Ultimate Guide to Shark Cage Diving in Hawaii


Shark cage diving is the ultimate experience for anyone wanting to witness some of the world’s biggest and best-known predators in their natural habitat: deep cobalt waters. The cages prevent wild sharks from getting close enough to people to possibly harm them. They allow visitors and locals alike to view the magnificent creatures up close. 

Exceptional cage diving experiences are available in various places around the world but are particularly famous off Hawaii’s coastline. 

There are over forty shark species living in Hawaiian waters. They range from the 8-inch pygmy shark to the 50-foot-long whale shark. With pristine waters and safety measures in place, Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to go shark cage diving. 

Can You Cage Dive with Sharks in Hawaii?

Absolutely. You can shark dive in various locations across Hawaii. In addition to perfect surf conditions and beautiful weather, Hawaii is famous for its incredible shark sightings. You can see tiger, hammerhead, and sandbar sharks.  

Great white sharks aren’t common in Hawaii’s waters. However, visitors can occasionally spot them, especially during the colder months of fall and winter. This magnificent species typically visits Hawaii from January to April. It’s when the water temperatures are around 53-77 degrees Fahrenheit or 12-25 degrees Celsius. 

The largest great white shark recorded in Pacific waters near Hawaii was documented by Ocean Ramsey, a freediver and model from Oahu. The sighting occurred off the southern coast of Oahu, where Honolulu and Pearl Harbor are located. 

It was calculated to be a 2-ton female. The shark was 20 feet or 6 meters long and 8.2 feet or 2.5 meters wide. Some believe this shark was the individual known as “Deep Blue,” first filmed off the coast of Mexico. Meanwhile, others argue that it was another called “Haole Girl” based on the patterns displayed across its gills and other markings. 

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Shark Diving: Cage Diving Vs. Cage-Free Diving

Of course, it is considered safer to see sharks up close in the confinement of a cage.  But even free diving with sharks, incidents involving humans bitten by sharks are very rare, particularly in clear waters. In fact, by the safety statistics, it seems you are more likely to get injuries on your drive to a shark diving experience than on the dive. 

Nonetheless, cage diving offers people a controlled environment to witness sharks safely. It also offers photographers a chance to calmly prepare their equipment and get close-up shots of the sharks surrounding them within the cage.

Obviously, free diving with any animal has its dangers. But free diving with sharks gives people once in a lifetime experience of floating quietly beside these creatures and witnessing their natural behavior. 

The metal of a cage can sometimes have interesting effects on shark behavior, particularly when there is bait. That’s because of their sensitivity to electrical currents, which can wind them up and make them more aggressive. 

Many cage diving operations around the world focus on experiences with white sharks. Meanwhile, snorkeling and free-diving experiences are usually geared towards seeking other species. In Hawaii, however, the cage and cage-free shark diving experiences are typically both attempting to observe a similar suite of shark species. Often, the same operators offer different options for how to encounter the sharks.

Man freediving with sharks
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Where Can You Go Cage Diving with Sharks in Hawaii?

No, it’s not just the surfing, pristine blue waters, and tropical sandy beaches that attract visitors to Hawaii. It can also grant you the opportunity of a lifetime, a shark cage diving or cage-free shark diving experience where you can also encounter dolphins, magnificent humpback whales, as well as a plethora of Hawaiian sharks. 

Shark tours are abundant across Hawaii. However, Oahu shark cage diving experiences are some of the most popular in the area. 

Shark Cage Diving in Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu’s North Shore is said to be the best place in Hawaii to shark dive. Many Oahu shark dive tours depart from the Haleiwa Boat Harbor. It’s a short walking distance away from Haleiwa Town in North Shore, Oahu. So, looking for the ultimate shark cage diving experience? Consider diving in Oahu and check out Haleiwa shark tours.  

A North Shore shark diving adventure gives you a chance to view diverse species of sharks. They include Galapagos sharks, black and white-tip reef sharks, and scalloped hammerheads, all from the ‘comfort’ of a floating cage. 

Shark tours are some of the most adventurous activities to enjoy in the beautiful North Shore of Oahu. A North Shore shark dive can be the highlight of your trip. In some places, shark sightings are almost 100% guaranteed in crystal clear waters. There you can watch these graceful creatures in their natural environment. 

Shark Cage Diving in Honolulu, Hawaii

There are no Oahu shark diving experiences in Honolulu. However, there are various tour operators in the Waikiki area that offer scuba diving tours near Honolulu. You may be able to see sharks during them. 

Unlike North Shore shark tours, though, Oahu tours from Honolulu won’t guarantee shark sightings. They are possible in the area. However, sharks, especially larger species such as oceanic white tip, Galapagos, and tiger sharks, are less common near Honolulu and Waikiki. That’s because they prefer the open ocean.

