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  • Writer's pictureScuba Steve

China Walls Dive Guide (Oahu South Shore)

A guide for scuba diving China Walls on the southeast shore of Oahu.

Sharks Cove
Photo Credit: Google Earth
 

Overview

Location Type: Shore or Boat Dive/Reef/Caves  (South Shore)

GPS Address: Hanapepe Place (end of cul-de-sac), Honolulu, Hawaii 96825 (Google Maps)

Difficultly: Advanced

Average Depth: 30 feet (55 feet max depth in reef area)

Ideal Wave Conditions: Less than 2 foot waves; entry and exit is dangerous with medium+ waves)

Amenities: None

Parking: Ample street parking one road over from entrance (on Hanapepe Loop) Area is safe but occasionally nails have been found under tires.

Family-Friendly: There is no beach. The area is composed of rocky cliff faces, but there are plenty of places to lay out a towel on the rocks and watch the sunset.

 

Entry: The entry to this spot is based on the ocean conditions and the diver’s discretion, but there are two common spots most people enter. The first spot is the same as the exit, and is the area directly in front of the park entrance. There are typically swimmers in the water entering from the same location. This entry is similar to doing a giant stride off a boat, however, visibility is often low and there is not much to see for the first 10 minutes of the dive. You can always practice entering and exiting without your gear on first, and swim around to get a feel for the area and the current.

Alternate Entry: The alternate entry is a 5 minute walk south towards a rock outcropping. The outcropping requires a giant stride drop of about 5 feet, but visibility is generally better and it puts the diver in the vicinity of cool geographic features and mini canyons. This option allows for more dive time, but plan to swim for an additional 75 meters on the way back to make it to the exit.

Exit: The exit is the lowest point of the cliff directly across from where you entered the park. The exit requires timing the swells to give you a boost up the rock edge, and then using hand and foothold to lift yourself out of the water. Some people exit gracefully, most take a few tries, some come away with cuts and bruises.

Alternative Exit: There is an alternate exit that is step-like approximately 50 meters north of the normal exit, but then you have to carry your gear further back to your car.



Summary:

This is an out-and-back dive, swimming generally in a south turning south-east direction, against the current, and following the cliff wall. Sometimes the wall is not as sheer and more gradual, and in this case you can opt to explore the surrounding rock features and coral. Return the way you came noting key geographic features so you know where to exit.  

Be On the Lookout (BOLO): Whale songs in the winter are a daily occurrence here, although divers won’t see any whales, their calls are audible. Sea turtles and whitetip sharks frequent in the area, and sleep in many of the caves and nooks found in the area. The occasional monk seal and Diablo Fish seem to enjoy the area as well.


Locations to Explore:

Caves

Spitting Caves

Stone Arch

 

SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS:

  • This dive requires some athleticism for the entry and exit. Not recommended for those with limited mobility or injuries.

  • This site entry involves a 2-5 feet giant stride entry depending on tide and entry location. Waves frequently batter the cliffs, and the visibility near entry/exit can drop significantly. The exit requires using natural foot and hand holds, plus swells, to lift yourself out of the water.  You should wear a full wetsuit since it’s easy to cut yourself on the rocks on the exit.

  • There are strong currents in the area and you should plan your dive accordingly! Swim into the current on the way out and ride it back. If it’s too strong to swim against, abandon the dive. 

  • Exit can be rough, so be sure your gear is streamlined and clipped off properly. Loose regs, GoPros, or gauges can get caught on the cliff and ripped off

  • Exit and entry is too dangerous for night diving. 

  • Frequent fishing spot, watch for hooks and active fishing lines in the water.

  • If entering a cave or nook, assume there is a shark, turtle, or seal inside, and do not disturb!

 

Gear Rental:

Since this dive is further on the southeast side of the island, we recommend renting gear and tanks from Island Divers (Hawaii Kai shop) if you didn't rent from a dive shop in town. Also be on the lookout during the winter months; Surf N Sea sells off sets of their rental gear for great prices.


After the Dive:

On the southeast side of the island, we like to hang out in Hawaii Kai after our dives to grab breakfast and some coffee. Hawaii Kai has some nice beaches, fun shops, and a great vibe.


Eat/Drink:

  • Morning Brew is one of our favorite coffee shops on the island, and it has a beautiful spot located right on the water. They have delicious coffee, some fantastic baked goods, and a great breakfast menu.

  • Kona Brewing Company in the Koko Marina Center is a great spot to grab a post-dive beer, pizza, and sit out by the water. The pub is set on the docks of Koko Marina and provides outstanding views of the water and the lush surrounding valley.



 

Special thanks to Brittany G for contributing to this Dive Guide!

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