Kayak Scuba Diving

Kayak scuba diving is a fun alternative to charter boat diving in Hawaii!

Have you ever wondered if there was another option to marathon surface swims when it comes to getting to some of the dive sites on the island? I had the same question when I first started diving around Oahu. Don't get me wrong, I still love jumping onto local dive shop boats, but there's nothing quite like the freedom and adventure of scuba diving from a kayak. You can choose where you want to go, explore new areas, and do everything on your own time.

Full disclosure, I would definitely consider myself to be an amateur kayaker. I haven't done any crazy long or multi-day kayak trips like some of the more intense sportsmen here on Oahu. With that being said, all of the advice in this article either come from practical experience, or from asking a million questions to the more seasoned kayakers here on the island. If you ever need some great advice on kayaking around the Hawaiian Islands, I recommended talking to John, the owner of Go Bananas Watersports in Honolulu.

Be prepared, this is a long article! We tried to cover as much information as possible so you have everything you need for your first kayak diving trip.


Basic Concept

Well, the overall concept is really as simple as it sounds. Pick a dive site you already know, or somewhere that you want to explore. Find a suitable place to launch your kayak from, and you're in business! You can launch from almost any beach, and paddle right out to your selected spot. Anchor up and complete your dive! It's always a awesome adventure, and you usually end up enjoying the trip just as much as the dive. Plus, wildlife is far more likely to approach you on a kayak. I've gotten to kayak with a pod of dolphins, a group of sea turtles, and even had a monk seal swim up.

BONUS: If you have your sidemount certification, kayak diving is even easier. No worrying about switching around tanks on your BCD, and getting in and out of the water is easier.

Selecting a Kayak

It's important to select the right kind of kayak for the job. In order to go scuba diving off the kayak, you'll want to get what's called a sit-on-top (versus one you sit inside). A sit-on-top kayak doesn't have a closed cockpit, making them easier to get in and out of. They're usually wider and more stable, making them easier to get in and out of.

When selecting a kayak, you should choose one that has plenty of room for you and your gear. Some people are tempted to get a two-person kayak to maximize the amount of stuff they can bring, but you'll end up paying for it when trying to paddle and control it. Make sure the kayak is comfortable for your body size, and that there's an external cargo spot for tanks (closed-hatch cargo holds can be a hassle).

I'll admit that I'm a little bit biased when it comes to selecting a kayak, because I love my Ocean Kayak Scrambler. It's a great, entry-level sit-on-top kayak that does well in almost any situation. There are nice deep storage wells in the front and back to keep tanks, gear, and snacks. As a bonus, if the waves are too big for scuba diving, you can take these kayaks out to certain spots on the island and surf them!

If this is your first time kayaking, I would recommend renting a kayak from a local shop before deciding to purchase one. There are various shops throughout the island, but my favorites are Go Bananas Watersports in Honolulu and Twogood Kayaks in Kailua. Don't be intimidated if you have a small vehicle; the rental shops managed to safely secure two kayaks to the top of a little Volkwagen Golf.


What to Pack

As silly as it may sound, making a packing checklist is a great idea. There's nothing worse than paddling out to a dive site and realizing that you forgot something. Now is also a good time to check the surf, the currents, and the weather.


- Dive weights

- Mask, fins, and snorkel (bring your snorkel to help recon dive sites)

- Mask defog

- Tank(s)

- Regulator

- Dive computer

- Dive compass

- Wetsuit (optional in Hawaii!)

- Paddle and paddle leash

- Anchor and/or tow line

- Extra paddle leash

- Dive Flag

- Surface Marker Buoy (I recommend 2)

- Life jacket (In Hawaii you are not required to wear it; unfortunately your BCD doesn't count)

- Hat and long sleeve rash guard (to protect yourself from the sun)

- Reef-safe sunscreen (you'll get burned coming back in if you don't reapply)

- Emergency whistle

- Plenty of drinking water, snacks, and an electrolyte drink (I love the lemon Liquid IV!)

Optional Gear

If you plan on doing this often, it would be a good idea to invest in this gear. Remember, most of the gear you buy in Hawaii can be used for multiple types of adventures!

- Paddling gloves

- Net bags (good for securing smaller gear)

- Extra 550 cord and stainless steel snaps

- First-aid kit


- Folding kayak carts (seriously, these are amazing for those far away parking lots)