Lanai Cathedrals: Maui’s Must-Go Scuba Dive Site

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Planning to dive Maui waters and looking for a new scuba diving spot? The Lanai Cathedrals are one of the most popular spots in Hawaii! 

These lava tubes rise from the ocean floor to just below the surface, making them perfect for both novice and experienced divers. With an abundance of marine species, the Cathedrals are a spectacular location.

You don’t want to miss out on this incredible diving experience. Make sure you add the Cathedrals to your bucket list of dive spots to visit on your next trip to Maui.

The lanai cathedrals is abundance of marine species
The lanai cathedrals have an abundance of marine species

What Are the Lanai Cathedrals?

The Cathedrals were formed when lava flowed from the neighboring island of Molokai and cooled down on the ocean floor. These lava formations are now home to a wide variety of marine species, including schools of brightly colored fish, large sea turtles, and elaborate coral reefs.

Lanai’s First Cathedral 

Colorful corals in lanai
Colorful corals in lanai

The First Cathedral is the first site as well as the largest and most popular of these formations, with a depth of around 60 feet. This cathedral is home to more than 300 marine species, including colorful corals and an abundance of tropical fish.

The First Cathedral is a popular spot for all levels of certified divers. The depths range from 12-40 feet, with an average depth of 25 feet. You can swim through the coral garden and lava formations, spotting frogfish, reef fish, and eels along the way. 

There are several entrances and exits in the cavern system, which can be confusing when you dive. Make sure to have a dive plan and follow your fellow scuba divers.

As you go deeper into the Cathedral, you look into the “confessionals” — small side chambers. They are home to resting sharks, puffer fish, crabs, eels, and nudibranchs.

Puffer fish
Puffer fish

You will exit out the “shotgun” — a small opening at the back of the cave. A “lava shoot” can propel you out of the cavern; however, the timing needs to be just right so that you can exit with a water surge.  

Most dives in the area are 2-tank or 3-tank ones. After your first dive, you’ll get a surface interval on the boat while you travel to Lanai’s Second Cathedral. Your boat will likely offer snacks or a light lunch with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

If doing a 3-tank dive, your third dive may be at a popular dive site like “The Carthaginian,” which sits in around 90 feet of water and is a destination for the Atlantis Submarine, so you may see the sub while on your dive which can be a fascinating experience and include customers in the submarine waving to you on your dive!

Lanai’s Second Cathedral

Second cathedral diving
Second cathedral diving

Like its sister dive spot, the Second Cathedral is an amazing dive site, named “second” only because it’s the second one your boat will take you to. It’s a vast underwater cavern with numerous swim-throughs, archways, and a 6-foot-long black coral fan growing downward from the roof. 

The clear waters and abundance of marine species make it a perfect place for an experienced certified diver and beginner alike. Many of the fish that can be found here are unique to Hawaii, including the Hawaiian triggerfish, which are known for their bright colors and friendly nature.

Manta ray
Manta ray

Second Cathedral is also home to a variety of sharks, rays, and turtles. These gentle giants are often seen swimming lazily through the caverns or resting on the seafloor. 

With its crystal clear waters and plethora of marine species, Second Cathedrals is truly a diver’s paradise.

It’s Not Just the Cathedrals. Explore Other Lanai’s Scuba Locations!

With its beautiful underwater cathedrals, varied species, and dramatic lava shoots, lava tubes, and other formations, Lanai is a must-visit scuba destination. But there’s much more! The south side of the island has over 20 different dives sites, such as:

Shark-Fin Rock

Shark-Fin Rock is one of the most popular diving spots in Lanai, Maui. The rock formation gets its name from its shape, which resembles a shark fin. The spectacular scuba diving spot is known for its dramatic drop-offs and strong currents, which attract a variety of marine animals. 

Most popular diving spots in lanai, maui
Most popular diving spots in lanai, maui

Shark-Fin Rock is also home to a coral reef, which is teeming with several species of colorful fish. Divers can expect to see a wide range of underwater creatures, including whales, dolphins, turtles, eels, and sharks. 

The best time to explore Shark-Fin Rock is during the summer months. Summer is when the water is calm, and visibility is good, especially during the early morning time or the break of dawn.

Steve’s Cave

Lanai's marine life
Lanai’s marine life

Steve’s Cave is another popular dive site in Lanai, Maui. Named after Steve, who is a local legend and is known for his explorations of the caves on the island, Steve’s Cave is an extensive lava formation that comes alive with all sorts of marine life. 

This spot is best suited for intermediate and advanced divers, as it has narrow passages, strong currents, and low visibility. However, if you are a skilled diver looking for a challenge, Steve’s Cave can be the perfect place for you to visit.

Diving at the Lanai Cathedrals

Lanai underwater
Lanai underwater

Whether you’re a beginner exploring with a dive instructor or a seasoned certified diver, a Cathedrals dive will not disappoint. 

