Shark Diving Tour in Hale’iwa, O’ahu

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three sharks glide through the ocean with deep blue water beneath them

We arrive early-ish in the morning for our cageless shark diving experience. The first available tour starts at 7am, but we chose the 9am one. All along the docks, other groups are gathered and waiting for their cage tours. The bright morning light is starting to heat up the air, but a light breeze keeps us cool. Our anticipation is palpable, and a jittery sensation runs through the group.

“Are we really going to swim with sharks?!” runs through my head.

We make our way to our tour’s boat, and instantly feel more relaxed. The captain and crew greet us warmly. They are enthusiastic and understanding of our nervousness. After all, the JAWS movie series is imprinted on many of us. Feeling nervous and feeling excited are very similar in your nervous system, so I remember that I’m really just excited. After all, I love sharks, the ocean, and anything involving getting on a boat.

Heading out to the Dive Spot

We make our way onto the boat and cruise away from the dock, out into the open ocean. The vastness of the Ko’olaus is stunning from the sea, and calm waters make it a short boat ride. One of the crew members educates us about the sharks on the way out. She tells us we will likely see Galapagos sharks, and a tiger shark if we’re lucky. She explains that we will be going into the shark equivalent of their living room. That image sticks in my head, as I think of sharks in reclining chairs watching T.V. shows.

Getting into the Water

We pull up to the buoy, which our tour’s boat shares with another tour, and link up. These buoys are scattered along the ocean floor. A designated buoy allows boats to anchor without dropping an anchor all the way to the bottom each time they go out, protecting the reef from excess damage. We don our snorkel masks and fins, one-by-one stepping gingerly to the back of the boat. A floating line is cast out and tied to the boat, which we can all hold onto, so we don’t drift too far in the current.

shark dive captain standing at steering wheel of large boat in haleiwa harbor

Swimming with Sharks

I flip horizontal to float on my belly and look down into the deep, rich blue below me. We’re approximately 3 miles offshore at a depth of 300 feet. I look down to see 3, 4, then 5 Galapagos sharks gently gliding their way through the water. Each one is about 6 to 8 feet long, with smooth skin that reflects tiny rainbows from the light coming through the water above. I feel totally safe and secure with our crew, who are clearly experts and freely dive down, but human instinct speeds my heartbeat up. So, at first, I just float on top, adjusting my breathing and letting my heart rate slow down.

As I begin to feel calmer and more relaxed, I take short little dives, turning my head from side to side to take in each shark’s slow, rhythmic movements. Within 10 minutes, the nervousness is gone, and I’m simply in awe of these beautiful creatures, wishing the tour would never end.

who will love the cageless shark diving tour?

You will love this experience if you:

  • Love a little thrill
  • Love being in the ocean
  • Love seeing animals in their natural habitat
  • Want to do something unforgettable while you’re in Hawai’i
  • Enjoy being on a boat
  • Want an intimate experience (6 person limit for the tour is strictly enforced)

A Safety Note for Our Visitors

Please do not book this tour if you’re not a reasonably confident swimmer. If you’re not sure, reach out to our support team to see if this tour would be a good fit for you. If you’re not a confident swimmer, then a cage tour would be a perfect alternative.

a large galapagos shark swimming in the ocean with deep blue surrounding it

When to Book the Shark diving tour

The waters are naturally calmer in the mornings, so if you’re prone to seasickness, choose an earlier tour time slot. From the months of around October through April, it may be a little rougher due to large North swells, BUT you’ll have the added thrill of possibly seeing humpback whales while you’re on the boat. To see more sharks, the earlier the better, so book your morning slot quick and plan to wake up early—you won’t regret it!

Ready to swim with sharks!

Head to our shark tours page to see which tour is best for you. Plus, be sure to read our last post about Marine Life protection to learn about how you can protect our precious marine ecosystem.