Oh hey there, fellow snorkeling enthusiasts!
I’m so excited to share with you my personal journey and discoveries of the absolute best snorkeling beaches in Oahu. Trust me; it took countless hours spent underwater with my beloved boyfriend, exploring every corner of this island paradise before we could finally narrow down our favorite spots.
You see, as avid snorkelers, we’ve experienced both the thrills and disappointments that come with searching for that perfect underwater haven. We know exactly what it’s like to be surrounded by crowds in popular touristy spots or face the fear and frustration of not finding any exciting marine life. That’s why we decided to create this ultimate guide just for you!
Having snorkeled all around Oahu, I can confidently say that these six beaches are where you’ll find an abundance of captivating sea creatures without having to compete for space in the water. Plus, I’ve included essential insider tips on how to access each spot easily and what time is best for an unforgettable snorkeling experience.
Now here’s a fair warning: After reading about these stunning locations and diving into their crystal-clear waters, it might be tough deciding which one is your absolute favorite – but hey, who says you have to choose just one?
So grab those fins and let’s get ready to plunge into Oahu’s amazing world beneath the waves!
Hanauma Bay Beach – Best Marine Life Hub in Oahu
Probably one of the most famous spots in Oahu for snorkeling is the Hanauma Bay Beach Park because it’s a marine life preservation area. So you can expect to swim alongside a range of sea creatures at this beach and even spot some rare marine species!
In addition, it’s located inside a sunken volcanic crater with incredible coral reefs and nearly 400 species of tropical fish, turtles, and moray eels, making it a favorite playground for snorkelers.
But since state authorities have put a limit on the number of daily visitors, it’s not easy to snorkel here unless you’re on a guided tour.
So my boyfriend and I have started taking guided tours to Hanauma Bay, like this half-day snorkeling tour at Hanauma Bay. It provides good quality snorkeling equipment, uninterrupted access to the waters, and early morning snorkeling times when the waters are clearest and crowd-free.
How to get here
This beach is on the southeast coast of Oahu, in the East Honolulu neighborhood of Hawaii Kai. You can get here by driving from Honolulu for nearly thirty minutes before reaching Hanauma Bay Road, from where there’s easy access.
Best time to visit Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is open year-round for visitors and has good snorkeling conditions, with some exceptions; it’s closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and holidays. Plus, winters can hinder underwater visibility, so try to come in the summer months.
In addition, tickets sell out quickly, so make sure to book yours at least two days before you want to go, or simply book a snorkeling tour and let them do the work for you.
Why Hanauma Bay is the best beach in Oahu for snorkeling
- There are incredible live coral reefs in the waters at Hanauma bay.
- The sunken volcanic crater makes for gorgeous scenery underwater, which you can film while snorkeling.
- The calm and shallow waters are ideal for families with younger children to snorkel in, plus there are always lifeguards around.
Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach) – Best Snorkeling with Turtles in Oahu
When it comes to snorkeling, you want to visit the beach which promises spotting turtles right from its name, and that’s Laniakea beach! It’s famously known as Turtle beach for the native Hawaiian green sea turtles that crowd its shores year-round, and you’re bound to snorkel with a few whenever you visit.
My boyfriend and I find the best way to visit Laniakea is with a tour, which allows you to explore the North shore and go snorkeling afterward. Here’s the tour we like taking, as it includes sightseeing, and you can use the tour’s high-quality equipment for snorkeling.
How to get here
Laniakea beach is on Oahu’s North shore, and you can get here by driving a short distance past Haleiwa town in North Oahu. If you’re driving from Honolulu or Waikiki, it’ll take an hour with easy directions from Google maps.
Best time to visit Laniakea Beach
The best time to visit any North shore beach for snorkeling or swimming is in the summer. That’s because winter is prime surfing season, and the waves are fierce, sometimes even dangerous for inexperienced swimmers.
So visit Laniakea beach in summer for calm and clear waters, and ideally at noon when there are the most sea turtles around.
Why Laniakea beach is the best beach in Oahu for snorkeling
- Laniakea beach is on the North shore, which is off most tourist radars, so you can snorkel here peacefully.
- You can spot turtles from the road as you drive to the beach.
- There are picnic tables on the beach where you can sit and relax after snorkeling.
- The calm and clear waters of the beach offer the best snorkeling conditions.
Mokulua Twin Islands – Best Secluded Snorkeling in Oahu
If you’re looking for the best place to snorkel uninterrupted in Oahu, head to the Mokulua Islands on the East shore. These two islets, Mokulua Nui and Mokulua Iki can be seen from Kailua and Lanikai beaches and have underwater lava formations which offer terrific snorkeling conditions. However, only Mokulua Nui is open for visitors during the day and requires a guided tour to reach its shores.
My boyfriend and I had our best snorkeling experience in Oahu from Mokulua Nui, which is accessible through this kayaking tour from Kailua Bay. You’ll get kayaking equipment from the tour and sail to Mokulua island on a self-guided or small-group trip with experienced guides.
Here, you can take in breathtaking views of the secluded isles, swim with turtles on Lanikai beach, spot birds from sanctuaries, and enjoy a deli lunch afterward.
How to get here
The best way to access the islands is through Kailua beach in East Oahu. You can drive to the beach from Waikiki on a 40-minute drive on the Pali Highway, which merges into Kailua Road and leads directly to the beach. Then, either rent paddle boards or kayaks to reach the isles or take a guided tour.
Best time to visit Mokulua Twin Islands
The early morning hours are the best times to snorkel at Mokulua islands, as you have to factor in kayaking to and from the islands to Kailua or Lanikai beach. We like setting off with a guided tour as early as 7 AM, as you can snorkel and explore and be back by 11 AM latest for lunch at the beaches.
