Best Places to Snorkel in Oahu – 7 Top Spots!

Oahu is undeniably one of the most beautiful islands to visit in Hawaii. Endowed with powder-soft sand beaches, warm pristine waters and a serene environment, Oahu Island is a true paradise for many holiday-makers. Oahu’s ocean surface water temperature usually ranges between 77 and 83F, making it a perfect snorkeling spot throughout the year.

Marine life is also plenty in this part of Hawaii, which is an added bonus to your snorkeling adventure. If you wish to enjoy a fun-filled group snorkeling experience, then you can book your trip with one of the best snorkeling tours in Oahu.

Most of the tours usually provide food, snorkel gear, snorkeling lessons, and educational commentaries. So it can be worth it to spend a few extra bucks for an all-inclusive snorkeling experience. Here is a list of the best snorkeling spots that you can visit in Oahu:

1. Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is by far the most famous snorkeling beach in Oahu, thanks to its high marine fish population, calm shallow waters, and powdery white sand. Located on the east side of Oahu, the bay is protected from waves and wind all year round, making it a perfect spot for both novice and seasoned snorkelers. Hanauma Bay boasts of colorful fish, exotic marine life, and crystal clear waters.

Visitors are usually charged an entry fee of $7.50. However, residents, military personnel, and children under 12 are always allowed free entry. Upon admission, guests are required to watch a video that provides safety and educational information prior to entering the beach.

One of the marine laws highlighted in the video is that snorkeling in the water shouldn’t touch or step on the fish, turtles, coral, or reef. Nonetheless, you can explore a range of beautiful marine fish including parrotfishes, wrasse, cardinalfish, triggerfish, snapper, trumpet fish, sturgeon, and more.

Note: Hanauma Bay is usually closed on Tuesdays, so you should schedule your trip on any other different day of the week.

Hanauma Bay Preserved Park

2. Shark Coves

Sharks Cove is a small rocky bay that’s located on the Oahu’s world-famous North Shore. The cove is highly distinct because of its pristine blue waters, interesting underwater rock
formation, and huge schools of needlefish and mullet that swim close to the shore. The period between October and April is considered the official surf season at Shark Coves as waves are high during this time.

So if you want to enjoy snorkeling in the bay, then summer can really be a good time to plan your trip. Unlike Hanauma, Sharks Cove is less regulated i.e. there’s no entry fee charged or video to watch before accessing the beach. All you need is your snorkeling equipment and the courage to jump into the aquamarine waters of the bay.

The variety of fish at Sharks Cove is similar to that in Hamauna hence the snorkeling experience here can be great too. Going on an early morning snorkeling adventure at Sharks Cove can be huge fun, as the bay is usually less crowded at this time. The best time to visit the bay can be between 9 and 10 am. You can always grab a snack from a food truck or shops across the street once you’re done snorkeling.

Shark Cove in Oahu

3. Makua Beach

Located on the far west side of Oahu, Makua Beach is one of the most secluded, underdeveloped, and less crowded white sandy beaches in Hawaii. Most visitors never get a chance of visiting this gem because there are no tour buses that go there. However, you can always drive to the beach through the beautiful and scenic Waianae coast.

Since Makua’s waters are almost untouched and its environment quiet, it can be a great place to swim and snorkel. If you visit the beach in the morning, you might be lucky to spot a pod of spinner dolphins. Enjoying a tranquil and undisturbed day can never be better in this part of Hawaii.

Makua Beach in Oahu

4. Sans Souci

San Souci is a tiny but beautiful beach situated in Kapiolani Park, just 15 minutes from Waikiki by foot. If you’re looking for a less crowded, relatively safe and easy-to-access
snorkeling area, then this can be a perfect option.

When the tide is low, you can venture deep into the waters and enjoy the spectacular scenery of colorful fish and thriving corals. There is plenty of marine fish on the left side of the beach but you should be a lot more careful as there are strong currents in this channel.

Sans Souci beach in Oahu

5.Ko Olina Lagoons

The four lagoons of Ko Olina can provide a perfect spot for you and your friends to go snorkeling. These man-made caves are protected, fairly calm, and boast of crystal clear waters.

Though the lagoons have no coral formations, there are tons of fish in their waters including Moorish idol, wrasse, tang, butterflyfish, goatfish, and more. That means you can still enjoy a magnificent snorkeling experience in any of these lagoons. You can always choose the least crowded one for a fun-filled to enjoy even greater fun.

Ko Olina Lagoon Beach in Oahu

6. Kuilima Cove

If you’re a novice snorkeler who’s looking for a sheltered and serene place to snorkel in, Kuilima can be a perfect spot for you. The cup-shaped cove is located on North Shore, beside the eastern edge of the Turtle Bay Hamilton. It is enclosed by a natural rock barrier, which protects the beach from strong waves and winds.

The cove is lined with both rocks and corals, which plays host to a range of marine fish species. Some of the unique types of fish that can be found in Kuilima Cove include needlefish, damselfish, unicornfish, boxfish, perch, big eye, and more.

