When Dennis Hurd launched his first battery-powered,
nonpolluting Atlantis Submarine in December 1985 off the coast of
the Cayman Islands, he hit on a friendly way for all people to
experience the underwater world previously reserved for scuba
The high-tech nature of the vessel, the
air-conditioned/pressure-controlled cabin and the underwater beauty
of the reef made the attraction an instant hit. Essentially a
prototype, improvements were made to the sub in the early stages
and incorporated into Atlantis II, which was displayed at Expo86 in
Vancouver. The Atlantis II journeyed directly from the Expo and
reached Barbados in 1986. Its official opening took place on
Over the next two decades, Atlantis expanded both in design and
in markets stretching from the Caribbean to Guam. This September
will mark the company’s 20th anniversary of sharing the magic of
Hawaii’s undersea world, up close and personal.
“There’s a tremendous sense of pride knowing that in the past 20
years we’ve been able to educate and entertain more than 6.5
million guests about the importance of Hawaii’s marine life,” said
Ron Williams, chief executive officer and president of Atlantis
Submarines and Atlantis Navatek Cruises. “It’s such an inspiration
to see the reaction of guests when they suddenly find themselves in
the midst of our undersea world with all its beauty and vibrancy.
No matter how many submarine tours I’ve taken, the response I see
in our guests is always one of awe and wonder.”
For its Waikiki operations, Atlantis offers two configurations
the standard 48-passenger sub, measuring 65 feet in length, with
20-inch diameter viewports, and the premium 64-passenger sub
measuring, 100 feet in length with 65 percent greater viewport area
and wider seating. The company also offers underwater journeys in
the Pacific waters off Lahaina, Maui and the Big Island’s Kona
“Unless a person is donning scuba gear, our submarine tour is
the only way on Oahu to descend into the depths of Hawaii’s
wondrous marine world and see how it works,” Williams said. “And
you don’t have to get wet! Our business philosophy is ‘Let us show
you our Hawaii.’ And I’m proud to say that no other tour provider
can make the same claim.”
The one-hour-and-forty-five-minute tours depart Duke Kahanamoku
Beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa. Next,
the Atlantis shuttle boat ferries guests out to the sub site.
There, an experienced crew awaits to safely transfer guests from
the shuttle boat onto the sub. Through the topside hatch, guests
enter a spacious, air-conditioned cabin with plenty of leg and
headroom and large viewing portals on both sides for each seat.
It’s like having a personal window to the undersea world.
As the pilot guides the quiet, battery-powered sub into its
journey, the depth gauge numbers increase along with the tropical
fish darting in front of the portals. The co-pilot also serves as
the tour guide, keeping everyone informed, entertained and riveted
to their viewing portals as they watch the ever-changing marine
life taking place outside.
As the sub descends, it overlooks natural coral reefs, an
ancient lava flow and an undersea field of interconnected circular
Japan-inspired artificial reefs. It’s home to a wide variety of
plentiful marine species and corals, brightly colored tangs, moray
eels, and Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa (trigger
Reaching 125 feet, passengers peer out at candy-striped
squirrelfish, peacock-colored parrotfish and various invertebrates
dwelling on the sandy bottom. Before starting its gradual ascent to
the surface, the sub cruises around the sunken remains of two
airplanes and two vessels, all of which serve as artificial reefs
and thriving habitats for tropical fish of every shape and hue.
Among the reef residents commonly seen are green sea turtles,
stingrays and white-tip sharks.
Williams noted that the environmental benefits of Atlantis
Submarines’ presence have been felt more at the company’s Waikiki
dive site than its other locations. “When Atlantis began
operations, we made a commitment to help revitalize Waikiki’s
marine life environment,” he said.
Working with the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii State
Department of Land and Natural Resources, Atlantis introduced
several artificial reefs that have since blossomed into
self-sustaining eco-systems for marine life to thrive. “Before
these artificial reefs, this was an area relatively bare of
activity. Today, it is teeming with all types of fish and marine
life swirling about,” said Williams.
The Atlantis Premium Submarine Tour aboard the hi-tech
64-passenger Atlantis XIV includes a complimentary Atlantis
Souvenir Dive Log and special discounts offered only to deluxe
passengers. Fares are $105 for adults and $53 for children ages 12
and under. The Atlantis Standard Submarine Tour aboard a
48-passenger vessel is $89 for adults and $45 for children 12 and