Possibly one of the best dive sites in the islands and certainly a favorite with local divers. The reputation stems from two factors, great diving in interesting terrain and easy shore access. The diving here can range from acceptable to spectacular with stunning water clarity and spectacular views of the coral.
Just north of the cove where you will enter, there is a series of deep canyons into the coral. These start near the surface in 6-10ft of water and descend to 25-30 ft. The result of the canyons are a range of vertical coral walls that reach from near the surface to depths of 20-40ft. At the head of several of the canyons are a series of arch caves and skylights to explore. You can just make out this cave on the Google map at right, just into the reef from the marker.
A canyon wall at Puakō End-of-Road dive site with Yellow Tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens) and Raccoon Butterfly Fish (Chaetodon lunula)
In our favorite cave a large arch leads into a wide cavern with a skylight. A second arch leads to a smaller cavern, and so forth until they are too small to enter. Look into the side ledges and caves for squirrelfish and sleeping turtles. Much of the interesting diving is shallow allowing for long dives. If you want to go deeper just swim out further from shore as the reef continues to descend.
Reach this site by driving north from Kona on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy to the Puakō turn off. Drive down the main road through town, mostly just homes along the beach, for about three miles to reach the end of the road. The beach access is on the right about 100yds before the road ends in a locked gate to a private estate. The parking area is easy to spot as it will be busy with other divers and locals enjoying the beach. There is a fair amount of space but this place can get busy later in the day, particularly on a weekend. Park under the trees just a few feet from the water, you should not have to carry your gear very far. The map at the right should give you the right idea.
The entry at End-of-Road, Puakō
Most divers enter from the rocks or use the slot into the rock at the north end of the cove. From here you need to swim to the center of the cove over shallow rock and coral (4-8ft) to go around a shallow bar that juts out from the north shore. Once over the bar bear to the north to find the canyons across coral at 10-15ft. A little swim, but very scenic snorkeling along the way.
Avoid use of the site if there is substantial surf across the bars at the north and south side of the cove. These create a stiff outwards current at the center of the cove that can be difficult to negotiate getting back to shore. Just look for the surfers! If they are happy and surfing nice waves, a diver will not be happy.
End-of-Road is a good dive site to consider if the more exposed sites further north or south are problematic with a large swell. The region from Waikoloa to Kawaihae is some of the most sheltered coastline on the island. We often head here during the winter for shore diving, leaving sites like O’oma or Mahukona for the calmer days.
Most of the Kona side dive operations operate out of Honokohau Harbor, giving access to dive sites from Kailua Bay to well north of the airport. These are the operations most divers visiting the Big Island are familiar with. The diving is good around Honokohau, but can be limited, island divers know that the character of the reef is different as you move north or south.
Experienced divers will often recommend diving the Puako and North Kohala reefs. Here the shoreline is notably older, where the volcanoes have not sent lava flows into the sea for many thousands of years. The reefs have had much longer to establish themselves, resulting in heavier coral growth and rich sea life.
If you want to try the sites further north, along the Kohala Coast, you need to choose another outfit to dive with. Two local dive ops operate along the Kohala coast, Blue Wilderness and Kohala Divers. Both outfits are small businesses, locally owned and operated, the owners often on the boat with you.
My March project is to move all of the dive guide articles over from the old blog. Most of them are already moved over, scheduled to post through this month. Copied and pasted over from the old blog, I have gone through them and updated the posts with current information. The series of blog articles provides a nice guide to anyone exploring the Kohala coast with the plan of getting in the water to snorkel and dive.
This is starting to look ominous! Nineteen events so far and counting, it seems the building rattles every 10-20min with another aftershock. Will it please settle down?
Word is that Keck1 is fine, we are scheduled to do some engineering with the AO laser. The laser itself is still on and operational, a minor miracle. There may be some issues with Keck 2 after the initial quake. We are waiting for a more detailed report from the summit crew.
Ok? That was fun. A fairly serious quake right underneath us. A preliminary mag 4.5 centered between town and the summit of Mauna Kea. The building was shaking pretty good, with a series of hard and sharp shocks. I felt at least three aftershocks, though the USGS website shows five additional events in quick succession at much the same location and depth.
We had a few minutes to enjoy a beautiful sunny day in Waimea, as all of the Keck staff waited outside for the shaking to stop.
The ancient lava flows of South Kohala hold messages from the past. The old Hawaiians often carved petroglyphs into the smooth pāhoehoe along the shoreline. Laboriously pecked into the dark rock are images of men, turtles, canoes and more. Memories from a lost time, messages left by those who lived here so long ago.
Many of the images seem to be similar to modern grafitti, an attempt to make a mark that will be seen by others, maybe to record some memorable deed. Or perhaps simply to leave a mark that will outlive the artist, the hope of immortality carved in stone.
If that was the goal, it worked.
Today, a century or two later, modern visitors can look down and wonder about those who carved the pictures. Did the man with an oar overhead complete some particular feat? Did he win the race against a rival? Complete a first voyage to an island over the horizon and return to boast of the journey?