Best Places to Snorkel on Oahu
Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Crystal clear waters and abundant marine life make Hawaii a true snorkeling paradise! If you love being in the ocean like me, I recommend carrying your snorkel gear with you at all times because pretty much every beach is worth exploring underwater! Endless fish, sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, it's just incredible!
Here's a list of the places that I have snorkeled on Oahu and some important information so you can make the most out of this experience:
First and foremost:
Be respectful with the wildlife. Keep your distance and NEVER touch or feed the animals, for your safety and theirs.
Tips & What To Bring
While some locations offer rental equipment, you're likely to spend more to rent than if you buy and bring your own gear. So my main tip is: buy a snorkel set and save yourself some $$!
Here are 3 main essentials not to forget so that you can better enjoy Hawaii's marine paradise:
1- Snorkel set (I got ours at Amazon - you can find good quality mask sets for about $20-$30, or visit your local Walmart or Target)
2- Reef Safe Sunscreen (it goes without saying that in Hawaii you'll get a sunburn if you don't apply sunscreen frequently)
3- Underwater/Action Camera (I am hands down a GoPro fanatic for all things underwater/ sports but my phone is also water resistant and offers pretty good video quality)
Shark's Cove was Oahu's sweetest surprise for me. We drove by a few times and decided to stop and check out the tide pools = best decision in this trip! There's an impressive amount of fish, the water is so clear and oh- just take me back!
There's a small parking lot right on Kamehameha Hwy so you can just park and go swim. It also features public restrooms and showers. It's important to check the tide before going in as conditions can change abruptly here, and there's no lifeguard on duty. Make sure there's no large swell coming in.
Ps. Just across the street there are some AMAZING food trucks, including Pupukea Grill - one of my favorites on the North Shore.
You don't need to be a guest at Turtle Bay to enjoy the beach over there, plus parking is free and located inside the resort!
This small, protected from large swells bay called Kuilima Cove is one of the best places to snorkel in the North Shore and a great spot to spend a day by the beach with the entire family, but keep in mind that it can get very crowded, so arrive early! In most areas, the lagoon is only head deep, but still tons of fish and sea life hang out here :)
They also have a bar with nightly music greatly known for local cocktails.
Lanikai is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Hawaiian islands and its name literally translates to "heavenly sea". Trust me on this one, the white sand and turquoise water will definitely take your breath away. It's by far the most beautiful beach I've ever seen.
I've read in many blogs that Lanikai is a little overrated and that neighboring Kailua is just as gorgeous, without the crowd. Not sure if we got lucky but the day we visited Lanikai it was not that crowded, and even though Kailua is indeed beautiful and offers parking and a better infrastructure, there's something special about Lanikai that I just can't put down to words. I highly recommend visiting it, even if you're not snorkeling here.
Hanauma Bay is the most famous of all snorkeling beaches because of it's high fish population, and close location to the city. Make sure to look at current ocean conditions, the day we visited there was a moderate swell hitting in, and so the visibility was bad and quite dangerous to swim over the reefs. On a flat day, this is said to be a beyond stunning experience.
You can rent snorkel gear directly at the beach for $20, so again, I recommend bringing your own equipment and saving some dollars. But, it's good to know there's an option to rent in case you don't have your own diving mask.
From the parking lot, it’s a short steep walk to the beach.
Note: Hanauma Bay is closed every TUESDAY so that the fish and bay have 1 day of undisturbed rest.
Admission: $7.50 per person (Kids 12 & under are FREE)
Park Hours: Entrance is from 6 am to 6 pm daily