Things to do in Waikiki: Atlantis Submarine Oahu

Hawaii, Tours & Experiences, United States / Sunday, June 4th, 2023

If you’re searching for things to do on Oahu outside of the typical surfing, shopping and soaking up the rays then look no further. Atlantis Submarines offer submarine tours so you can view species up close and experience what life is like at the bottom of the ocean without even getting wet.

One of Hawaii’s most unique tours, offered on Maui, Big Island and Oahu, has been running since 1988. The submarines are environmentally safe as they are battery powered so they release no pollutants into the ocean and make minimal noise, keeping the fish happy.

the port hilton pier at waikiki beach

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A perfect sunny day as always in Waikiki, the meeting point was on the Hilton Pier at the north end of Waikiki Beach. It was peaceful and calm on the pier as we waited for our boat. Everyone sat quietly observing the view of the surrounding mountains, other travelers enjoying water activities on the beach and the cobalt blue fish glistening from the sun in the water below. As the Atlantis Discovery approached we all became lively with excitement.

a hand holding the boarding pass with blue water in the background

It was a short but smooth ride out to the submarine cruising past surfers and sailboats. The further out we went, the more Waikiki came together as a whole, and we could appreciate the beauty of this city from afar.

The captain stopped to locate the submarine which was an ideal opportunity to take photos of the shoreline and an unobstructed Diamond Head. After a few minutes the submarine sent up a location bubble, this is to ensure there are no boats above so it can ascend safely. Soon after the submarine emerged from beneath the surface.

the Atlantis submarine above water

We boarded the vessel by walking down a steep ladder from the top and proceeded to take our seats. Once everyone was seated and the latch secure we dove down to the bottom and were immediately surrounded by a multitude of fish.

The further we went the more interesting it became. There was 60kg trevally which is the most aggressive fish in the ocean surrounding Oahu. They’ll ram anything that gets in their way, including scuba divers which made me very happy to be in the safety of the submarine.

We also spotted a few puffer fish. These are illegal to serve at any restaurant in Hawaii but certain species can be a local delicacy in Japan.

A silhouette of a fish taken under water

At the depth of 100 feet, we soon approached the artificial reefs which cost Atlantis Adventures millions of dollars over the years to provide a safe home for the Hawaiian sea life. These reefs have been created from old airplanes, sunken ships, and other metal structures. Before sinking any structure it must be completely cleaned of oil, paint, and anything else nasty to the environment to ensure the health of the water and everything in it.

These reefs are used to help create food, give fish a safe place to hide and the turtles a place to sleep. We also passed the natural reef created by ancient lava flow. Don’t expect to see bright colors in the coral, the UV from the water changes colors this deep down. If you’re wearing red clothing it’ll now appear more purple, whereas orange will become fluorescent.

An underwater image of the artificial reef in Waikiki bay

Our bubbly guide was great at informing us about all the different species we could see out our windows, and about the importance of keeping our oceans clean. He pointed out a white reef shark sitting on the seafloor, moray eels lurking in holes, large green sea turtles sleeping on the deck of a shipwreck and large black sea urchins ready to spike anything that comes near.

One of my most memorable sights from this Hawaii visit was watching four eagle rays gliding ever so elegantly through the water, flapping their fins in synchronization as if they were birds soaring through the sky. The schools of Moorish Idol and bright Yellow Tangs were so pretty fluttering around against the vivid blue water.

An image taken underwater of fish in an artificial reef

At the end of our journey, the captain sent up the location air bubble to warn any boats on the surface. In addition, another Atlantis boat above water makes sure it’s safe for the sub to surface. Not long after we quickly emerged, watching the water turn from a cobalt blue to turquoise in a flurry of bubbles. The larger bubbles sparkled in the Hawaiian sun.

Being on board the boat and the submarine was such an interesting and entertaining way to spend an afternoon in Waikiki. It was an excellent means to learn more about our ecosystem and see the world from a perspective I have never experienced before.

Click here for more information on Atlantis Adventures’ Submarine Tours.

I was provided with this tour in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own and not influenced by the company.

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