Because there is lots to see in the underwater world filled with hidden gems, the location is a popular site for 2-tank dives. So, look for dive tours that offer 2-tank or even 3-tank dives so that you get the most out of your time there. 

What Can You See at the Lanai Cathedrals?

The Cathedrals are home to an array of stunning and diverse species of marine animals. At every turn, you’ll spot colorful coral reefs, nudibranchs, schools of tropical fish, and gentle giant turtles.

Nudibranchs
Nudibranchs

You may also encounter some larger creatures, such as sharks and manta rays swimming through the caverns. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for resident eels, which are often seen hiding in the crevices of the lava formations.

How Deep Can You Dive at the Lanai Cathedrals Dive Site?

With its awe-inspiring caverns and dramatic drop-offs, the Lanai Cathedrals dive site offers a variety of depths. 

Divers can survey the shallow areas around the coral gardens and lava formations or venture into the deeper zones where they can see larger species.

Coral gardens lanai
Coral gardens lanai

At the Lanai Cathedrals, you can reach depths from 20 to 100 feet, making the spot perfect for both recreational divers and avid technical divers. Non-certified divers will not be able to dive at Lanai Cathedrals, and Advanced Certification is suggested but not required. You should have at least 20+ dives to dive at Lanai Cathedrals due to its depth and overhead environment.

How Can You Get to the Lanai Cathedrals?

Lanai is Maui’s neighboring island. In order to get to the island of Lanai and the Cathedrals, you will have to go on a boat ride from Maui. The most common way is taking a short boat ride from Lahaina Harbor in Maui. It can also be reached via the ferry from Lahaina Harbor; however, it is a very long surface swim from 

It is best to choose a reputable dive shop that offers full-day boat dive excursions to the Cathedrals and other dive locations on Lanai. Be sure to book your spot in advance and be on time, as there are very few dive boats and these boats leave promptly.

Boat ride from maui
Boat ride from maui

Whether you decide to book a trip or rent your own boat, prepare for your dive by bringing all of the necessary gear and equipment. 

What Scuba Gear and Essentials Do You Need to Dive at Lanai?

You will need a wetsuit, diving mask, snorkel, buoyancy control device (BCD), scuba regulator, and a pair of fins. 

You may also want to bring along a compass and a dive computer to navigate the location and measure your depth. Additionally, it is recommended that you bring along a source of light specifically designed for deep cavern and cave dives.

A reputable dive tour operator can provide the rental gear for an additional cost. Make sure you inquire before the tour to make the trip as smooth and enjoyable as possible.  

How to Enjoy Lanai Dive Sites Safely and Sustainably?

Lanai marine life
Lanai marine life

To safely and sustainably enjoy your time at the Lanai Cathedrals and any other dive location surrounding the island of Maui, it is important to practice proper diving etiquette.

This includes following safety guidelines. You should never touch or harass wildlife, including whales and dolphins, dispose of trash properly, and respect all local regulations. The crew will give you a short briefing before you suit up and go. So, make sure to pay attention.

You must be a certified diver and have the right certification to dive the depths you want. A great scuba experience also requires the enthusiasm to discover an entirely different world underwater and most importantly, a reputable crew as your guide. 

Good weather is also important. The captain decides where you will dive based on conditions. Since there are few dive boats diving in the area and most boats have small group sizes, you may be the only people there!

Keep in mind that you should have a moderate physical fitness level for this experience. Those with heart problems, respiratory conditions, and other serious medical conditions are not advised to take on scuba diving as it may result in incapacity underwater. The minimum age for a Lanai Cathedrals dive is 12. 

What Else Can You Do in Lanai?

Beyond scuba, the island of Lanai has plenty of other exciting activities to offer.

Hiking in lanai
Hiking in lanai

Hiking

Lanai is home to a number of hiking trails that offer stunning views of the island’s coastline and interior. One of the most popular trails is the Munro Trail, which leads to the summit of Lana’ihale, the island’s highest point. Other popular trails include the Kaiolohia Ridge Trail and the Koloiki Ridge Trail.

Snorkeling

If you do not have an open water scuba certification, Lanai’s clear waters are teeming with marine life, making it a popular destination for snorkeling

Hulopo‘e Beach Park is one of the best places to snorkel, as it is home to a protected coral reef. Other popular spots for snorkeling include Manele Bay and Shark Fin Cove.

Snorkeling in lanai
Snorkeling in lanai

Dive at the World-Famous Lanai Cathedrals with WildVoice

Want to dive Maui waters and explore Lanai but don’t know where to start? We get you. A boat dive can be an amazing experience, but it’s not always easy to find a trustworthy dive company that offers trips you’re interested in.

With WildVoice, you can book a trip with confidence. We offer a variety of dive tours for all levels of divers, and our 3-tank dive gives you more bottom time and exploration than other dives.

So why wait? Sign up for an epic scuba diving tour with WildVoice today, and experience the world-famous Cathedrals!

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