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I am in the preliminary stages of planning a Kauai trip for May of next year. It's not a dive trip, but rather, a trip where we will probably dive two or three days. I've read lots of good stuff on dive ops here on the board, I've also read much about the dives offered, both here and at other sites. I think I understand what I'll be seeing in Kauai but I still have a couple of questions/concerns. I've dived all over the Caribbean and in Galapagos just for reference.
I'm still wondering a couple of things:
1) Is the trip to N'ihau worth it? Some have described it as fantastic, others as simply you see a seal and maybe a couple of sharks but not worth the long haul and price. Are the structure and topography that amazing or are the people dismissing the amount of life you can potentially see just downplaying it? It seems most of the positive I've seen is on this board and I've seen more negative in other places.
2) Has anyone done dives along Napali, what did you think? I don't think I've read much about these dives, I could have missed it though. It appears the Bubbles Below is the only Kauai operator doing this trip (again, maybe I've missed something in my research).
Niihau may or may not blow you away, and may or may not be what you consider worth your time/money. But short of the back of Molokini it's one of the best dives in Hawaii, so unless you're giving up other Hawaii activities because of length/cost of the trip, I'd suggest doing it. That Kauai doesn't have much great diving relative to Maui, Big Island, and even Oahu makes a stronger case for doing Niihau.
Well sir or ma'am... I can only offer recommendations based on a historical perspective. I never dived off Ni'ihau - near it, but not that near. There's a cool seamount that comes up to 170' below the surface on the way there in a bazillion feet of water, but I don't know if commercial dive ops offer that. Le'hua Rock was always ok, but sometimes the Hawaiians on Ni'ihau shot at us since they thought we weren't Hawaiian enough. That problem has been solved for a long time now, but I'm not sure that the trip is worth the dive.
Now that said, I'd hike that damn Na'Pali coast like the hippies of the long-lost '60's did. I never dived off it - too far and the waters can get EXTREMELY unbelly-friendly. You can get lost there for days - not really with GPS and 1/2 a brain, but you better be competent or you'll become one of those people of lost-hiker folklore.
I have been diving Kauai for several years. I have done the local, the Napali and Niihau. I would place Kauai diving as second to Kona but better than Maui. My favorite is the Napali...both interesting structure and lots of fish. I'm glad I dove Niihau, but don't think I'll bother to do it again. The diving was interesting, but the trip back is a killer. 2.5 hours of pounding in rough water.
I really like the local diving from Pt Allen. Lots of interesting places and some great fish sites. If you are thinking about shore diving, Koloa Landing can't be beat.