Without a doubt, snorkeling in Oahu is one of the favorite activities for visitors, but how can you know the best spots to visit?
Sure, every guide will say theirs is the best, but how do you really know? With a bit of research before you travel (or even after you arrive in Hawaii) you’ll be able to choose the best spot for your Oahu snorkeling adventure.
Take a look at this list of our top Oahu snorkeling spots. We’ve provided a look at each spot, their unique characteristics, and an overview of the pros and cons. With these tips and recommendations you can be sure to find the best location based on your skill level, travel style and where you’re staying on Oahu.
1. Hanauma Bay
Location: The east side of Oahu near Koko Head.
One of the top spots you’ll hear or read about when looking for the best snorkeling in Oahu is Hanauma Bay. There are many different tour providers and guides who offer snorkeling packages in the area.
Arranging things like transportation from your hotel will be easy, and often affordable. Do keep in mind, though, the location is set inside a nature preserve. Those over the age of 13 and non-residents of Hawaii will have to pay a very small fee to enter the area.
The spot is known as the place to get the most bang for your buck, though. In other words, you’ll see the most fish, and the most diverse types of fish for your time and money. Keep in mind that sometimes the area can become crowded with tourists.
2. Queens Beach / Sans Souci Beach
Location: Right next to Waikiki next to Kapiolani Park
These two beaches are the easiest to get to for Oahu snorkeling if you’re staying in Waikiki. There is a marine conservation area right off the beaches, and it extends for a while down the shore.
These are also great spots to fit into a busy Oahu itinerary, as they’re near other Waikiki attractions. The Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, and many more hotspots are very close by.
You’ll find a good variety of fish and coral; word to the wise though, this is not the place to be if there are strong waves occurring during your visit. Your time is best spent elsewhere, as strong currents make it difficult to observe the beautiful marine life.
3. Kuilima Cove
Location: Oahu’s North Shore near Turtle Bay Resort
Kuilima Cove is the best snorkeling in Oahu for beginners, or those who have never even snorkeled before at all. It’s also quite close to several popular hotels, which makes getting there even easier.
The waters are calm, as there are very few waves thanks to an enclosing rock barrier. This gives you great visibility! The depth rarely goes over your head, so weak swimmers and children are safer here.
The areas surrounding the cove actually belong to hotels in the area, so are very well kept. But have no worries – you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the snorkeling!
4. Sharks Cove
Location: Between the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore
Sharks Cove is an Oahu snorkeling spot that’s both highly rated and acclaimed. Snorkelers around the world heap praise on Sharks Cove for its great shore snorkeling. The calm waters and supreme visibility, paired with the wide array of marine life, make it a great Oahu snorkeling experience.
Just like Hanauma Bay, though, Sharks Cove can get a little crowded with tourists. If you can brave the crowds, go in the summer and avoid the area during prime surfing season. Usually the fall through the spring is when there are the most surfers.
During surf season, the spot can develop a very strong, dangerous current. One last thing – you won’t need to worry about any sharks at this cove, though there are some shark cage tour operators nearby!
5. Three Tables
Location: Close to Shark’s Cove between the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore
Three Tables is a praised Oahu snorkeling spot, but is recommended for those with a little bit of prior snorkeling experience. It’s not very beginner friendly, so if you’re new to this stuff you’d fare better elsewhere.
The Three Tables name is derived from the table coral lining the beaches, which is where you’ll be snorkeling. The area does experience strong waves and currents. Occasionally, these currents will be so strong that you’ll most definitely want to stay out of the water.
However, when conditions are fairly calm, you’ll find a great fish population thanks to no-fishing laws in the area.
6. Kahe Point Beach Park
Location: Between Nanakuli and Ko Olina on Oahu’s West Coast
If you visit Kahe Point Beach Park, you’ll find both Oahu snorkeling and diving, right in one area. This makes it a great spot if your travel companions are a bit split on how they want to spend their day in the water.
The water clarity is quite good, and the warm currents emitted by a nearby power plant attract lots of different sea life. Be warned, though, that there are typically no lifeguards watching the area, and the waters do require a lot of swimming.
Taking this into consideration, strong swimmers and advanced snorkelers will be fine. Novices may want to try another fantastic Oahu snorkeling spot from the options above.
Want to go snorkeling in Oahu? How about with some Dolphins?
Of course, if you’re interested in snorkeling, then be sure to check out our Dolphin Swim Tour, Dolphins and You, that provides an opportunity for you to snorkel with dolphins on the West Coast of Oahu. Just click here to learn more.