If you are looking for a shark-specific experience, you should head to Haleiwa in Oahu’s North Shore. It’s about a 45-minute drive away from Honolulu. You may be able to book a North Shore shark adventure from a Honolulu tour operator. However, you’ll get the greatest Oahu shark dive tour variety online. 

Where Is the Best Shark Cage Diving in Hawaii?

Doing your research about your upcoming trip to Hawaii and planning a shark dive? Oahu’s beautiful North Shore is certainly the most popular spot for this activity.  

Oahu shark cage diving tours offer the best scuba diving experience, a perfect safety record. You can also choose from both cage and cage-free ocean diving experiences.  

What Sharks Can You See During a Shark Dive in Hawaii? 

There are 350 known species of shark in the world. About 40 of them live in the surrounding waters of Hawaii, in addition to other diverse marine life. 

Galapagos Sharks

Galapagos sharks are one of the most commonly spotted species of sharks you can see while cage and free diving. They are active predators up to 11 feet in length. So, you’ll usually see them in groups cruising around and above reefs.

One reliable way to identify this species is by locating their dual-dorsal fins. One of them is taller, located on the rear edge of the pectoral fin. The other is much smaller and sharper, located over the anal fin. They are also rather inquisitive creatures and not afraid to swim closely to boats and diving cages and check out who else is in the water with them.   

Sandbar Sharks

Otherwise known as the brown or thickskin sharks and famed for their tall dorsal fin, sandbar sharks are native to the Indo-Pacific waters and are most commonly seen around the North Shore of Hawaii. They are particularly passive and shy creatures that are often seen swimming alone by shark cages or free divers in a slow and calm manner. 

Reef Sharks

Found throughout both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, gray, black-tipped, and white-tipped reef sharks can be viewed in abundance during a shark tour in the open waters. 

White tips will usually be spotted resting in caves or under rocks and live in and around coral reef ecosystems. Black-tipped and gray reef sharks are physically unable to do so due to differences in their physiology that require them to move continuously. Instead, they are more commonly seen calmly swimming over and around reefs. 

Reef shark
Reef shark

Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

Scalloped hammerhead sharks live offshore and come into shallower waters to give birth during ‘pupping’ season. Hammerheads are shy and docile creatures. They will usually keep their distance and pay little attention to divers, whether on a cage or free-diving shark diving tour and make divers days by appearing nearby or within their dive sites.

Hammerhead shark
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Tiger Sharks

Known to swim between the Hawaiian islands, tiger sharks have a characteristic blunt nose and exquisite mottled stripes down the side of their bodies. 

If you are lucky enough to encounter a tiger shark during a shark dive, trained professionals guiding you will help ensure a safe, peaceful encounter. Should a large shark seem more aggressive or approach too closely on a cage-free experience, the guides have plenty of experience redirecting sharks with a firm hand to the nose away from divers.

Oceanic White Tip

These sharks are found in tropical waters and are known for their huge sizes. They predominantly live offshore in deep waters. However, they tend to spend most of their days in the upper water column, hovering near the surface of warm waters above 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius. Because of this, people often spot them while out on boat tours or diving in Oahu.

They have a stocky build and are distinctively covered in white markings on their dorsal, pectoral, and tail fins. Their dorsal fins are round in shape compared to their pectoral fins, which are paddle-shaped.

Silky Sharks

Otherwise known as ‘silkies,’ silky sharks can measure up to 11.5 feet or 3.5 meters in length. They have long, slender bodies with large eyes. They tend to inhabit tropical waters and hover around deep water reefs, island shelves, and the open sea. 

However, silky sharks have no particular markings. So, if spotted during a shark diving tour, they can often be quite hard to identify. 

Other Marine Life You Can See When Shark Cage Diving in Hawaii

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

Known in Hawaiian as ‘Honu,’ they are frequently sighted near Oahu’s North Shore beaches. Hawaiian turtles are sought-after creatures by many visitors to the island. Often spotted swimming in the shallows along the Kona Coast or chilling on the Punalu’u Black Sand beaches, you are guaranteed to see them all around the islands.

Green sea turtle
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Spinner Dolphins

Jumping through ocean waves and showing up on your wildlife tours, dolphins, particularly spinner dolphins, are common daily off Hawaii’s stunning shores, such as Hulopo’e Bay, Kona Coast, which is off the North Shore of Oahu and Maunalua Bay. 

Spinner dolphins
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Aptly named, they jump and spin mid-air, providing dazzling acrobatic displays to entertain while you take the boat ride to the cage diving locations at sea. Keep an eye out, as they can be spotted from some distance leaping from the surface!

