The most isolated chain of islands in the world, Hawaii offers diversity in outdoor activities, especially if you enjoy being in the water. Each island has its own charm that draws you in, with much to experience and explore. Born and raised in Hawaii, I have spent most of my life in and around the tropical waters of this beautiful place I call home, and is one of my favorite places to dive in the world. Hawaii is enchanting with its breathtaking views, warm culture, and community that truly encompasses the meaning of Aloha. Here are 6 of the reasons I love freediving in Hawaii.
I enjoy training in Hawaii because the tropical climate offers warm waters, with a change of a few degrees from winter to summer and good visibility. However, this also varies somewhat depending on what the wind, current, and tide changes are doing. The water temperature ranges from about 24 degrees Celsius in the winter to about 27 degrees in the summer. This makes it a nice place to dive all year round.
The ocean is so vast, and some of the best experiences in the water are shared with its marine inhabitants ranging from turtles (Honu), dolphins (Nāia), octopus (He’e), whales (Koholā), sharks (Manō), mantarays, and whale sharks. The dolphins reside along the coastal waters of the islands all year round and are true ambassadors of Aloha. Whale season has to be one of my favorite times to freedive as they make their migration from the Northern Pacific waters spending the winter months in the warm tropical waters. While submerged underwater you can not only hear their songs, but when close enough, you can feel the vibration in your chest and body. Their song is quite soothing and can often distract the mind from overthinking the dive. Often it feels like I am transported to another world.
There are many caverns and swim through caves along the coast of the islands that make for great photos and are like an underwater playground for a freediver. These formations have been created from hot lava flowing into the ocean, where trapped air inside the lava formed bubbles. When the bubbles popped the ocean water would rush in and cool off the surrounding lava to form these caves. These caves also make great habitats for marine life. There are many caves for different skill levels and swimming through them is one of my favorite things to do with friends when I am not line diving or training.
Around the islands, there are different wrecks to explore at different depths from ships to small aircraft vessels that rest on the ocean floor, and each comes with its own history. Some are deeper for the more experienced diver and there are also shallower and easier ones for those who just want to enjoy the experience. A boat is necessary to reach these particular dive sites. The wrecks are home to a variety of marine life, such as a variety of fish, eagle rays, big turtles, and sharks, and can often be a good place to hunt for food.
Spearfishing is a popular activity amongst freedivers in Hawaii and has historically been a part of Hawaiian culture as a means to provide sustenance. Originally the Hawaiians used spears to catch fish in the shallows or around rocky ledges on the coast. Surrounded by the great pacific ocean, one of the main food sources for the Hawaiian people came from the surrounding waters. Today spearfishing is done both recreationally and commercially. When I am not focused on training or diving for fun with friends, it is nice to be able to get in the water and bring food back whether it's to grill up some fish to eat or share the day's catch with family and friends. There is something enjoyable as well about hunting for your own food. It is a different kind of diving with a different mindset that allows for a certain kind of presence underwater that differs from line diving or training.
Hawaii offers such diversity in terms of the kind of diving that you can do. However, as an athlete, much of my focus in terms of diving is the ability to train depth, especially since access to pools here in order to train for breath-hold activities is extremely limited. There is easy access to the water from the beaches. In order to obtain unlimited depth for diving, it is necessary to take a boat out. Often, we may tie up to a mooring, usually off of a wreck, or drift dive in the ocean, as there are ledges and drop-offs not too far from shore. Each island differs somewhat in access to deep water. On the big island of Hawaii, there is easy access to swim out to about 70m or 80m from shore. My favorite days out are when the ocean conditions are like a lake, the sun is shining, and the whales are singing. Being out in the water truly feels like a dream.
Hawaii is a great place for outdoor adventurers, surfing, and diving alike. As someone who also enjoys riding the waves, when conditions aren’t ideal to go for a dive, I can pick up my board and go surfing. This way I am never disappointed. I also find that surfing can be a great cross-training activity for freediving as it requires a certain level of cardio activity. Each island varies in terms of what it has to offer, each encompassing its own charm. If you want a change you can always catch a flight to a neighboring island. I love Hawaii because it is a culture built around a community that loves and respects the ocean and is full of so many diverse watermen and women.