11 Best Snorkeling Locations on O‘ahu

If you are on vacation in Hawai’i doing water activities on the beautiful shorelines is a must-do activity and should not be missed! These activities are often super easy to access and lots of fun to do in such a stunning location with great weather.

One of the best underwater activities for beginners and more experienced swimmers is snorkeling. 

11 Best Snorkeling Locations on O‘ahu

Snorkeling is a super fun vacation activity for anyone to try and with O’ahu having over 112 miles of gorgeous coastline as well as oceans filled with tropical fish and coral reefs. If you are in O’ahu, it is unlikely that you are far from an amazing snorkeling spot!

If you are planning to visit O’ahu, and you can not wait to try snorkeling, this guide will give you all the information you need to make sure this process goes as smoothly as possible.

This guide will cover the best snorkeling spots for beginners and more advanced participants, as well as spots best for all members of the family. You will also get some basic information on snorkeling to make sure you are prepared for everything.

If you want to go snorkeling on O’ahu and have the best time possible, keep reading!

Quick Answers For Snorkeling On O’ahu

Just asking; ‘where is the best place to snorkel on O’ahu’ is an overly simplistic question and can have lots of answers depending on different circumstances. There are some spots which are generally the most popular for this like Hanauma Bay and these spots can be quite busy.

But if you want somewhere more quiet, this will not be a good choice. If you are sure of certain aspects you want as part of your snorkeling experience on O’ahu, then this section will give you some quick answers!

The Best Spot To Snorkel On O’ahu For Starters

If you are just starting to learn to snorkel, there are two great locations to go snorkeling on O’ahu, these are Hanauma Bay, and the lagoons of Ko Olina. The locations tend to have calm water as well as being super easy to get to from the beaches.

These beaches are also overlooked by lifeguards for maximum safety. 

The Best Spot To Snorkel On O’ahu For Seeing Turtles

If you want the best chance to see turtles while snorkeling, the most recommended spots to go are Aweoweo Beach Park and the aptly named Turtle Canyon. The latter of these two is located offshore and can be reached by boat and even kayak.

The Best Spot To Snorkel On O’ahu For Kids/Families

Some of the most child-friendly spots for families to go snorkeling on O’ahu are Hanauma Bay as well as Kuilima Bay. On top of the calm waters these locations are blessed with, they also have plenty of facilities to make them accommodating towards groups with children.

The Best Spot To Snorkel On O’ahu To See Lots Of Fish Species And Coral

If you want to guarantee seeing a wide variety of aquatic life, the best two choices are Hanauma Bay and Electric Beach.

Hanauma Bay is lucky to be categorized as a Marine Life Conservation District and has been so for over half a century. Electric Beach on the other hand has a warm water discharge from an electric plant that works to attract plenty of different varieties of fish.

11 Of The Best Spots To Go Snorkeling On O’ahu

Now we have covered some quick recommendations, you may want to know more about some of the areas that have been mentioned, or you could be wondering if there are any more choices that have not been mentioned yet.

This section of the guide will go over 11 of the best places to go snorkeling on O’ahu and give you a good amount of information to let you know if this is somewhere you want to go snorkeling.

The snorkeling location in O’ahu we will be covering are; Aweoweo Beach Park, Electric Beach, Hanauma Bay, Ka’ena Point, Ko Olina Lagoons, Kuilima Cove, Lanikai, Sans Souci Beach, Shark’s Cove, Turtle Canyon, and Waimea Bay. Keep reading if you want details on all of these spots.

Snorkeling At Aweoweo Beach Park

This is a snorkeling point on O’ahu that is often overlooked, but should not be missed if you are close. Located in the north-west of O’ahu and is a great quiet spot to go snorkeling if you want a more peaceful experience. 

This spot is located in a more quiet residential area that is not as focused on dealing with tourist as busier areas, so make sure to drive and act respectfully and peacefully when visiting.

However, this does make it a great location for visiting families with plenty of picnic benches, green spaces, and playgrounds available when you want to take a break from snorkeling.

Snorkeling At Hanauma Bay

Compared to the previous choice, this is one of the most popular locations to go snorkeling on O’ahu. It is located in a nature preserve on the south-eastern coast of O’ahu. This is a great spot to visit if you are a family group, and you want a safe and beautiful environment to go snorkeling.

This area is also home to some of O’ahu’s most varied sea life as well as stunning coral reefs. There are also lifeguards on duty if you are worried about safety when snorkeling.