Humpback Whales

Looking out across Hawaii’s pristine waters, if you spot a sudden spout of water, you’re probably seeing members of Hawaii’s seasonal humpback whale populations. Otherwise known in Hawaiian as Kohhala, these whales migrate to Hawaii every winter and are highly sought after by tourists.

Humpback whale
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One of the best places to spot them is along the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail in Oahu or on any of the islands’ whale-watching tours you’ll be tempted by while visiting Hawaii. 

Manta Rays

With a wingspan exceeding 20 feet, manta rays are one of the largest fish in the ocean. They are best seen along Hawaii’s Kona Coast at night. Attracted to lights along the coastline’s resorts, they swarm around in groups dancing in the shimmering water. They can, however, be spotted on occasion cruising the open ocean while on shark diving tours.

Want to get up close to these magnificent creatures? You can book a tour and have the best scuba experience of your life. However, don’t count on seeing them while shark cage diving.  

How Safe Is Shark Cage Diving in Hawaii?

Cage diving is generally safe, and there are very few injuries related to the activity in Hawaii. Made from metal, shark cages are designed to protect you from the sharks’ strong jaws and deter them from getting too close.

You may be wondering why the cages have openings and gaps. This is so people can fit their cameras through to take pictures of the world’s largest predator circling around. The gaps between the bars are too small for the sharks to fit through. So, there is no chance of them joining you inside. 

Of course, any activity has an element of danger, but cage diving has caused very few accidents for both the divers and sharks. In Hawaii, there have been very few incidents related to cage diving with sharks, and perhaps the most danger is imposed on the sharks themselves, and even this is very rare. 

Young sharks can sometimes be overly inquisitive and confused by the cages submerged nearby and bump into them or get themselves caught in the bars, but no severe damage has been recorded. In addition, no one has ever died from cage diving with sharks. 

Do You Need to Know How to Swim to Cage Dive with Sharks?

Knowing how to swim and being confident in your ability is, of course, of paramount importance during any water-based activity or sport. While in the cage during a shark dive, you need to be able to tread water and swim around it, depending on its size. 

How Much Does It Cost to Cage Dive with Sharks in Hawaii?

Depending on what is included and how long the tour is, the price of your shark cage dive experience in Hawaii will vary. Most tours will have a starting price of around $100 to $150 and are approximately two hours in length. They include round-trip transportation to and from your shark cage dive. 

Some tours even offer a safety diver to be in the cage or with you at all times, but this will increase your tour’s cost alongside your safety and peace of mind.  

Keep in mind that the tour operators know the waters like the back of their hand. So, they will be able to take you to the shark hot spots. The sharks will also know that you’re there. They will be attracted to the cages as there is often bait available for them to eat.  

What Do You Need to Dive with Sharks in a Cage?

Obviously, you need a swimsuit when cage diving. Depending on the time of year and location in the ocean, dive operators may advise wetsuits as well for your own comfort in the water. 

In addition, you will need a mask and a snorkel. They will allow you to see the sharks and aquatic life around you clearly and spend a lot more time underwater in the cage. Your operator should be able to provide you with these if you don’t have your own.

You are almost certain to see sharks up close. So, an underwater camera such as a GoPro can help you get high-quality pictures of your underwater experience as the sharks glide beneath and around you. 

Additionally, if you know that you are prone to motion sickness. Therefore, it’s a great idea to prepare beforehand and bring medication with you. 

Diving underwater with sharks
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Is Shark Cage Diving Worth It?

Oahu North Shore shark diving, as well as shark dive options near other Hawaiian islands, can be an exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime experience. Submerged in the shark cage, it’s just you, the sharks, and the open seas. 

People deem shark diving very worthwhile as you get to see another side and re-write the ‘scary’ narrative portrayed across society about sharks. Often more fearful of you, the variety of species you are likely to see while cage diving in Hawaii usually keep their distance while allowing you to marvel at their beauty and leaving you in awe. 

Dive with Sharks in Hawaii with WildVoice

If you are planning a trip to Hawaii or have always wanted to go shark cage diving, then check out how Wild Voice can make your dream become a reality. Just three miles from Haleiwa Harbor, this trip offers crystal clear waters and guaranteed shark sightings, all from $130, depending on group sizes. 

Departing from Haleiwa Harbor, Wild Voice also offers cage-free Oahu shark diving tours where you can experience one of the best shark encounters of your life. Either scuba diving or free diving, you’ll head out to sea from Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor and swim alongside an array of species of sharks.   

WildVoice ensures that shark tours offer a safe and amazing experience while promoting the conservation of wildlife and wild places.

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