Snorkelers hitting up Oahu are in for a real treat. There’s tonnes to discover from the shores of the beaches themselves, without the need for fancy boat trips and day excursions.
Snorkelers of all levels, as well as kids, can easily access the abundance of tropical sea and coral life on this island, with each beach having its own thing to offer. Expect to see lots of stunning views and topography, unique sea life populations, and everything from hustle and bustle to peaceful tranquility.
It’s worth noting that Oahu is an extremely popular tourist destination and has a huge population compared to other Hawaiian islands. For that reason, the health of the sea and coral life here isn’t as great as it is on other islands. That said, there’s still a lot to enjoy from the mountain ranges, the turquoise waters, and the great atmosphere. So here’s where you’ll find the best places to go snorkeling in Oahu!
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Best places to snorkel in Oahu
Ka’ena Point State Park
Where: Western Oahu Details: A beautiful beach that’s quieter than others in Oahu, here you can snorkel on white sand beaches with mountain views all to yourself. There aren’t as many varieties of fish here as other snorkel sites in Oahu, but there is lots of unique marine life to discover, and it’s worth it for the peace and quiet.
The swells on this beach may be too strong for kids and beginner snorkelers, so only hit the waves on a calm day.
Showers, bathrooms, and lifeguards on-site.
Where: Kapolei Details: Crystal clear blue waters with some of the best visibility in Oahu, Kahe Point is home of Oahu’s largest fish populations. The waters here are warmer than out in the open ocean thanks to a nearby electric plant, attracting unique sea life that makes for great snorkeling. Protip: Kahe Point is a resting ground for Hawaiian spinner dolphins. That’s right, dolphins! Keep an eye out for these beauties resting in the calm waters with their young.
This snorkel site isn’t recommended for children or beginners as it requires a bit of swimming and the waves and currents can be difficult.
Where: Waikiki Details: This is one of the world’s most visited snorkeling spots with over 3,000 visitors a day! If you don’t mind sharing the water with thousands of other snorkelers (and fish), Hanauma Bay is definitely worth a visit. There is a huge variety and lots of fish here, and they’re used to human interaction – meaning you can sneak in some good photos! The beach itself is beautiful but due to its popularity, the health of the coral life isn’t the best. If you’re after vibrant colours then this may not be the best spot, but if you want fish then this is it!
There is a $5 entry fee per person when entering the park (free for under 13 and Hawaiian residents with ID).
You can snorkel from anywhere along the beach, but try to enter from the sand as the reef can extend straight onto the beach.
For more information on snorkeling in Hanauma Bay and the kinds of sea life you can expect to see, this is a great article.
Showers and bathrooms on-site.
Ko Olina Lagoons
Where: Kapolei Details: These beautiful lagoons are a great spot for beginner snorkelers and kids, making a great family snorkel destination in Oahu. The waters are very calm and protected, and you’ll still get to enjoy all the fish and some turtle life – though there isn’t any reef or corals to see here. You will, however see urchins, barracuda, goatfish, wrasse, and other sea life.
There are four lagoons to explore with trails connecting each,
There are also a few resorts around the area, which means it can tend to be crowded – if you’re after quiet snorkeling time, you won’t find it here!
Showers and bathrooms available at each of the lagoons.
Where: North Oahu, next to Turtle Bay Resort Details: One of Oahu’s most peaceful and sheltered snorkel spots, this beach is perfect for beginners and those wanting a quieter time away from all the tourists. The cove is protected by a natural rock barrier on either side, making for calm waters with great visibility. You’ll find lots of corals on the seabed and an abundance of fish and sea life – the waters are so calm and clear here you’ll feel like you’re swimming in an aquarium as you float amongst needlefish, goat fish, and more.
This spot is also known as ‘Bayview Beach’.
There is a beachside hotel offering food and drinks as well as shower and bathroom facilities.
Where: Pupukea Details: Rated as one of the best shore dives in the world by Scuba Diving Magazine, this rocky beach has calm waters and lots of sea life to discover. The best spots to snorkel are along the boulders and cliff walls surrounding the cove, where you’ll find small caves and lots of parrotfish, damselfish, eels, turtles, and more. While this is one of Oahu’s best snorkel sites and most popular beaches, always check for swells on the day and beware of currents.
The entrance to the beach is quite rocky and conditions can be dangerous for young children, it’s better to have them wade in the tide pools on the south side of the cove.
Bathrooms and showers on-site,
Lots of shops nearby.
Where: Haleiwa Details: Beautiful waters for snorkeling, a quiet shoreline, and some of Oahu’s best soft corals are waiting to be discovered at this spot. Three Tables is named after the three table-like coral formation that lie in the water just off the beach, and that’s where all the snorkeling happens. There’s interesting topography, colorful corals (although patchy), and a good fish population to swim amongst. You’ll find the usual fish as well as the chance to spot squid, turtles, coris, cornetfish, moray eels, gray drummers, and more.
Try to stay near the tables when snorkeling this spot, as it it’s quite easy to move away from them due to the current. That said, beware that the surge doesn’t push you over the top of the tables – your best bet is to stay between them and the beach! You’ll still get all the views.
Bathrooms, picnic areas, and water on-site.
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