I love the ocean. But how would I feel about hanging out on the ocean floor - in a tube?
There's absolutely no way you can go to Hawaii and not explore the ocean. The water is lovely, the scenery is great - and what lies under the surface is even better! The snorkeling and scuba diving in Hawaii is fantastic. The Big Island is arguably less famous for underwater activities than the other islands but we have always enjoyed ourselves and have several beaches we call our favourites. There's great ocean experiences there - don't let anyone convince you otherwise!
But not everyone is comfortable in the water and fortunately there's a great alternative for those who prefer to keep dry while they explore the ocean depths. We did a submarine tour of the Kona harbour with Atlantis Submarine Tours and we really enjoyed our experience. But what was it like stepping onboard a submarine for the first time? And did the tour offer good value? Read on to learn more about our adventures (from the anti-adventurist herself!)
If you're going down to the ocean floor in a metal tube, it helps to be surrounded by good people. We found the staff struck a perfect balance between being entertaining and informative and everyone was extremely welcoming. Our group had a rare shark sighting (sorry, no pictures - sharks are quick!) and it was so cool to hear the staff getting as excited about it as we were. You can tell they genuinely love the water and all of its inhabitants.
In addition to the shark, we also took in coral reefs, shipwrecks (complete with joke skeleton!) and tons of fish as we sank to a depth of 100 feet. Our photos make everything look extremely blue and, while things didn't appear as colorful at this depth as they did when we were snorkeling on the surface, we still saw plenty of fish with different flashes of color. Needless to say, the kids around us loved the experience (especially the shark) as well and it was great to see so many little ones get an ocean adventure beyond their swimming abilities.
So what's it really like to be on a submarine, beyond the excitement of seeing your favourite sea creatures? It was surprisingly comfortable and I didn't feel claustrophobic at all. The air conditioned temperature of the vessel's interior definitely helps! And every seat has its own porthole window, so you always have a great view.
But the very short boat ride from the pier to the submarine was another experience altogether! What is it about me and boats? And while we were on the submarine as it bobbed on the surface, I had several moments of feeling quite motion sick. If this is normally a problem for you, I'd advise you to tell the staff so you can be the last to board and the first to climb out. Overall, I'd rate riding a submarine as an anti-adventurist success, with a few 'green' moments. But if I were to do it again, I'd come prepared with my motion sickness medication.
We really enjoyed our experience, both in terms of what we saw underwater and also our experiences with the staff. But at approximately $115 an adult, this is one experience that definitely falls under the category of a splurge, a big one. To be fair, Hawaii can be one of the more expensive destinations in North America (but not always!), so many attractions are priced on the higher end of the spectrum. And my travel friends report that this is a fairly standard price for submarine activities.
If you are ocean lovers like we are, chances are you will love this and it will be a worthwhile experience. However, if you're more ambivalent, I'd suggest putting the extra money towards an alternative splurge and doing some free ocean activities to gauge the extent of your interest and see if it's a good travel investment for you in the future.
Atlantis does offer some combination packages with other experiences such as luaus. If you're already planning to do an activity like that, it would be well worth pricing things out in advance to see if it's more economical to go with a combination deal. It may also be worth checking for online deals and coupon codes and reading online reviews to see where others have located savings.
What's your idea of the perfect travel splurge? Would you be willing to try a submarine tour?
Heading to Hawaii? Read about some of our other favourite activities:
Visiting Kauai's Glass Beach
Driving Maui's Hana Highway
Coffee Beans and Hawaiian Dreams
We were provided with complimentary tickets by Atlantis Submarines. All writing, research, and opinions remain our own.