Planning a Hawaiian vacation and looking to go snorkeling with turtles in Oahu? Then you’re in the right place!
Snorkeling in Oahu is a ‘must-do’ activity for any traveler, and there is no better place than the crystal clear waters off of the island of Oahu to get up close to these incredible sea turtles or ‘honu’ as they are called locally here in Hawaii.
We’ve spent over a year living and exploring the beautiful island of Oahu and snorkeling is one of our favorite family activities. In this article, we will discuss what you should know before embarking on your snorkeling adventure with turtles in Oahu.
From safety tips and equipment recommendations to the best spots (even a secret spot) and marine life etiquette, we’ve got all your turtle snorkeling needs covered! So grab your gear and let’s dive in!
First up though I want to mention that Oahu does have a public transportation system but it is quite limited, so to be able to maximize your time and experience on Oahu it is best to rent a car. I wrote a detailed guide about everything you need to know about renting a car in Hawaii.
Now, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about snorkeling with turtles in Oahu before we get to the top spots.
This post about snorkeling with turtles Oahu contains affiliate links, which means if you decide to make a purchase I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Can you snorkel with sea turtles in Oahu?
The answer is yes absolutely! Sea turtles live abundantly in the waters off the shores of Oahu. Knowing where to go and when will give you the best chance of spotting these unique creatures in their natural habitat.
Let’s be honest is there anything better than watching these beautiful sea turtles?
What is the best time to snorkel with turtles in Oahu?
You can snorkel with sea turtles year-round in Oahu. But during the summer months are best, typically between June and August, when the waters are warmer.
Turtles are most active during this period and can be seen basking in the sun near shallow.
As far as what time of the day is best to snorkel with turtles – it really doesn’t matter. Turtles are active at all times of the day. The afternoon tends to be less crowded so you may have a better chance to get up close.
However, it is important to remember that these animals are wild and therefore it is essential to approach them with caution and respect their space.
What type of sea turtles live in Oahu?
Five species of sea turtles live in the waters off Oahu. These are the Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Leatherback Sea Turtle, and Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.
The most commonly seen in Oahu are the Green Sea Turtle (Honu) and the Hawksbill. The real highlight though is the Green Sea Turtle which is native to Hawaii and can reach lengths of up to 4+ feet and weigh up to 300 pounds!
Where is the best place to snorkel with the turtles in Oahu?
Oahu is loaded with marine life, especially sea turtles. It’s possible to spot sea turtles all along the coastline of Oahu so but the best places to snorkel with turtles in Oahu are:
Top 5 Best Places to Go Snorkeling with Turtles Oahu
1. Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)
Located on the north shore, Laniakea is unofficially known as ‘THE’ Turtle Beach on Oahu, and for good reason. This little piece of paradise just could be turtle heaven on earth.
The protected waters here are teeming with green sea turtles and you can often find them basking in the sun just offshore. There are so many turtles at Laniakea that designated persons are assigned to rope off areas to protect the turtles on the beach should one (or two) decide to take a nap.
- Pro Tip: It can get quite crowded on the beach in the afternoon when the tours show up to spot turtles from the shore. It’s best to arrive early to be able to find a piece of sand to set up on.
- How to Get There: To get there head north to to Laniakea Beach and park off of the main road opposite the water. Carefully cross the street to the beach.
2. Electric Beach
Another solid ‘go-to’ for snorkeling with turtles is Electric Beach (Kahe Point Beach Park) on the west side of the island. The name of this beach comes from the fact that there are two power plants located just offshore and their warm water outlets attract plenty of marine life, including sea turtles!
The best time to snorkel for turtles here is early in the morning before the wind picks up which can make the water a bit rough. Electric Beach is also a popular place to spot other fascinating creatures like manta rays, dolphins, and even sharks!
- Pro Tip: The currents can get to be quite strong so make sure to have the proper gear and be mindful not to drift too far out and of course use the buddy system!
- How to Get There: Go west on the Farrington Highway to Kahe Point Beach Park where you can find parking in the parking lot or off the side of the road. Go through the pavilion toward the fenced cement water-holding structure. The beach is adjacent.
3. Shark’s Cove
Located on the north shore, Sharks Cove is one of the top snorkeling spots in Oahu.
The calm and shallow waters here are a favorite spot for sea turtles and you can often find them grazing on the shallow sea grass. This is also a great spot to see colorful tropical fish, eels, and more!
- Pro Tip: Sharks Cove has two different areas good for snorkeling. The main shallow protected cove and then to the right just outside the cove. We have spotted most of the turtles on the right side.
- How to Get There: Go north to Shark’s Cove and park in the limited parking spaces or alongside the main road. The main cove is visible from the parking lot.
4. Lanikai Beach
The beautiful Lanikai Bay located on the east side of the island is another hotspot for sea turtles. The crystal clear waters, white sand bottom, and the unique abundance of coral mounds make for a perfect snorkeling experience.
The best places to spot the turtles are around the coral balls since there is a rich food supply for them.
