How to Find the Best Snorkeling on Oahu
Hawaii is the definition of paradise. Crystal clear water, white sand beaches and beautiful sunny days.
If you are planning a trip to Oahu, Hawaii, you absolutely must go for at least one snorkeling trip! On our one week trip, we explored the entire island and found some of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu! Dave and I are from Sydney Australia and have been snorkeling together in Australia hundreds of times but the snorkeling on Oahu was absolutely insane compared with Sydney.
This guide has a list of the very best snorkeling spots on Oahu. The list includes some small beaches, some larger beaches and small coves. This guide will also list some of the places you can hire snorkeling gear from while you are in Hawaii. Alternatively you could purchase your own snorkeling gear before you go which is what we did to enable us to have the freedom to explore anywhere on the island. REI has some great snorkeling sets on their website here!
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Things to Know About Snorkeling in Hawaii
Before you go off on your Hawaiian snorkeling adventure, there are a few things you should know.
- In Hawaii, you should wear reef-safe sunscreen like this one to help protect the marine life. Hawaii has banned the use of sunscreen containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octanoates as these are harmful to the coral reef.
- Be Safe! If you don’t know how to swim, please don’t decide to jump into a random body of water to try to snorkel without some sort of instructor or floatation device.
- Have fun and relax! Snorkeling is one of my favourite water activities and Hawaii is such a great place for it. Enjoy learning the names of the fish you see and trying to pronounce them.
- Don’t get heat stroke! Beware of how strong the sun is in Hawaii. It gets very hot and after a day of jumping in and out of the water, you will be exhausted. Try to find a shady spot to rest in while you are out of the water. Also remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
- Leave no trace – When spending time on the beaches in Hawaii, make sure you respect the marine life both in the water and on land. In Hawaii, you will come across a lot of sunbathing seals. Make sure you keep your distance and respect their space. For a reminder on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, check out this article.
5 Best Snorkeling Spots on Oahu
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
This is a list of 5 of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu. Some of these spots, such as Hanauma Bay, are extremely popular and do get quite crowded, whereas others are off the beaten path such as Kahe Point and you will not come across too many people. All of these locations are pinned on the above map which you can open in Google Maps for directions.
Shark’s Cove (North Shore)
Shark’s Cove is a great little snorkeling spot located on the North Shore of Oahu. Here you will find sea turtles and loads of different kinds of fish! This spot does get a little busy with tourists, locals and is a very popular spot for families as it is well sheltered.
If you are looking to hire snorkeling gear for Shark’s Cove, you can do so from Surf N Sea which is not too far away from Shark’s Cove.
Don’t forget to look for the Aloha sign written in shells on the ocean floor! It is a great spot to take your underwater camera and get some fun pictures!
If you do make it to the North Shore, make sure you try Garlic Shrimp from one of the food trucks there! It is delicious!
Kuilima Cove (North Shore)
Kuilima Cove is located on the North Shore of Oahu right next to the famous Turtle Bay Resort and is a sheltered and peaceful spot for snorkeling. The cove is surrounded by rocks, making the area into a super large rock pool which is idea as it protects snorkelers from the waves and currents.
If you are looking to stay on Oahu’s North Shore, Turtle Bay Resort is an excellent choice! You may even recognise the resort from some big Hollywood movies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall! You can check prices and book here.
Hanauma Bay (Waikiki)
Hanauma Bay is a paid marine park in Waikiki which you can easily spend the entire day at or, if you get tired of the sun, just stay for a couple of hours. Hanauma Bay is on of the best snorkeling spots on the island, especially for families and so extremely popular. I recommend arriving early in the morning when the park opens at 6:45am to make sure you get a parking spot. The park closes at 4pm and is also closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to enable the fish and the bay to have 2 days of undisturbed rest. The park is currently approximately USD25 per adult to enter. The parking lot is also paid to use.
At Hanuama Bay, you will find loads of different kinds of fish and also an information stand with a marine expert on site at the beach to answer any questions you have. Our favourite type of fish was the State Fish of Hawaii, the Hoomahoomanookunookuapoowa! There are loads of these at Hanauma Bay and we had a great time trying to say it.
Hanauma Bay has a bathroom block located on the beach and you are welcome to bring your own cooler bag with lunch and drinks.
Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach) (Kapolei)
Electric Beach or Kahe Point as it is officially called, was our absolutely favourite snorkeling spot on Oahu! The beach is a pretty low key beach that you would probably not think twice about visiting if you drove past it. The reason that Kahe Point Beach Park is so special, is that it is located next to a power plant! The plant pushes out warm, clean water through two cooling pipes into the ocean making it a super popular spot for loads of marine life and therefore an incredible snorkeling spot! I think if I was a fish, I would make Electric Beach my home too because the warm water was lovely!
From the parking lot, you will need to walk down to the beach and find a spot for your things before heading out into the water. We had trouble finding the cooling pipe spot but eventually we realised that it was fairly far out. The best way to find it is to find the pipe and follow it out. There are lots of great fish to spot all the way along the pipe.
Kahe Point is not a great beginners snorkeling spot as there are strong currents and you have to swim out quite far to see the marine life. If you are a beginner snorkeler, I recommend avoiding Electric Beach this time around and perhaps opting for Hanauma Bay or a snorkeling tour.
Waimea Bay Beach Park (North Shore)
Waimea Bay is famous for its enormous 30-foot waves in the Winter but in the Summer, Waimea Bay turns into a turquoise paradise with much calmer water and is the perfect place for snorkeling! The centre of the bay is about 30-feet deep and has a sandy bottom. The best snorkeling at Waimea Bay can be found around the rocks on either side of the bay.
Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins often use Waimea Bay during the day to rest. If you see one, make sure you leave them alone to get their proper rest.
Go on a Snorkeling Tour
If you don’t feel like galivanting around the island by yourself, why not go on a tour? We actually did a tour as well as exploring the island ourselves. We love snorkeling tours in particular as the guides often take you to places you won’t have heard of.
🐬 This Dolphin Swim and Snorkeling Trip is the perfect combo of fun, excitement and learning about the Hawaiian culture on the way. Snorkeling gear and lunch and drinks are all provided!
🐢 This Turtle Canyon Snorkeling Boat Tour is the perfect way to snorkel with actual sea turtles! You will be provided with the very best high-end gear to use while snorkeling with sea turtles and tropical fish. Snacks and drinks are provided and the tour is 2 hours long.
🤿 If you are obsessed with dolphins like I am, this 3-Hour Dolphin Watching & Snorkel Excursion might be the perfect tour for you! This tour is guided by marine biologists and naturalists so you can learn all about dolphins and whales while searching for them off the coast of Oahu. Then you will get to go snorkeling with loads of colourful fish at one of the best reefs on the coast!
Both Dave and I think that Hawaii is the perfect holiday destination if you love snorkeling! You could spend hours exploring the island and finding all of the best spots! We especially love that there are loads of options for snorkeling like different tours and marine parks such as Hanauma Bay.
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