Oahu is a paradise and an adventure haven. Of all the incredible activities on the island, there is one tour that just blows the others out of the water. Have you ever thought you would come face to face with a shark while in the water? That’s exactly what happens when you go Shark Cage Diving on Oahu.
While it may sound quite dangerous, the activity has a perfect safety record and participants don’t even need to be able to swim. You are lowered into a cage that sits half-submerged in the water. While wearing a snorkel, you put your head underwater to watch the sharks circling around you in an experience that is simply out of this world.
In this Oahu Shark Cage Diving guide, I’m going to give you all of the information you need to know. From the top tours, how to get there and I’ll also share the experience I had on my tour with North Shore Shark Adventures.
NORTH SHORE SHARK ADVENTURES: OAHU CAGE DIVING EXPERIENCE
The North Shore Shark Adventures company is one of the top tour companies when it comes to shark cage diving on Oahu. They have a perfect safety record and high professionalism from their tour guides and instructors. This specific tour ferries you out from North Shore boat harbor for an amazing shark cave diving experience on Oahu.
The tour by North Shore Shark Adventure is by far the most affordable on the island and the only tour under you will find for under $100 per person. The Oahu Shark Cage Diving experience runs for two hours and the experienced crew will lead you through the following schedule.
- Take off from the boat harbor and ferry to the shark-viewing spot.
- Keep an eye out for dolphins, turtles, and whales depending on the season.
- Focus on your instructors for a briefing on shark behavior and your behavior in the cage.
- Get your snorkel gear and enter into the shark cage and enjoy observing the circling sharks.
The cage is half in the water and half out so you can always raise your head above water. You will never need to swim and can simply hold onto the bars of the cage while breathing through your snorkel. It’s very easy even if you aren’t a good swimmer. With great water clarity, you’ll be able to see Sandbar, Galapagos, and maybe even Hammerhead Sharks circling around the cage.
HAWAII SHARK ENCOUNTERS
The other tour I will recommend in this blog post is with Hawaii Shark Encounters for their Oahu Shark Cage-Diving experience. I didn’t go with Hawaii Shark Encounters personally, I went with North Shore Shark Adventures as I mentioned above. However, I’ve heard great things about the team and how they go about their tours.
This 2-hour experience operates out of Haleiwa Harbor and is an adrenaline-filled activity where the experienced team takes you out from the harbor to their cage mooring. At depths of more than 200ft, you will be submerged into the shallow cage with snorkel gear on.
There’s no reason to be afraid, but sharks will be circling the cage right around you in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You might not expect me to say this but it is actually quite a peaceful experience rather than a scary activity. You can get some seriously cool photos and videos from inside the cage with the sharks coming right up close to investigate.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE OAHU CAGE SHARK DIVING TOUR
Like many tourists, our day began down in Waikiki (Honolulu) and we made the drive up to the Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu with our rental car. The tour begins at the Haleiwa Boat Harbor where you can find parking and toilets to get yourself sorted before the tour. It’s best to get there 20-minutes before your tour time to check-in and be ready for the staff to call you onto the boat with North Shore Shark Adventures.
The tour takes off and cruises out three miles from the shore. This seems awfully close to the shore for hundreds of sharks but that is the reality! There is a shark cage moored permanently out at sea so the boat pulls up the cage and then ropes up to the buoy and parks there for the duration of the tour. If you get sea-sick, you will be stationary on a rocking boat for quite a while so this could trouble you.
Once at the site, we put on the snorkel and mask and climbed down into the cage. It all happened so quickly but as soon as I put my head underwater there was a massive shark staring right at me as it swam towards the cage. The next twenty minutes would be one of the most incredible underwater experiences of my life.
The sharks are drawn to the surface by the sound of the engine and circle the back of the boat where the cage is placed. Curiously they cruise around, often coming very close to the cage but never moving around in an aggressive manner. Although the bars of the cage are quite wide and my fingers and toes felt quite exposed, I felt quite safe as I watched the calm nature of the sharks. This is a great way to observe sharks up close and personal from beneath the surface without having to swim or work hard while still in a very safe environment.
