The Hawaiian Islands are all trendy among water sports fanatics, but the popularity of Hanauma Bay made Oahu the most visited one. While the increased number of tourists definitely affected the health of the ocean ecosystem, luckily there are still some nice places left that offer ideal conditions for some underwater exploration. If you are looking for the best snorkeling in Oahu, follow our tips on where to go and discover the rich marine life of Hawaii!
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Best time to snorkel in Oahu
The Oahu snorkeling season is May through September. These pristine summer months provide the best conditions for the entire family to enjoy calm waters and good visibility. The average sea temperature during these months is about 82 F/27.7C. The warm water allows you to feel comfortable staying in the water and exploring marine life.
Hawaii experiences frequent rainstorms from October to April every year. If you plan your vacation for this period, be prepared for the sun to hide behind the clouds which can affect the visibility underwater.
Oahu best snorkeling spots
Snorkeling on East Oahu is very limited due to constant trade winds and swell. Therefore, the best places to snorkel in Oahu are on the north and west coasts. Moreover, the island’s south side also features some decent spots to snorkel. Let’s see now what are these places!
Should you look for the best snorkeling in Oahu north shore, Kuilima Cove is our top recommendation. This unique place is located near the Turtle Bay Resort and offers ideal conditions for beginners. There are several hotels in the area that keep the waters and surrounding area clean and safe. You don’t need to be a guest at any of the nearby hotels because everyone is welcome to snorkel here.
Kuilima Cove snorkeling opportunities feature an enclosed rock barrier, calm waters and just a few waves. These features create the ultimate snorkeling experience for first-timers and families with children.
Looking for more snorkel spots in Hawaii? Read our other posts:
- Snorkeling in Kauai Island
- Maui snorkeling places
- Hawaii Big Island snorkel spots
- Molokai snorkeling guide
The Hanauma Bay is one of the most famous places in the entire Hawaiian Islands and probably the most popular of O’ahu’s beaches. This stretch of sand lies near Koko Head on the east side of Oahu in an old volcanic crater.
Whether you are an avid or a beginner snorkeler, expect to have a great experience here! In this nature preserve, you can be sure to see a wide range of diverse types of fish and other marine life while surrounded by nature. Thanks to the calm, shallow waters, Hanauma Bay is Oahu’s best snorkeling spot for everyone but especially fun for families with children.
Hanauma bay is a longtime favorite of water lovers, but sadly, the big number of tourists caused serious damage on the reef. In order to restore the marine life, the bay is a nature preserve now and only 3000 visitors per day can enter. There is an entry fee (12 USD) and everyone has to watch a short conservation video that explains the important dos and don’ts on how to protect the marine life. If you are looking for the best snorkeling in Oahu, Hanauma Bay is the place you need to visit!
Tip: If you have time head to the nearby Kaiona Beach Park too where you can swim with turtles!
Sans Souci Beach
Sans Souci is a prime location on Waikiki for water lovers with the nearby Queen’s beach. These 2 places definitely provide some of the best snorkeling in Oahu: there is even a marine conservation area located right off the beaches that runs parallel the shore for quite a long distance.
Out of these 2 spots, our pick is definitely the family-friendly Sans Souci. Just a short walk away from the touristy side of Waikiki, you can experience Oahu’s best snorkeling experience at this small sandy beach with a wide variety of Hawaiian reef fish species around such as butterflyfish, parrotfish and the famous Hawaii State Fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a!
This prime snorkeling location is popular among tourists and locals but try to avoid the area on days that the ocean has high waves. Go on days with flat water for ideal conditions and excellent visibility!
Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach)
This exciting snorkeling spot is located between Ko Olina and Nanakuli and considered the best snorkeling in west Oahu. The nearby power station releases warm water into the ocean that attracts sea life to the bay. You will see a variety of marine species as you navigate in the clear waters. Turtles and eagle rays are daily visitors at Electric Beach, but if you are lucky, you might swim into monk seals or a pod of dolphins too!
Snorkelers who come this location need to be strong swimmers because there aren’t any lifeguards on duty. Therefore, Kahe Point Beach Park is not suitable for families with young children. However, if you are a confident snorkeler, I’m sure you will spend long hours in the water since the warm current makes very comfortable swimming around.
Sharks Cove is a true gem of the island. This pretty spot on the North Shore between Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay offers some of the best snorkeling in Oahu. You get supreme visibility, calm waters and plenty of marine life to explore!
While the name of this cove actually has the word shark in it, you won’t need to worry because the cove is not connected to real sharks at all, its name comes from a story that the reef looks like a shark when seen from above. As a snorkeler, you only get the experience of swimming with various fish species as soon as you get through the rocky area and reach the drop-off.
Snorkeling in Sharks Cove is recommended in summer only, when the water is calm. However, this spot is popular in winter too when huge waves break into, since it is the prime surfing season.
Three Tables is a small beach in the North Shore area, not so far from Shark’s Cove and ranked as one of the best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling. Named for the three flat, table-like coral structures, this beach is a great place to snorkel for medium to experienced snorkeling fans.
The waters are teeming with marine life since the local law prohibit fishing here. The coral is beautiful, and there is a lot of coral marine life that can be seen here. However, this area is not as protected from the waves and currents as other Oahu coves, so the best is snorkeling here in the summertime when the water is calm.
Secret Beach is located on Kaneohe Bay, behind MCBH, the Marine Corps Base Hawaii. To access this area you need a military ID, but anyone can stay in the cottages right on the beach that are awesome for the price.
The beach area is small, easy and safe to snorkel even for kids and has extreme rich marine life with lots of coral and many turtles around! The best time going at high tide because at low tide the water is too shallow so you might damage the reef and hurt yourself.
Note: Oahu has another Secret Beach too in the Ko Olina Lagoon area that is accessible through the path leading to Sacred Beach next to the Ko Olina Four Seasons Resort (you need to walk over a rocky area too). This Secret Beach is a pretty secluded spot and also good for snorkeling: you can see not only turtles but also sea lions here.
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