10 Spots for the Best Snorkeling in Oahu

On Oahu, you don’t need to travel far to explore the underwater world – one glance at a map will confirm that.

Oahu is one of the best places for snorkeling on all of the major Hawaiian islands and you’ll find some of the most pristine waters filled with fish just waiting to meet you.

From calm bay areas perfect for beginners to more challenging spots for experienced snorkelers, here are some of the best spots for snorkeling in Oahu.

1. Kahe Point Beach Park

Located on the west side of Oahu and about 5 minutes drive north of Ko Olina Resort, this beach should top your itinerary if you want an exceptional snorkeling experience.

The area is popularly known as Electric Beach, a nickname that it gets from an electric power plant that’s just across the street.

This power plant is what makes Kahe Point Beach one of the most unique snorkeling spots on the island.It outpours water inshore through huge cooling underwater pipes.

At the opening of these pipes, the water is several degrees warmer than the rest of the ocean and this warmth attracts shoals of marine life.

So in addition to the beautiful reef, you’ll see lots of tropical fish, eels, and even turtles!

That said, it’s important to note that this spot is best left for avid swimmers and snorkelers as it involves a long swim through strong currents.

Kahe Point Beach Park
Kahe Point Beach Park Photo by Thomas Jundt

2. Queens Beach 

If you want to ditch the crowds and share a beach with just a few heads, Queens Beach is a great spot to stop by for a peaceful adventure within the Waikiki area.

Also known as Sans Souci Beach, it boasts gorgeous white sand and clear blue water with a stunning backdrop of San Souci Recreational Park.

The park offers lovely space for relaxing on a grassy area lined by palm trees.

Sunsets are also phenomenal from this beach.

Oahu Snorkel Tour with Turtles

Want to be carefree and be one with the ocean? This snorkel tour in Oahu might just be what the doctor ordered.

It’s not your average snorkel tour – they take luxury and comfort to the next level aboard a 50-foot yacht.

You'll enjoy a fun-filled day snorkeling in crystal-clear water, spotting sea turtles and colorful fish along the way. 

And to top it all off, this tour keeps you fueled up with food and drink throughout the day.

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3. Ko Olina Lagoons

Featuring a series of four crescent-shaped coves that are just a short stroll between each other, Ko Olina Lagoons is the best-kept secret in Oahu.

This area comprises several beachfront resorts that offer public beach access. Although only one of the four lagoons is truly public, it’s still possible to access all of them.

It’s no secret that the ocean can be a dangerous place but this lagoon is encased by artificial breakwaters, keeping swimmers safe from rip tides.

This place is excellent for a family with kids as they can swim safely and wade about in this open-air aquarium.

Try your hand at spotting colorful fish, turtles, and even Monk seals!

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4. Secret Beach

Lanikuhonua’s Secret Beach isn’t the easiest to get to but it’s a great option if you’re looking for a turtle snorkeling adventure that’s off the beaten path.

Located within the Ko Olina resort area (between Sacred Beach and Paradise Cove Beach) this natural cove is protected from the ocean and a great place for beginner snorkelers.

Note: you’ll need to wade your way through some rocks before getting to this beach so it’s not ideal for families with younger kids.

Waianae Coast
Waianae Coast photo by Stephen Downes

5. Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach is one of the best places for snorkeling and swimming but the waters can be a little bit choppy so be sure to check the conditions before you go.

In addition to a stunning bay, there’s a beautiful beach park behind Makaha Beach with astounding views of the landscape.

If you’re looking for a truly unique way to experience marine life, try booking a snorkeling cruise along the Waianae Coast.

This is by far the best way to spot a variety of fish species, dolphins, and turtles. Not to mention, it’s an incredibly fun and relaxing experience!

6. Three Tables

This beach gets its name from three giant flat-top, table-like coral reefs that are just 50 feet offshore and can sometimes be spotted from the bay at low tide.

This beach is part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, which prohibits fishing around this area.

The reef is teeming with colorful fish of all shapes and sizes. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle or two.

And judging by the number of people in the water with snorkels and fins, it seems like word has gotten out about this little snorkeling spot!

So if you’re looking for a place to get up close and personal with some marine life, Three Tables is the perfect spot.

7. Shark’s Cove

Also located in Pupukea not too far from Three Tables, Shark’s Cove has been the North Shore’s best-kept secret for years.

But now that the word is out, this secluded little cove is getting more popular by the day. And it’s no wonder why – the snorkeling here is simply incredible.

The waters are warm, the visibility is impeccable and the number of fish and sea turtles is awe-striking especially if you go during high tide.

It’s truly a snorkeler’s paradise, and it’s no wonder that Shark’s Cove is one of the most popular snorkel spots on Oahu.

Getting in and out of the water can be very tricky because there are lots of sharp lava rocks that can cause cuts, so be sure to wear water shoes.

If you don’t have snorkeling gear, there’s a shop nearby stocked with everything you might need for your snorkeling adventure.

Shark’s Cove is a family-friendly site; there are decent restrooms and showers, plus you’ll find food trucks lined up on the road.

But the main attraction here is definitely the underwater world. So put on your best snorkeling gear and dive right in!

Sharks cove
Shark's Cove photo by Thomas Shahan

8. Kuilima Cove

This well-protected cove is nestled on the eastern side of the beautiful Turtle Bay Resort.

While this part of North Shore is frequented by people for its legendary surf spots, Kuilima Cove is fantastic for snorkeling all year round too!

The bay is protected on one side by a huge rock that extends into the ocean, making the waters very calm and clear.

Despite its small size, this cove boasts an impressive amount of coral – and all of it is incredibly vibrant and healthy.

The calm waters make it a great spot for novice snorkelers, but even experienced swimmers will be impressed by the sheer number of fish swimming around.

In fact, you’ll probably have trouble keeping track of all the different kinds of fish you see!

Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or a first-timer, Kuilima Cove is sure to delight.

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9. Turtle Canyon

Just off the coast of Waikiki, you’ll find the Turtle Canyon reef – and if snorkeling with turtles is on your bucket list, this is the place to go.

You’ll be swimming with more sea turtles than you can count!

In fact, Turtle Canyon is known as the ‘cleaning station’ where endangered Hawaiian green turtles come to have their shells cleaned by small fishes.

It’s a relaxing experience for them – and an incredible one for us humans to witness.

This place is only accessible by boat, so you’ll need to book an excursion with one of the snorkeling tour companies in the area.

But trust us, it’s worth it. Swimming with turtles in their natural habitat is an unforgettable experience.

10. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

A protected marine conservation area since 1967, Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in Oahu and it’s easy to see why.

The bay is home to a colorful reef and an incredible amount of sea life, making it the perfect place to see eels, sea urchins, and tropical fish in their natural habitat.

Because the bay is such a popular tourist destination, make sure you book your tickets at least a day in advance to avoid missing out!