I just got back from a week of casual diving on the Kona Coast of Hawaii and was so impressed with Kona Diving Company that I wanted to post a review here.
Most of the time when my husband and I go diving we opt for liveaboards or dedicated dive resorts. But this trip we would be travelling with a diving friend and his non-diving spouse and child so we instead decided on doing some day trips instead. We signed up with Kona Diving Company (http://www.konadivingcompany.com/) and were throughly pleased and impressed by their employees and their service. From the moment we stepped in their shop to sign all the paperwork to the last day when we settled up our bill everyone was polite, friendly and professional.
Boat trips seem to be limited to 10 guests plus guides, split into two or three groups. If there are students on board then they are put in a separate group from certified divers. All guides are instructors so they are trained to work with inexperienced divers, but they are also completely respectful of experienced divers. The crew will happily set up your gear and swap tanks if you want them to, but they will gladly let you do everything yourself, if you prefer. They seem to be there if you need them, but they won't bother you if you don't. There is no attitude here, and no “I'm the divemaster so I'm better than you” thing going on. Other divers on the boat had anywhere from 20 to 2000 dives, and they all enjoyed their trips. Several locals were on our trips, and some of the off-duty employees even came along for fun dives, space permitting!
The same attitude continued underwater. Our dive guide would point out rare and interesting creatures, while keeping an eye on everyone without being intrusive. We'd generally make our way back to the boat when the first person hit 2000-1500 psi, but you were allowed to stay in the water after the heavy breathers got out. While there were no enforced restrictions (other than dive safely and stay out of deco) divers were asked to be back on the boat with about 500 psi, and not to stay down too much longer than all the other divers just so everyone isn't waiting on you. That being said, 80 minute dives were the norm for me, and my last dive was 90 minutes long.
Diving in Kona is generally limited to 2-tank morning dives and evening manta dives. Afternoon winds mean that as a rule dive boats don't do afternoon dives, although KDC does run 3-tank long-range trips on occasion. Dive sites have lots of hard coral and often have interesting topology with lava “fingers” sticking out from land and the occasional lava tube. There is a diurnal octopus species here (the aptly named day octopus) so keep your eye out for those--the highlight of my week was seeing a pair mating! Sadly we saw zero sharks (except for the tiger who hangs out at the mouth of the harbor, who we saw from the boat).
The boat itself is a comfortable catamaran with an on-board head, hot water shower, and lots of padded seating, both in the sun and in the shade. It has safety equipment including life jackets, O2, and AED. Onboard is plenty of fresh filtered water and sodas to drink; hot water and instant hot chocolate, cup o' soup, and tea; and sandwich wraps (they have vegetarian ones upon request), trail mix and goldfish crackers to eat. Mask defog and rinse buckets are provided, and there are two dunk tanks for electronics; the tanks will fit a housed DSLR with strobes, but if more than two divers have that sort of rig then it would be crowded.
Since we were diving with our own gear we were able to leave our BCs and wetsuits on the boat. The crew would rinse these and hang them to dry (locked up, at the shop) so that was one less thing you need to do. (They ask you to take your reg, mask and fins at the end of the day.)
Kona Diving Company was an absolute pleasure with dive with, and should I ever find myself on the Big Island again I will definitely dive with them!