InsightAfter nearly 10 years of ocean snorkeling here in Hawaii, I occasionally forget just how intimidating the activity can sometimes be for first-timers.

Exploring one of the state’s many coral reef ecosystems and coming face to face with the Islands’ often vibrant sea life is a wonderful activity, but for those who aren’t strong swimmers, donning a mask, snorkel and fins and venturing out into the Pacific can be nerve-racking.

Many Hawaii vendors do a terrific job helping first-time snorkelers overcome that initial anxiety and are excellent at teaching snorkeling safety and fundamentals, but for some visitors the activity will always just be too frightening.

For those travelers, and a few family members of mine visiting from the U.S. mainland in the past, a trip below the ocean surface on an Atlantis submarine tour can be an excellent alternative. ShaneNelson

During a recent 90-minute tour off Waikiki with the company, I was surprised at just how many brightly colored fish can be seen through the vessel’s large portholes, and our trip also featured an excellent underwater look at a large Hawaiian green sea turtle, a highlight of any ocean outing.

Atlantis celebrated its 25th anniversary in the Hawaiian Islands this August and offers submarine tours on not only Oahu but also Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. Each trip features a chance to explore reef ecosystems, some of which have been introduced artificially and since helped increase regional coral growth and fish populations, but the trips also include attractions you won’t encounter on most snorkeling excursions: sunken ships.

Gliding past the 111-foot San Pedro, now covered in coral and swarmed with fish off the coast of Waikiki, was certainly a thrilling moment of my recent Atlantis tour, and the product also includes an up-close look at a sunken Navy yard oiler and a section of sunken airplane fuselage, all of which now provide a habitat for a range of sea life.

According to Atlantis officials, the company’s battery-powered, 64-seat vessel, used exclusively in Waikiki, is the world’s largest passenger submarine and takes guests more than 100 feet below the ocean surface on several daily tours. The Oahu products begin with a short boat ride out to the submarine, departing from a dock fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Waikiki visitors may want to consider booking one of the company’s combination packages offering a sub tour and a sunset sail on Altantis’ Sunset Navatek Cruises, which includes dinner and entertainment along with gorgeous views of Honolulu’s soaring cityscape, Diamondhead and Oahu’s Ko‘olau Mountain range from the water.

Commissionable to agents, Atlantis submarine tour and Navatek combos are $188 for adults and $80.65 for children ages 7 to 12.

Visit or call (800) 548-6262.
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