However, with this being such a popular choice, there is a high possibility that the area will get crowded depending on the time of day. If you want to get a good space, go before 8am or after 2pm to get the beach at a more peaceful time.

To enter, you will be required to watch a 9-minute instructional safety video as well as pay an entry fee of $7.50.

Snorkeling At Shark’s Cove

This is a naturally protected area that is perfect for swimming and is a great place to see plenty of variety in fish and coral as well as some stunning rock formations.

Do not worry about its namesake, as this cove is not overrun by sharks, but instead this name is because the shape of the rock formation occasionally looks like a shark if you look at it from a particular angle. 

Luckily, this is one of the three areas in O’ahu that is in a Marine Life Conservation District, with the other two being Hanauma Bay and part of Waikīkī beach.

This is great for sea activities as this means there is a guarantee for variety in aquatic lifeforms as well as the life that is there is less likely to fear humans.

The main downside to this spot is that it is only really viable during summer, with the conditions getting significantly rougher in the winter months.

Another issue is that nearby parking can be quite busy, so try to go at quieter times, like early morning or mid-afternoon. If you are an experienced snorkeler, you can go past the rock walls of the cove and potentially see even larger fish.

Snorkeling At Kuilima Cove

This is one of the north shore snorkeling locations on O’ahu and is popular all year round because of its rock walls blocking the disruption of any waves.

However, there can still be varying conditions, so if you are not sure about the safety, check with a lifeguard to get the confirmation you need.

This location is very close to the famous Turtle Bay Resort, which has been a filming location for a lot of popular movies, so make sure to check if any of your favorites have scenes shot here!

Snorkeling At Turtle Canyon

If you want to see turtles, true to its name, this is one of the best snorkeling spots to make sure you have the best chance of seeing them.

If you love coral, this spot also has dense beautiful coral formations that work to be a cleaning station for nearby turtles, which is why it is so likely to see turtles here.

The turtles get their shells cleaned by smaller fish that reside near the coral. This snorkeling location is offshore from Waikīkī but is easy to get to via catamaran, but you can also reach it on a sailing tour or even by kayak if you are confident enough.

Snorkeling At Ko Olina Lagoons

This is one of the best snorkeling locations if you are on the western section of O’ahu. This location is composed of 4 separate man-made lagoons and while they are small and slightly limited in scope, they are a great choice for beginners to see beautiful tropical fish in safer conditions than a lot of the other choices.

These lagoons are known to be calm, so if you are very interested in tropical fish, this is a great location to practice identifying various types of fish!

Snorkeling At Lanikai

While Lanikai is not seen primarily as a snorkeling location, it is a great location to do so. There are some rocks and coral not far offshore and the water in this location tends to be calm and clear, the perfect conditions for snorkeling.

The best location to snorkel on Lanikai beach is the public beach accesses located on Mokulua Drive that is between the intersections at Mokumanu Drive with Kaiolena Drive. 

Due to how calm and relaxed the waters are here, this is a great spot for beginners and kids to go snorkeling for the first time. However, if you are a more advanced snorkeler looking for something more intense, this is not the location to go to.

Also, visibility in this water can vary due to the fine white sand that makes up the beach.

Snorkeling At Waimea Bay

Waimea bay is infamous for its popularity with surfers, but on calm summer days the water can be incredibly calm and clear, with clarity rivaling a swimming pool.

These are the perfect conditions for snorkeling, so if you find yourself near this beach on a calm day, this is a great opportunity to explore the rock formations on this bay. 

This bay is also included in the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District, making it so the amount of fishing that can be done here is limited, meaning this bay has a varied group of aquatic life perfect for snorkeling.

If you are lucky, you might even be able to seen dolphins near the bay.

However, similarly to Shark’s Cove, this area is only suitable for snorkeling during summer, this is because of the high surf present in the winter season.

Snorkeling At Sans Souci Beach

This is one of the best snorkeling spots in Waikīkī and is included in the Sans Souci Recreational Park, which also holds the Waikīkī Marine Life Conservation District.

Similarly to other protected zones, the amount of fishing here is limited to make sure the aquatic biodiversity remains natural and also makes it so snorkelers have plenty to admire.

11 Best Snorkeling Locations on O‘ahu

This also makes it so the fishes present are not as scared of humans, making it easier to get a look at them up close.

This is a perfect choice if you are staying in or close to Waikīkī and even if you do not want to snorkel here, this is a great location to spot turtles and a wide variety of tropical fish.