You are allowed to take your GoPro into the cage, which is pretty cool as you can get some great shots considering how close the sharks come. I filmed this little clip below on my GoPro from beneath the bars of the cage.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE SHARK CAGE DIVING TOUR
- Each tour leaves Haleiwa Harbor and lasts approximately two hours, which was quite nice as you could spend half a day up on the north shore exploring after your tour.
- You will ride on a custom-made, spacious aluminum boat, which includes a canopy for shade and cushioned seating for comfort. Masks and snorkels are provided, however, you are free to bring your own (fins are not necessary).
- The sharks range in size from five to fifteen feet, and are often just inches away from the cage and the spectators inside! The tour travels offshore three to four miles to the cage moored in the beautiful cobalt blue water. The visibility is so good (often 150 feet or more) that you can actually see the sharks come up from the deep.
- Often on the way, you may also encounter dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and magnificent humpback whales (November through May).
- The cage can hold up to eight people comfortably which allows small families to experience their shark dive together.
- No chumming is necessary as the sharks are attracted to the sound of our motors which they interpret as a crabbing vessel and a potential food source.
- Guests are encouraged to bring their own underwater cameras for the opportunity to capture the best footage of Hawaiian sharks anywhere. Disposable cameras and a video option are also available for purchase.
- The first tour starts at 7 a.m. with the exception of June through August when the first tour departs at 6 a.m. Additional tours occur up to 11 a.m. and, depending on availability, later tours are available.
HOW TO GET TO THE NORTH SHORE BOAT HARBOR
No matter which tour you choose, they will both begin from the North Shore boat harbor. There is usually enough parking there but I wouldn’t leave any valuables in the car. The check-in station is at the harbor and they will load you up into the boat. Getting to the harbor on the Haleiwa Harbor it takes about an hour depending on traffic. Make sure you give yourself some breathing room because if there is a jam or an accident it could increase your transit time by thirty minutes or more. I’ve included a map below with a pin location of the Haleiwa Harbor.
BEST TIME OF THE DAY FOR THE OAHU SHARK CAGE DIVE
The earlier you do the tour, the calmer the ocean. The trade winds pick up in the afternoon and it honestly gets a little wild out on the rocking boat and in the cage. I went in the afternoon for my shark-cage diving tour but went a few days later when I did the open-water free-diving tour with sharks and it was so much calmer in the morning. The staff told me this is normal and they advise everyone to book in the morning if it is possible with their schedule so you have a much more peaceful time.
IS SHARK DIVING SAFE ON OAHU?
Shark diving on Oahu and in general is a relatively safe experience. The sharks you are likely to encounter in Hawaii and specifically on these tours are Sandbar Sharks and Galapagos Sharks, which are less aggressive. While it is possible to see Hammerhead Sharks and even a rare sighting of a Great White Shark, it is uncommon.
North Shore Shark Adventures has a perfect safety record and despite what you see in the movies, sharks are relatively peaceful and just going about their business in the ocean. They aren’t naturally aggressive towards humans and that’s why the guides are important to monitor the behavior of the sharks and the tourists to make sure both sides are calm and staying that way.
WHAT SPECIES MIGHT YOU SEE WHILE SHARK CAGE DIVING ON OAHU?
- Sandbar Shark: This is the most commonly sighted shark year-round and is quite peaceful. Don’t be surprised to see thirty or more of these sharks circling below while watching from the cage.
- Galapagos Shark: It is relatively common to come across a Galapagos Shark while diving with sharks on Oahu.
- Hammerhead Shark: This species is a little less common but not something unusual to Oahu
- Great White Shark: Each year there are Great White Shark sightings in Hawaiian waters, which are most likely to occur in the winter months.
- Whale Shark: Oahu doesn’t see many whale sharks but sightings do happen. It’s much more likely to spot a whale shark on the other Hawaiian Islands such as Niihau, Lanai, and the Molokini Islet.
GEAR YOU NEED FOR SHARK CAGE DIVING ON OAHU
Your shark cage dive tour operator will set you up with a mask, snorkel, and fins and may even be able to provide you with a wetsuit upon request. Most participants will just wear boardshorts, bikinis, or bathers as they will only be in the water for a short time of 20-30 minutes. When I did my tour I was also provided with a towel as soon as I got out of the water.
Just bring your flip-flops and bathers and don’t forget to bring reef-safe sunscreen.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off)and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU
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