dining and excellent shopping opportunities.

Kauai is famous for having more beaches than any other Hawaiin island. Many are entirely secluded and only reachable by trail or boat.

Kauai is the place for people that love the outdoors and want to escape for some peace.

What are the 5 Best Dive Sites in Kauai?

Sheraton Caverns

Often rated as the best dive on Kauai’s island itself , Sheraton Caverns consists of three submerged partial lava tubes with archways, overhangs, and ledges.

This site is often referred to as being like swimming in an aquarium, such is the abundance of reef fish.

A bonus can be finding a turtle or even reef shark resting underneath a ledge inside one of the numerous caverns.

Three Fingers

An impressive site that’s close to the harbor.

It’s so-called because of three lava “fingers” that reach up from the bottom towards the surface.

Clear and calm waters make this an ideal place for beginners as well as for photography of the extensive fish life around the fingers.

Turtle Bluffs

An underwater “hill” that’s famous as a Turtle cleaning station where sightings are virtually guaranteed.

As well as Turtles being cleaned by the resident Shrimps and Wrasse, White Tipped Reef sharks are often spotted here waiting for a shine.

The site can be subject to some current, so it is usually regarded as being for intermediate and above level divers.

General Store

A site that gets its name from having nearly some of everything in stock.

It features almost every fish you will find in the area in abundance, along with the chance to see more massive reef sharks and schooling fish passing.

Dolphins are even occasionally seen in the blue here checking out the views of looking for a snack.

Niihau 

Located about 18 miles from Kauai, this is a boat trip for the most experienced visitors.

Niihau is often rated as being the very best diving in all of Hawaii.

The drift dives feature strong currents, bringing sightings of Hammerhead Sharks, Manta Rays, Reef Sharks, and even the Hawaiian Monk Seal.

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Hawaii for Diving? 

It is possible to dive all year round in both Maui and Kauai – but be aware that winter surface conditions may close some dive sites and limit your choice.

For the diver, the best seasons are usually April to June or September to early December.

At these times, the weather is excellent, and the water visibility will be at its best. Surface conditions also tend to be at their calmest.

As it is outside the primary tourist season, flight and accommodation prices are usually the lowest, which is an added bonus.

Does Maui or Kauai Have the Best Weather? 

Maui typically has the more reliable weather of the two islands, with sunny weather all year round, particularly on its southern and western sides.

It’s more likely that you’ll experience rain in Kauai. Remember that all that gorgeous green scenery has got there for a reason.

While showers are generally short-lasting, the main rain in Kauai will be between December and March. During this time, the very least rain will be found in the south of the island.

Large amounts of rain can cause lower visibility in shallower, nearshore dive stores on Kaui. Seek the advice of the dive operator on where it will be best to visit during these times.

You’ll find the average temperatures are a few degrees warmer on Maui than on Kauai. Still, overall there’s not a huge variation.

Sea conditions around Maui are generally calmer, especially in the winter.

Maui Weather Data

Maui’s average temperatures range between about 72°F (22°C) and 81°F (27°C).

The coldest month is January, and the hottest on Maui is during August.

The average rainfall is about 6.3” (161.7 mm), and the wettest month is March – about 1” of rain (27 mm).

Kauai Weather Data

The average temperatures on Kauai range between about 72°F (22°C) and 79°F (26°C).

Kauai’s coldest month is February, and it’s hottest is in August.

The average rainfall is about 16.8” (427.5 mm), and the wettest month is December – about 2” of rain (52.4 mm).

Conclusion

Both Maui and Kaui offer you incredible diving opportunities amongst some utterly stunning natural scenery.

Which island is for you is going to depend on your preferences and experience level as a diver.

Consider what you want from your trip.

Both islands are spectacular, but they vary in their levels of nightlife and commercial activities. Maui is busier, while Kauai is more laid back.

For a beginner, depending on the time of year, Maui can be the best bet due to its generally calmer waters, especially in winter.

If you’re planning an all-out diving trip, you might find Maui the better choice in terms of the wide variety of diving it can offer.

If you’re splitting the trip between diving and enjoying exploring the scenery above water and like a more laid back atmosphere, Kauai is ideal.

Both islands can offer enough fantastic beginner, intermediate, and advanced level diving opportunities. We’re sure you’ll be delighted with whichever island paradise you choose.

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