- Pro Tip: Lanikai Bay is protected by a large coral reef making it a great snorkel spot for kids.
- How to Get There: Head East toward Kailua to Lanikai Beach. There is no public parking lot available so you will need to park on the side of the road in the residential area. It can be tricky to find a spot but be patient and considerate to to block any driveways.
5. Turtle Canyon
Last but certainly not least is Turtle Canyon. Just off the Waikiki coast sits Turtle Canyon Reef which is known to be a natural cleaning station for sea turtles. I can almost 100% guarantee you will see a Green Sea Turtle and maybe even a Hawksbill.
All of the above locations can be done DIY but you will need to access Turtle Canyon by boat so make sure to book your Turtle Canyon Snorkel Tour well in advance of your trip since they do fill up!
The best time to spot turtles here is during the early morning hours right after the sun rises. The underwater visibility can be great and if you’re lucky enough, you may even get to witness some turtle-cleaning behavior!
- Pro Tip: It’s best to book the earliest tour time possible since the waters are generally calmer.
- How to Get There: The tour boats will leave from Honolulu. Check with your tour operator for instructions.
*Secret Turtle Snorkeling Spot Oahu* Kewala Bay
I selfishly hesitate to share this somewhat secluded turtle snorkeling spot because it is one of my favorites. Located on the north shore near Turtle Bay Resort is Kewala Bay.
I love it because it’s off the beaten path so the chances of having a more intimate snorkeling experience with turtles are high!
This beautiful bay with white sand beaches is a bit tricky to find but once you do you will be rewarded with an abundance of sea turtles swimming around in the shallow protected waters.
- Pro Tip: We’ve snorkeled with turtles all over the bay but most of our sightings have been near the edges by the Turtle Bay Pillbox.
- How to Get There: Go to Kuilima Farm and park near the fruit stand off the side of the main road. Directly across from the fruit stand you will see an opening in the fence. Go straight past the big Banyan tree directly to the water.
Should I bring my own snorkel gear to Hawaii?
Yes, you should 100% bring your own snorkel gear on your trip to Hawaii. Rentals are available but the condition and functionality can be questionable. The last thing you want to worry about when you are in the water snorkeling with turtles is your gear malfunctioning.
I realize that snorkel gear does take up quite a bit of space in the luggage but at the very least bring your own mask and snorkel. You can always rent some fins once you arrive or if you do a tour they usually always include them.
Best Travel Snorkel Gear to Bring
If you don’t already have your own snorkeling equipment, I highly recommend getting a well-made set that will last you for years. My top picks for adults are the Cressi Palau Short Fin Set which includes a comfortable mask and snorkel, short fins, and even a mesh carrying bag.
For kids, we use and recommend the Cressi Junior Snorkeling Set which we find perfect for kids 4-8 years old. I also can’t live without this anti-fog mask spray.
No matter what kind of setup you choose, just make sure it is comfortable and fits properly so it won’t leak while you’re out snorkeling!
How much is it to snorkel with turtles in Oahu?
The guided Oahu snorkeling tours usually cost between $80 and $200 a person. But, one of the best things about Hawaii is that even though it can be expensive for airfare and accommodations there is a ton of free or cheap activities to do. Snorkeling is one of them!
All of the spots for snorkeling with turtles listed above except Turtle Canyon can be done on your own. However, I do highly recommend splurging a bit on this Turtle Canyon Snorkeling Tour especially if you have kids. You won’t regret it!
Which beach has turtles in Oahu?
As you can see there are many places to snorkel with turtles in Oahu but there are only a few beaches where you can see the turtles dozing on the beach regularly.
The best beach for turtle spotting is Laniakea Beach. This beach is easily accessible and located just off the main highway on the North Shore of Oahu. It is a favorite spot for tourists to come to check out the many friendly turtles here.
What month is best to see turtles in Hawaii?
You can see turtles year-round in Hawaii but the best time to see them is during the summer months of May, June, July, and August. During these months you will be able to get up close and personal with them as they come out from their hidden spots in the sand to sunbathe!
Is it legal to swim with turtles in Hawaii?
Yes, it is legal to swim and snorkel with turtles in Hawaii but you must do it responsibly. Turtles are protected and it is illegal to touch, harass, or feed them. Respect their home and don’t disrupt their natural habitats.
Also, be mindful of the environment around you when snorkeling with turtles in Hawaii. Make sure to stay away from any coral reefs that could potentially get damaged by your fins or other equipment.
Following these rules is important to keep our oceans healthy and protect the beautiful wildlife that lives in them!
In a Nutshell – Snorkeling With Turtles Oahu
Snorkeling with turtles in Oahu is an amazing experience that should not be missed. From the stunning beaches of Laniakea to Turtle Canyon, there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with these gentle creatures. Whether you choose to go on a tour or explore independently, make sure you follow all the rules and respect their environment. And don’t forget to bring your own snorkel gear; it may save your experience! Oahu is a beautiful island and home to these incredible sea turtles (Honu), let’s do our part in preserving it for generations to come by responsibly enjoying nature and its wildlife.