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  • Writer's pictureScuba Steve

Point Panic Scuba Dive Guide (Oahu South Shore)

A scuba diving guide for Point Panic from the south shore of Oahu, Hawaii. This is a great spot in the winter when the waves on the North and West shore are too intense.

Point Panic Entry Stairs

Dive Guide Contributor: Steven



Location Type: Shore Dive

(Snorkeling not advised due to boat traffic - Freediving should only be done in a group with a large surface marker buoy)

Address: 41 Ahui St, Honolulu, HI 96813

Note: The parking lot closes at 10pm . Tow trucks start staging around 9:45-9:50pm and they will start hooking up at 10pm. First cars pulled off the lot can be as early as 10:00:30pm!

Difficultly: Beginner/Intermediate (Based on conditions)

Average Depth:

Boat channel by the entry: 20 - 25 feet

Secret Reef: 35 feet

Horseshoe Reef 50 - 60 feet

Mid-Pipe: 30 - 40 feet

End-Pipe: 60 feet

Ideal Wave Conditions: Ideally flat; 2-4 feet or lower will work, but anything higher will toss you around. Keep in mind that the entry is a staircase into a boat channel; the more surge there is, the more you'll get tossed around making entry and exit challenging.

Entry: Entry is down a concrete staircase to the east of the parking lot. The bottom of the steps is extremely slick, so we recommend you use the railing the entire way down. During low tide, you can see a few large rocks below the staircase (that can help you get up, but also make it harder to enter/exit). Watch for the timing of the waves; ideally you want to enter and exit when the water is high against the steps, and not washing away from them. Watch out for the boat wake that will create a rough entry/exit. 

Alternate Entry: Entry is down a concrete staircase to the west of the parking lot behind a small rock jetty. This entry is not ideal during rough conditions

Amenities: Showers, bathrooms, small park area

Parking: There is usually enough (free) parking, but it gets crowded on weekends. Be sure to lock up any valuables. Honolulu Police will do occasional drive-throughs.

Family-Friendly: There isn't much of a beach here, but the small park is pleasant. If you're planning on having family and friends wait while you dive, there are a lot of fun shops, restaurants and bars in the Kaka'ako shopping center. There is a farmers market every Saturday morning.


SAFETY POINT: Point Panic has a high amount of boat traffic from dive and tourist boats. Stay clear of the main boat channel, use a dive flag, and DO NOT come up to the surface without deploying a surface marker buoy (SMB).


Point Panic Scuba Diving Guide


This is a popular dive training site located on the south shore, near the Kewalo Marine Laboratory. This dive becomes popular in the winter when the waves become too intense on the North and West shores. Using the primary entrance, you'll enter the edge of the boat channel using the staircase and swim south, parallel to the boat channel. Remember that the area between the red and green buoys is a boat channel, so stay to the west (side closest to the parking lot)

Once you swim near the 2nd green buoy, you can drop down and choose which spot to visit. Popular sites here include Secrets Reef and Horseshoe Reef, but as you can see from satellite images, there is plenty of reef to explore. To the west is the Kewalo pipeline, which you can follow south to pipe discharge.

Be aware that there is a lot of boat traffic going in and out of this area with charters. If you have to approach the surface for any reason, deploy a surface marker or come up near your dive flag buoy.

At this location you can find a lot of diverse wildlife, including sea turtle cleaning stations, reef sharks, octopus, eagle rays, eels, nudis, and even the occasional manta and monk seal. You can sometime hear whales passing deeper south during the winter time.

Locations to Explore:

Secret Reef: An oblong or "H" shaped reef with a turtle cleaning station and a few resident reef sharks.

Horseshoe Reef: A slightly larger "H" shaped reef, with a prominent horseshoe shape on the north side. There's a lot of healthy coral growth on top, reef fish, and occasional fly-bys from spotted eagle rays.

Pipeline: An old discharge pipe running from Point Panic shoreline to about 600 meters off-shore (southwest). There is a lot of coral growth on the pipe and usually a few octopus hiding in the crevices at the bottom. One or two large moray eels like to hang out at the pipe end.


(Note: These azimuths are general directions to navigate. Like any underwater navigation, compass error and current may cause them to be slightly off)

  • Stair entry to Green Boat Channel Marker: 210 degree heading (about 350 meters)

  • 2nd Green Boat Channel Marker to Secret Reef: 220 degree heading (about 85 meters)

  • Secret Reef to Horseshoe Reef: 250 degree heading from the most northern point of Secret Reef (about 70 meters)

  • Horseshoe Reef to Pipe: a 270 degree heading from anywhere on Horseshoe reef will get you to the pipe.

  • Pipe End to Horseshoe Reef: 65 degree heading to return from the pipe end to Horseshoe Reef



  • The entry for this site is a concrete staircase into a boat channel. The bottom steps are EXTREMELY slick and divers frequently slip if they aren't careful. Be sure to read the entry/exit notes carefully.

  • This site can have rough waves and current, especially near the rock wall and the entry point. We advise that you don't go out if there are large waves crashing on the rock wall, or if it looks like the boats are getting rocked a lot.

  • This dive involves a long surface swim (about 350 meters). 

  • Be conservative with air; account for the current when coming back in. You don't want to have to surface early due to the boat traffic (but if you do, use an SMB!)

  • Watch your No Deco time; if you are doing an extended dive at Horseshoe Reef and deep pipe, you can quickly wind down your No Deco.

  • Don't get too close to the rock wall; it's called "point panic" for a reason. It gets shallow quickly, and you'll be tossed around in the current. This area is also subject to heavy cross currents (east and west). 

  • Keep in mind that this area has a very high amount of boat traffic. Please be sure to use a dive buoy and flag. Don't surface without deploying an SMB!

  • After heavy rainfall or high surf conditions visibility can drop significantly. 

  • We don't recommend diving this site from shore at night. It's highly risky with the amount of boat traffic out there


Dive Map:

Point Panic Scuba Diving Guide
Credit: Google Earth


Gear Rental:

Since this dive is on the south shore near Waikiki, we recommend renting gear and tanks from Aloha Scuba Company. You can use Aluminum 80 tanks (most common size) for this dive, but be mindful of your air consumption. If you don't feel like doing this dive as a shore dive, Aloha Scuba also offers boat charters from Ala Wai Harbor.


After the Dive:

On the south side of the island, we like to hang out at Kaka'ako SALT shopping center after our dives. If we feel more like going to the beach, we'll head over to Magic Island or Fort Derussy Beach Park.


  • Redfish Poke Bar (Kaka'ako): Redfish Poke Bar serves up modern, local-style, comfort food. The front has a super fresh poke bar with an amazing selection, and in the back you can grab a seat in the dining room for craft beer, cocktails, sake, and small plates.

  • Highway Inn (Kaka'ako): Delicious traditional Hawaiian food served eat-in or takeout. Their plate lunch always hits the spot after a long dive.


  • Village Bottle Shop (Kaka'ako): This is an amazing craft beer bottle shop and tasting room. They offer a huge selection, including international beers that are hard to find on the island. Its a perfect spot for an after-dive drink and snack.

Other Activities:

  • Since this dive is near the heart of Waikiki, there's no shortage of activities you can do after your dive. If it was a particularly cold or long dive, we like to unwind on the beach at Magic Island or Fort Derussy (depending on parking of course!)


Do you have a suggestion to improve this dive guide? Drop us a comment below!


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