So far, my adventures in diving in Hawaii had been a pretty wild success. There were the teeming-with-life shipwrecks in Oahu, the awe-inspiring mantas of the Big Island, and now I had the abundant reefs off Maui to explore.
I knew my week in Lahaina wouldn’t be complete without getting underwater, so I called my friend — travel writer, dive instructor, and general Maui expert — and
begged politely asked him to take me diving. Kyle and I met at TBEX in June and had bonded instantly over tales of whale shark and decompression sickness near-misses.
Kyle suggested something even better than I expected — joining his employer for a day of beach-bumming and diving on Lana’i, frequently touted as hosting some of the South Pacific’s best dive sites. One of the six major Hawaiian islands, Lana’i is just a short 45 minute boat ride away from Maui — the perfect island-hopping day trip.
Lana’i is just a teeny tiny blip in the ocean, just 18 miles across at its widest point. With no traffic lights, just two resorts, and a population of just over 3,000, Lana’i is the perfect place to get away from it all. Bill Gates took that to heart in 1994 when he rented out every room on the island — and every helicopter capable of going over the islands’ airspace — in order to get married in total seclusion.
I’m no Bill Gates, but I did feel a bit like a celebrity as I hopped off the Lana’i ferry and onto Trilogy’s dive boat, where the Captain took requests from the small group as to which dive sites they felt like visiting that day. I kept quiet but cheered inside when the group decided on First Cathedral — one of the most infamous dive sites in the entire state of Hawaii.
We eased into the dive with a spin around some of Lana’i’s healthy and abundant reefs. Having spent so much of my time diving in Southeast Asia, where reefs are under extreme duress, I was doing an underwater happy dance to see so much thriving coral.
I love my little and that lets me bring it underwater — but this polka-dotted little fish was just too fast for my camera’s focus to keep up with.
Luckily, nearby, a well-camouflaged fish who I sadly can’t identify sat patiently while I snapped his mug shot.
Who else was mugging for the camera? Kyle, and the lobster carcass we found on the sandy bottom of the ocean floor.
Soon, we were entering the 100-foot underwater lava tube for which the dive site is named. Like a cathedral on land, light shines in from every direction in this underwater cavern. In the heart of the lava tunnels, beady-eyed fish lurk in the corners and surges of water keep you fighting to maintain buoyancy.
In the heart of the cathedral, quickly realized why this is the most popular dive site in Maui. I watched in awe as light danced through the natural skylights of the lava tube, highlighting different sea creatures below.
Making our way out of the tube via a fun underwater “shotgun” created by tidal pulls, we exited back onto the reef. Here, the dive went from great to epic — I saw my first ever frogfish! As we completed our surface interval basking in the warm Hawaii sun, I knew I wouldn’t forget that dive anytime soon.
Our second dive was at the more scarcely-visited site Monolith. Here, the pristine pinnacle rises from 100 feet up all the way up to 40.
Of course, as two dive geeks with cameras we ended up with a lot of photos of each other… taking photos.
But a few of my fishy friends managed to sneak in there as well. It seemed that every time I lifted my camera there was another bright tropical fish gracing the frame.
Thoroughly satisfied after a great morning underwater, we joined up with on Hulopoe Beach Park. As Trilogy is the only company in Hawaii with permission to bring guests to this particular stretch of sand, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. I took advantage of the privacy by falling into a coma-like, drool-included sleep on my sarong.
That display of lady-like behavior complete, we all enjoyed a delicious BBQ dinner at the Manele Harbor, swapping travel stories and tips with guests and staff alike. As sunset loomed we jumped on the Trilogy’s beautiful catamaran for the peaceful ride back to Maui. If Trilogy hadn’t won me over already, they did when they whipped out both alcohol and ice cream for the sailing return.
Approaching Lahaina harbor, I couldn’t help but think that this is how the first settlers to Hawaii would have seen the islands — for them, an oasis after so long at sea. I can certainly imagine why they stayed.
Readers, have you ever been to Lana’i? Did you love it as much as I did?
Many thanks to and for being such fantastic hosts and helping me tick one more Hawaiian island off my list!