Why Mokulua Twin Islands are the best in Oahu for snorkeling
- You can spot turtles, rock crabs, incredible coral reefs, and dolphins and humpback whales during the winter from the Mokulua islands.
- Its calm turquoise waters are ideal for beginner and experienced snorkelers.
- The islands offer incredible views of Kaneohe Bay which you can enjoy after snorkeling.
Shark’s Cove on Pupukea Beach – Best Shore Dive Snorkeling in Oahu
Shark’s Cove is known for attracting incredible marine life to its underwater rock formations, which makes it one of the best and most interesting snorkeling spots in Oahu. However, there aren’t any real sharks here, just a shark-shaped reef that gave the Cove its name!
Since it’s located on Pupukea beach, snorkelers can access the beach’s tide pools just south of the Cove, with tons of tropical fish and marine life in the surrounding waters.
My boyfriend and I love to snorkel at Shark’s Cove with a guided tour, which allows sightseeing on the North shore and exploring the calm waters, reefs, and pools of Pupukea. This terrific full-day snorkeling tour includes stops at famous landmarks in Oahu with an experienced guide.
How to get here
Pupukea beach is on Waimea Bay on the North shore, a 1.5-hour drive from Waikiki by car. You can make the trip yourself through rental cars or book the tour, which takes you on private vehicles and includes round-trip transportation.
Best time to visit Shark’s Cove
Like all beaches on the North shore, it’s best to visit Shark’s Cove during the summer, when the waves are calm and ideal for swimming and snorkeling. In addition, go early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the crowds, which are thickest at midday.
Why Shark’s Cove is the best beach in Oahu for snorkeling
- The Cove has great underwater visibility, which makes it ideal snorkeling conditions for beginners.
- It’s one of Oahu’s three marine life conservation districts, which means the sea life here is always plentiful and unafraid of visitors.
- Advanced snorkelers will love this spot, as they can go beyond the rock wall into deeper waters to see bigger fish.
Electric Beach – Best Advanced Snorkeling Beach in Oahu
Known locally as Kahe Point Beach, this snorkeling spot is close to a power plant, which gives it the name of Electric beach and offers the best conditions for experienced snorkelers. Underwater pipes form an artificial reef from the power plant that warms the water and attracts tons of marine life, making this beach the perfect snorkeling spot.
With some help from a tour, you can encounter schools of tropical fish, turtles, and even dolphin pods in these waters. So my boyfriend and I like to take a guided snorkeling tour to Electric beach, which is led by experienced guides that ensure you spot marine life.
How to get here
You can drive to Electric beach in West Oahu from Waikiki, which is a 40-minute drive on the way to Waianae, past Ko Olina Resorts. Park your cars at Kahe Point Beach Park, and follow the pipe entering the ocean at the beach. This will lead you to the outlet, which is about 100 yards out from the shore.
Best time to visit Electric Beach
Summertime is ideal for snorkeling at Electric beach when the waves are calm. However, strong currents and waves are common at this beach, so if the conditions don’t look good, don’t enter the water regardless of the month.
Why Electric Beach is the best beach in Oahu for snorkeling
- You’ll see fish like the blue spine, unicornfish, parrotfish, and bullethead from snorkeling at Electric beach.
- Advanced swimmers and snorkelers will love the challenge of swimming in strong currents to reach the snorkeling site.
- You can spot the fish from the water’s surface or dive deeper to see schools of them around the pipes.
Puaena Point Beach Park – Best Hidden Beach Snorkeling in Oahu
Minutes away from Laniakea beach on the North shore is the secluded Puaena Point Beach Park, which offers all the snorkeling wonders of Laniakea minus the crowds. This gorgeous beach offers incredible views of North Oahu and has shores teeming with Hawaiian green sea turtles.
The best way to enjoy snorkeling at Puaena Point beach is with a guided tour, such as this one which includes a circle island trip. We took this tour with our friends and had the most fun spotting tons of turtles and swimming in the warm waters of this beach.
How to get here
Puaena beach is a five-minute drive from Laniakea beach on the North shore. Simply set off from Honolulu to Haleiwa on the North shore towards Laniakea beach, and drive a bit further until you see the secluded shores of Puaena.
Best time to visit Puaena Point Beach Park
The best season for snorkeling at Puaena beach is in summer, as the winter waves are rough. In addition, noon is the best time for snorkeling as the sea turtles come out on the shores.
Why Puaena Point is the best beach in Oahu for snorkeling
- The secluded environment of Puaena allows uninterrupted snorkeling.
- It’s a great spot for beginners and families with younger children to learn snorkeling.
- The secluded beach has amenities like showers and restrooms, which you can use without waiting in lines.
Winding Up The Best Beaches in Oahu For Snorkeling
Whether you’re a beginner or have been snorkeling for years, you can find the best snorkeling beaches in Oahu from this article, which have great snorkeling conditions, secluded waters, and stunning views. Plus, you’re bound to encounter Hawaiian green sea turtles, tropical fish, and dolphins and whales during winter from snorkeling in these locations.
Looking for the best family-friendly snorkeling in Oahu? Head to Laniakea beach and Puaena Point beach on the North shore.
Want to experience advanced snorkeling conditions in Oahu? Try snorkeling from Electric beach.
Need to snorkel with the best marine life in Oahu? Head to Hanauma Bay beach.
Snorkeling from Oahu’s beaches is a treat for everyone!
Last Updated on April 3, 2023 by Brigitte