Oahu Things to Do: Best Snorkel Spots on Oahu
Oahu is an island paradise with over 112 miles of coastline, pristine beaches and countless areas for swimming, surfing and snorkeling. In this Oahu Travel Blog article, we detail just a few of the ‘Best Snorkel Spots on Oahu.’
Oahu is known for its miles of beautiful coastline, turquoise beaches, tropical forests, waterfalls and countless outdoor activities including Hiking, Surfing, Swimming and of course, Snorkeling.
Snorkeling is a wonderful way to enjoy the clear blue and calm waters of the many ideal beaches across Oahu and to see colorful Coral, Tropical Fish, Eels, and even SeaTurtles.
In this article, we'll introduce you to just a few of the 'Best Snorkel Spots on Oahu' along with sharing a few tips to make the most of your Snorkeling adventures.
What to know before you go!
If you are not an experienced swimmer it is a good idea to restrict your Snorkeling adventures to the calmer beaches and the beaches behind the protective seawalls like on Waikiki Beach. There are a number of other beaches with natural break walls that create a calmer body of water to enjoy a Snorkeling session. You can also opt to wear a life vest or similar floatation device if it makes you feel safer. Be sure to use only ‘Reef-Safe Sunscreen.’ On January 1, 2021, Hawaii became the first state to ban the sale of sunscreen containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate which are harmful to Coral and Reefs.
Snorkeling Equipment, Buy or Rent?
If you will be on Oahu for a week or more, it may be a good idea to buy a simple Snorkel set that includes Fins, Mask and a Snorkel at one of the local stores; Wal-Mart, Costco, ABC Store, etc. You can find a decent Snorkel & Fin set for $20 - $40 or more for a higher quality set. You can also rent a Snorkel & Fin set from a number of beach equipment rental spots located on some of the beaches and of course if you opt to go on a paid Snorkel Tour, the Tour Operators will provide you with all the equipment you need. If you do choose to buy your own Snorkel set you can keep it in the trunk of your rental car and when you come across a calm beach you can enjoy a quick Snorkeling adventure.
Should you go on a Snorkel Tour or go on your own?
This really depends on your comfort level for swimming and your budget. A Snorkel Tour is a great way to enjoy an organized excursion to a (typically) offshore location and a nice boat ride where you are likely to see Sea Turtles, Dolphin or even Whales depending on the time of year and the location of your Snorkel Tour. The Snorkel Tour will provide all the equipment you will need and the packages often include a snack and beverage as well. Also, the Snorkel Tour will take you to a location that is most likely to have fish and other marine life for you to view.
An alternative to an organized Snorkel Tour is to buy a Snorkel & Fin set and go explore the many beaches on Oahu on your own. If you are renting a car during your visit, it is a great idea to leave your Snorkel and Fin set in your trunk so that when you see a calm beach along your drive, you can enjoy a quick Snorkel session…sometimes it is the unplanned adventures that are most memorable.
If you plan to discover the ‘Best Snorkel Spots on Oahu’ – the following locations are great places to consider:
Shark’s Cove - Shark’s Cove, Haleiwa, HI 96712 – Website
This is a very popular spot to Snorkel and see a wide variety of marine life on Oahu’s North Shore area. The water quality is fantastic for visibility. As for the action of the surf itself, the water can be a bit rough in the winter months, but an experienced swimmer should not have a problem. Contrary to the name of this cove, you are not likely to see any Sharks during your visit, but you are very likely to see Eels, Tropical Fish, Sea Turtles, and Sea Urchins and other Sea Life. Sharks Cove is located between Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay. As part of your visit to Shark’s Cove, you may choose to include a visit to Waimea Bay and the wonderful North Shore town of Haleiwa for some lunch and Shave Ice.
Electric Beach (Kahe Beach) - 92-301 Farrington Hwy, Kapolei, HI 96707
Located at Kahe Point Beach Park, this local favorite beach is known as Electric Beach or ‘Electrics’ due to the power plant that is located near the beach.
You’ll find an abundance of Tropical Fish and a variety of Sea Life and even Sea Turtles. It is best to arrive either early in the day or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds and to have a better chance to see more Sea Life. The waters are usually calm and good for intermediate swimmers – but you should always be aware of changing conditions of the water and surf.
Hanauma Bay – 100 Hanauma Bay Road, Honolulu, HI 96825 - Website
This is perhaps the most desired and most popular beach area to Snorkel in all of Hawaii. This spectacular cove welcomes millions of visitors and over the years the Sea Life has been reduced and the Reef and Coral has seen damage from the vast crowds over the years, still this is an amazing experience for those wanting to enjoy a few hours or a day relaxing on the beach and Snorkeling in the crystal clear and calm waters. There are entry fees and you are now required to book reservations in advance – you can book and pay via the Website. Parking is $10 per vehicle with up to 7 passengers. Please check the Website for the latest information and updates to fees and services. Visitors can rent Snorkel Fins and Masks at the park.
Kaneohe Sandbar - 47-86 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, HI 96744
This beautiful beach and snorkeling area is one of the most popular on all of Oahu. A sandbar emerges during low tide in Kane’ohe Bay. The area is very popular for boats and water sports including Snorkeling. The calm clear waters are home to a wide variety of sea life, Tropical Fish, Eel, Rays, even Hammerhead Sharks and Sea Turtles.
Turtle Canyon – Located off Waikiki Beach
This spot is located off Waikiki Beach and is accessible by boat ride provided by approved tour companies. This reef is a favorite spot for Sea Turtles to eat, rest and clean themselves on the rocks as well as the fish who also clean the Sea Turtles. This location is not as plentiful with Tropical Fish and other Sea Life as some of the other beaches are but if you want to see Turtles, this is a great option for you. The Snorkeling Tours are offered by two Catamarans located on Waikiki Beach. The tour operators also provide the Snorkeling gear, Sunscreen, and limited beverages & snack. See their Website
Waimea Bay – 61-31 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712 – Website
Located on Oahu’s North Shore, Waimea Bay is a known in the winter months for its monster waves and world class surfing. During the summer months the water at Waimea Bay is calm and ideal for Bodyboarding, swimming and snorkeling. Waimea Bay is also a very popular destination for the moderate thrill seeker who wants to test their nerves by jumping off the famous black rock set at the edge of the bay. Snorkeling Waimea Bay is best when the waters are calm. You are likely to see a wide variety of Sea Life, Tropical Fish and even Sea Turtles.
So, which location is the Best Snorkel Spot on Oahu? The answer is, whichever beach you happen to be visiting – that is the best spot. Driving along the coast of Oahu you will see miles of beaches some will be very busy with tourists and locals and then you will find other beaches where you may share the entire beach with only a few visitors…and some wild Chickens, but that is for another article.
Our recommendation is to keep your Snorkel set in your rental car or in your beach bag so that when you find a beach with calm and clear water, you can enjoy a quick Snorkel session and likely see colorful Tropical Fish, Coral and other amazing Marine Life.
This Oahu Travel Blog article, ‘Oahu Things to do – Best Snorkel Spots on Oahu’ includes just a few of the best beaches and bays for snorkeling on Oahu. Be on the lookout for a follow up article that includes additional spots for you to enjoy a day of swimming and Snorkeling.
As always, if you have any questions about any of the wonderful beaches included in this article, please feel free to ask our Concierge for more information or additional suggestions.
Visit our Oahu Visitors Guide for more recommendations for all there is to do, see and experience when visiting Oahu.