There is also a range of crustaceans and invertebrates that can be great to watch in this cove. With all these, the snorkeling experience here can no doubt be fun-filled.

Kuilima Cove in Oahu

7. Makaha Beach Park

Makaha Beach Park is a serene park located on the leeward (west) coast of Oahu. The snorkeling experience at this park is exceptional, especially during summer when the ocean is calmer. However, for you to enjoy a perfect snorkeling experience, you might need to
launch deeper into the ocean.

There’s also a turtle cleaning station located roughly 100 meters away from the main beach, where you can look at turtles and other amazing sea creatures. Makaha beach waters can basically be great for exploration, for seasoned snorkelers or scuba divers.

Makaha Beach Park in Oahau

Tips for Snorkeling Safely In Oahu Waters

  1. Never snorkel alone. It is always important to snorkel with a couple of friends so that you monitor one another. If you happen to lose track of one person from the group, you can surface to locate him/her.

2. Checking whether there are lifeguards on the beach you’re snorkeling can also go a long way in guaranteeing your safety.

3. Be cautious on the ocean conditions before venturing deep into the waters. Sometimes there might be strong waves and currents on the waters, something that might make snorkeling quite challenging. So be sure to check out for the calmness of the sea before you jump into the waters, especially during winter.

4. Lastly, gauge your snorkeling skills and abilities before launching into specific spots. If you’re a beginner in snorkeling, then it can be advisable to snorkel in areas that shallower. But if you’re going down the ocean flow with a snorkeling expert, who’s teaching you how to snorkel, then that might be okay. But you should never bite more than you can chew, especially when trying to snorkel alone.

What to Bring For Snorkeling In Oahu

When going for a snorkeling adventure Oahu on your own, you should carry

Note: If you’ve booked your trip with the snorkeling tour providers, then you might not need to carry all these items as most of them are provided onboard.

Why You Should Snorkel In Oahu

Snorkeling at any of the beaches in Oahu gives you an opportunity to explore the abundant marine life that’s only unique to this part of Hawaii. You can always come along with friends, family, and/colleagues for a super fun snorkeling experience.

Group snorkeling trips can also strengthen family bonds and/or reinforce team-building among friends or colleagues. So it’s a huge opportunity to have fun even as you learn about the ecology of the area.

In Conclusion

Now that you know everything about snorkeling in Oahu, you can go ahead and plan your next trip to this beautiful island. Whether you love it busy or serene, you can always find a perfect spot in Oahu to snorkel in. And what’s more, most of the beaches are usually open to the public, which means you don’t have to dig deeper into your pocket for a fun-filled snorkeling experience.

Want More Snorkeling Spots? 

Subscribe to Cruising Sea newsletter to receive every two-week the latest post straight to your inbox

What about you? Do you know other beautiful snorkeling spots? If so, you are welcome to share your experience in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Best Places to Snorkel in Oahu – 7 Top Spots!”

  1. I have never been to Oahu , but it’s on my list. I was surprised when I was in Maui how much people were left to their own devices and I wish more snorkel spots offered education and rules to protect the marine life like Hanauma Bay. The entry fee seems high but I guess the education costs have to come from somewhere.
    I have done a lot of snorkeling in Maui, Mexico, Cuba and the Mediterranean but I have never seen a turtle cleaning station. For that reason, Makaha Beach Park would be one of my top snorkel spots in Oahu.
    Do you have a favorite?

    • Hi Amy,

      Yes, Hanauma Bay is great as it educates people the marine life protection. I personally think that the entry is relatively cheap since there are a lot of amenites you can use. My favorite spot is Sans Souci because it is less crowded and the area is pleasant for snorkeling.

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a lovely day! 

  2. Thank you for illustrating these snorkel spots! I am planning a trip to Oahu next year and love to snorkel and SCUBA dive.

    I was wondering, are there any shallow wrecks around Oahu? That would be cool to check out too.

    I like that you mention using biodegradable sunscreen. Great tip. I am quite the conservationist and can appreciate you mentioning that.

    I am really interested in a few of these spots and will definitely check them out next year. At least I have some ideas now on where to go. We don’t usually do snorkeling tours or charters. We prefer to journey out on our own, so this helps a bunch.


    • Hi Danielle,

      You are very welcome. It’s a pleasure!
      Yes, there are shallow wrecks in Oahu such as the San Pedro, which is about 80 feet depth, or the Baby Barge which is 85 feet depth and few other sites but there are a bit deeper.

      Awesome, I am glad this article has given you some ideas for your next trip to Hawai Oahu:)

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a fantastic day!

  3. wow, i truly enjoyed visiting your site. lots of helpful and wonderful information for those visiting or new to the place, and brings back a ton of memories for someone like me. a good reminder that my visit is long overdue. the content is great, and the images and videos are spectacular.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for the kind comment, I appreciate! 
      It’s always good to hear that readers find the content helpful:) 

      I wish you a wonderful day!


Leave a Comment