Family Friendly?: Yes
Age Range: No set age, but riders must be 36″ or taller
Recommendations: The subs are fairly roomy and have large windows. However, you will be in an enclosed space with little room to move around. Be prepared if that bothers you.
Atlantis Submarines offers the opportunity to take a tour on a real submarine in a natural environment. That is not something most people get to experience! On a recent visit to Hawaii we just couldn’t resist and we were happy we did.
Most of the hotel concierge services and military ITT offices can set you up with a reservation in a couple of minutes. The meeting area is a dock located near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in Waikiki. We were staying close enough to walk there, but they offer a shuttle service as part of the package so why not take advantage of it? There is also a parking garage across the street at the Hale Koa Hotel if you are driving. Plan to arrive 30 minutes prior to your tour time.
The adventure begins with a scenic boat ride off of Waikiki with great views of the beach and Diamond Head. It is a quick trip and before long you come to a floating dock and a very impressive looking submarine shining in the sun surrounded by cobalt blue water. With Diamond Head in the distance, this is definitely a photo op! You disembark from the boat to the dock and then into the submarine via a ladder. The ladder is only 7 or 8 steps, but you must be able to climb it yourself. The first thing you notice as you go down the ladder into the submarine is the light. The sub is lined with large windows so it is a far cry from the dark and claustrophobic submarines you see in the movies. Each person has a defined seat so it is surprisingly comfortable. Once everyone is seated the adventure begins.
The sub descends slowly and at first there really isn’t a lot to see. However that is OK because the thrill of being in a submarine takes a few minutes to wear off anyway. The ocean floor is surprisingly barren at first. Just a grey plain stretching as far as the eye can see. However it isn’t long until a few fish begin to appear. Along the tour route the Atlantis people have created some artificial reefs and that is where the action really starts. The reefs include sunken ships, an airplane and some structures that look like they were made just for the purpose. There is a ton of sea life around those reefs so you will have plenty to look at. If the thought of artificial reefs bothers you, rest easy. They are actually beneficial to the sea life and judging by the abundance of it I would say the fish agree!
An interesting side note… As the sub goes deeper, the water begins to filter out some of the sun’s rays so the colors go flat at the lowest depths. Red wavelengths must be filtered first because all of our photos looked like the red was sucked out of them. Further evidence of this can bee seen in the sub itself. Some clothing begins to glow which shows that the ultraviolet light at the other end of the spectrum is still making it to the bottom. Pretty cool!
The highlight of the trip for me was also the lowest point – literally. Being 100 feet under the ocean may not sound all that deep, but it feels like you are on another planet. It wasn’t the most scenic part of the trip, but just being there made it special. A few minutes later the ascent begins and before you know it light is again flooding into the windows.
On the ride back to the dock I realized that I had a whole new appreciation for the ocean. It make you realize that what you see from the beach is only the thinnest veneer of what is out there.
They have a small gift shop back on the dock but otherwise once you step off the boat you are free to go. Overall the staff was very friendly and helpful, but a little less jolly than many of the other attractions in Hawaii. I guess when you are taking over 60 people 100 feet under the ocean you have to take care of business first!
The published prices are $115 for ages 13+, $125 for an adult and small child and $45 for children under 13. Note that there is about 7% in taxes added to that. There seems to be a lot of discounts available if you look for them, so use these prices as the upper end and shop around a bit. The tour lasts about 90 minutes from dock to dock. Our family loved every minute! Tour times are 9 am, 10am, 11 am, noon, 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm. The 11 am tour is in Japanese. The cancellation policy is a bit harsh so be sure to call 24 hours ahead of time if you need to cancel a reservation. Within the 24 hours if you booked it, you bought it (unless weather or technical problems prevent them from going).
In summary, Atlantis Submarines is a great adventure for the entire family. It is scenic, interesting and has a lot of WOW factor. I highly recommend it! For more information, please visit their website at http://www.atlantisadventures.com/ or call1 (800) 381-0237.