Snorkeling At Electric Beach

Electric Beach (also known as Kahe Point) is a great snorkeling spot that is on the west side of O’ahu’s power plant. Because of this, there is an underwater pipe that provides warmer water into this section of the ocean, which is a couple of hundred yards off the shore.

Because of this unique temperature, there is a massive variety of wildlife that includes turtles and a massive variety of tropical fish, sometimes even sharks.

However, this is only an appropriate place to snorkel for those who are advanced and experienced. This is because reaching this spot takes a long swim offshore and there can be strong currents.

Snorkeling At Ka’ena Point

This snorkeling location is defined by its extensive rocky coastline, which makes exploring with snorkeling a great idea.

However, this spot does not have as much biodiversity as somewhere with conditions like Electric Beach, it does have plenty of crabs and crustaceans that are hidden between the rocks, which makes exploring the details rewarding.

The best way to get to Ka’ena Point is off the end of Farrington Highways on the western side of O’ahu. After this, just go to Yokohama Beach.

Make sure before choosing to snorkel here to pay attention to the surf, as currents and swell are likely to converge on the west and northern parts of the island.

Essential Information For Snorkeling On O’ahu

As previously mentioned, O’ahu is the most visited as well as the most highly populated island of Hawai’i and because of this significant pressure has been placed on the marine ecosystems as well as the reefs on this island.

When deciding to snorkel in O’ahu it is best to be aware and respectful of this to make sure you are not inconveniencing anyone else. 

As you can tell from the list, there is a massive variety of great places to go snorkeling on O’ahu.

But these have a variety of difficulty levels, with some perfect for beginners but boring for the experienced, while others are exciting for more advanced snorkelers while inaccessible and dangerous for those with less experience in snorkeling.

When choosing a location to go snorkeling, make sure to keep in mind what you want out of the experience when it comes to what you want to see, as well as how safe you need the location to be.

To help you with this, the next sections will cover some essential advice and information needed for snorkelers of any level, so make sure to read the next sections carefully to have the safest and most efficient experience.

Renting Snorkeling Gear

If you are an advanced snorkeler, this largely will not affect you, but if you are new, it is worth taking into account how much you plan to snorkel before buying a set of gear. You can get a full set for as cheap as somewhere between $20 to $30.

This is great if you do not like renting gear, but if you know you will not be snorkeling regularly, renting is a valid idea.

When renting equipment, it is best to avoid full face masks because many have said that using them is likely to be dangerous. There are plenty of snorkel rent locations around the island, so research which is closest and best-reviewed near where you are staying.

Some hotels and resorts will even have snorkel rent spots on site, sometimes even included in your bill depending on your package. If you are renting, you will likely be charged around $8 to $15.

Local Tips For Snorkeling

  • Beaches on the northern shore of O’ahu tend to be better for snorkeling during summer as the water tends to be calmer, however if you are visiting in winter, the southern locations will give you better conditions.
  • It is much easier to go snorkeling in the morning than the afternoon. This is because at this time the water and wind will be much more calm. In spite of this, check the weather every day before snorkeling.
  • If you are snorkeling, wear proper water protections clothing, for example a rash guard and reef-safe sunscreen. Some sunscreen markets as reef-safe but is not so check for ingredients containing zinc-oxide, this includes; oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate.
  • The best place to find fish is near rocks and coral, but when snorkeling near these locations, looks out for waves.
  • When snorkeling, watch out for waves, coral, sea urchins, and rocks when entering the water. The best place to get in will be a sandy strip of water.

Safety Tips For Snorkeling

  • Be properly prepared with good-quality gear. You will want; masks, defogger, fins, and proper sun protection. Also, having a fish ID card is great if you are looking out for them. Moreover, foot protection is a necessity depending on the environment.
  • Do not snorkel in high surf conditions unless you are confident in your experience. If you are just starting, start with shallow water and only go further out when you are fully confident.
  • Do not snorkel alone unless you are fully confident in your skills, but it is always recommended to go with friends or family. This is important in case of emergency.
  • If you are new, talk to the person you are getting your equipment from to learn how to use it properly and efficiently.
  • Go at the safest time of day, that is usually in the morning.
  • Be respectful of locals, the aquatic life, and especially the reef. Do not rest on reef, and instead wait until you have a sandy or rocky surface.

Takeaway

So this is some advice and recommendations on the best places to go snorkeling on O’ahu. If you want a more controlled experience, a snorkeling tour is a great idea and will give you all the guidance you need. And make sure to wear a properly reef-safe sunscreen and to follow all safety precautions!

Richard Ennis