Updated: May 5
A guide for scuba diving Leftovers on the North Shore
Dive Guide Contributors: Steven
Location Type: Shore Dive
GPS Address: 61315-61335 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712 (Google Maps)
Average Depth: 15 feet on the tops of the reef, 25 - 35 Feet in the trenches
Ideal Wave Conditions: 1-2 ft or lower (not recommended when winter swell starts at North Shore).
Entry: There are a few options for SCUBA and freedivers to get to this site. If you want to shore dive, plan on at least a 0.15 mile surface swim to conserve air (about the distance from electric beach entry to the end of the pipe). If you want to paddle board or kayak dive, you can either launch from Leftover's Beach or from Waimea Bay (about a mile away). If you have a boat, you can launch from Haleiwa harbor for a short ride over and anchor in the sand over the main channel.
Parking: Very limited (especially later in the day).
Family-Friendly: The beach on the shore is small and family-friendly. The area close to shore is usually calm during the summer, and the shallow reefs are ideal for beginner snorkelers.
Leftovers / Alligator rock is an amazing dive that envies Sharks Cove and the Cathedral. Long trenches formed from lava flow run perpendicular to the shore line, with a significant number of rock formations and caves to explore. Because this is a less-known dive spot, there is a lot wildlife and coral in the area. The most notable part of this dive is the rock formations. The lava flow created some incredible shapes, caves, and swim through passage ways that are a blast to explore. Navigation is also fairly easy since the trenches all fairly parallel to one another, and perpendicular to the shore line. There are 4-5 resident sea turtles that hang out in the caves to the north. During our dives we saw a lot of nudibranches, spotted eagle rays, large puffer fish, large schools of fish, eels, and spiny lobsters (in the caves). We suspect that there are a few reef sharks in some of the caves in the area, but we haven't found any yet. Based on our experience at the North Shore, we suspect that this area is likely frequented by spinner dolphins, monk seals, and manta rays too.
The easiest way to navigate this dive is using the long, curving channel that runs from shore out to the ocean. It is easy to identify from the surface, and you can follow it until you are ready to descend. We recommend going at least 0.15 miles from shore to conserve air. Once you descend, head north/northeast (right side of the channel if you are facing the ocean). You will have to swim up and over the reef (about 15 feet depth), until you find a trench. The trenches run roughly parallel to each other, so when you finish exploring one, you can swim up and over the reef wall to the next one. Within the trenches are large rock formations, caves, overhangs, and swim-through passages to explore.
If you are only snorkeling, we recommend following the main curving channel at least 50 - 75 meters out to the ocean (to get outside of the surf break). Once you're out there, we recommend swimming parallel to the shore. You can head north/northeast towards Alligator Rock or southwest where there are many reefs and schools of fish. If you're a confident swimmer, head further out along the main channel to check out the trenches.
This site is not suitable for diving between late September - early April due to the winter swell at the North Shore.
The best areas for SCUBA and freediving requires a surface swim of 0.15 - 0.25 miles, and the current usually pulls away from shore. Ensure your dive plan factors this in.
There is frequent boat traffic about a mile from shore (boat transiting between Haleiwa Harbor and Waimea Bay). Be sure to use a dive flag!
This past weekend we had the opportunity to explore Leftover's surf break, a little-known diving spot located on the North Shore. Because we are rapidly approaching the end of the diving season on the North Shore, the visibility was a little murky. Altogether though, this dive site definitely rivals Sharks Cove and Cathedrals.
Located between Haleiwa Harbor and Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu, this dive site can be reached via boat, kayak, paddle board, DPV, or long surface swim. If you elect to do a shore dive, just note that parking is very limited along the sides of the road. We elected to use a small fishing boat, and took a short 10 minute boat ride from the harbor. We anchored over the long, winding channel that runs from the shore out to sea. If you decided to kayak dive this site, you can launch from Waimea Bay for a short 1 mile paddle over to this spot.
Once anchored, we descended into the main channel, about 0.25 miles away from the shore. We decided to head north/northeast over the main channel wall. We came up to about 15 feet when going over the top of the reef walls, swimming parallel to the shore. We found a series of trenches that ranged in depth from 20 to 40 feet. These trenches were formed by the lava flow, and all run in the same direction.
These trenches are the highlight of the dive. Some were steep and narrow, giving the sensation that you were making the X-Wing attack run on the Death Star (nerd reference). Others opened up into large rock formations with all sorts of weird shapes and ledges. Throughout all of this was swim through passage ways and small caves to explore. I know this may sound sacrilegious to some divers, but I thought that it was cooler then the Cathedral in some spots. When we got bored with one area, we simply swam up and over the wall to the next trench, which usually was only about 10 - 20 meters away.
Because this was a less-frequented site, there was an abundance of wildlife all over the place. Most notably there were dozens of nudibranches spread out over the entire area, all of a different variety. In some of the larger open areas there were sea turtles that clearly were residents of this spot. I suspect that many of them use the ledges and caves to catch a nap. There were also some massive puffer fish that hung out in caves along the bottoms of the trenches (although they seemed slightly skittish). There was at least one spotted eagle ray that soared right in front of us over the reefs.
Here is the map we created from our dive (with a measured out surface swim). If you are SCUBA diving or freediving, we recommend heading to the north/northeast side of the main channel. The trenches run perpendicular to the shore, and can be found in between the two blue arrows on the map. The entry beach at this site is protected by land that sticks out to the north and south, forming a small bay. When conditions are good for diving on the North Shore, this area is generally calm with minimal surf break and surge (much like Sharks Cove).
Here is the data I pulled from my Garmin Descent. The average depth of the exploration dive was 26 feet, with a max depth of 41 feet. You can see from the depth profile where we went up and over the trench walls to the next trench over. It is definitely a fairly easy dive for beginners, with minimal surge pushing around on the bottom.
Although it takes some work to get to this spot, we highly recommend it. We could have easily spent hours down there systematically winding our way through each lava trench. Add to that the abundant wildlife and lack of other people around, and this is easily one of our favorite spots on the island!
Since this dive is further on the north side of the island, we recommend renting gear and tanks from Surf N Sea 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 North side of the island, we like to hang out at Haleiwa after our dives (or the food trucks across the street!). If we feel more like going to the beach, we'll head over further east to Sunset Beach.
Haleiwa Joe's (Haleiwa): Founded in 1998, the original Haleiwa Joe’s is located in historic Haleiwa town on Oahu’s illustrious “Seven-mile Miracle”. It boasts views of the harbor, ocean, and postcard sunsets and has some of the best food on the North Shore. Their brunch is absolutely fantastic!
Haleiwa Town: Rich with island history, Haleiwa is now the social and artistic hub of the North Shore. Here you’ll find surfers fueling up on shrimp or other delicacies at one of the town’s abundant food trucks before hitting the famous beaches of Waimea Bay, Ehukai (Banzai Pipeline) and Sunset Beach. You’ll also find locals and visitors winding down with a shaved ice after a day in the sun or shopping at boutiques filled with unique gifts that will allow you to bring back a piece of Hawaii with you.