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Where to find the best snorkeling in Oahu
If you’re looking for the best Oahu snorkeling, you’re in the right place. Obviously, Hawaii is a great destination for anyone who loves spending time in the water.
I already have a post with the 5 best places to snorkel in Hawaii. However, since Oahu only had one spot on that list, I thought it would be good to write a new post with the best snorkeling in Oahu.
Do I need a rental car in Oahu?
These Oahu snorkeling spots are spread out all over the island, so you’ll definitely need a rental car. I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices, and you can reserve now and pay upon arrival.
You might be hungry after snorkeling, so make sure to check out the best restaurants in Waikiki or The best restaurants in Oahu.
The best Oahu snorkeling
I have organized these Oahu snorkeling locations by location on the island. I have a couple of locations near the popular resort area of Waikiki.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Waikiki or where to stay in Waikiki, make sure to check out both of those posts.
Most of the best snorkeling is not near Waikiki. There are great spots to snorkel on both the West and East side of Oahu and the North Shore.
It’s important to remember that the waves on the North Shore of Oahu are famous for a reason, so use caution in any of these locations during the winter.
If you love adventure, make sure to check out the best hikes in Oahu.
The best snorkeling fear for Hawaii
I highly recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear to Hawaii. Even before everything going on in the world, I always thought that renting snorkeling gear was kind of gross.
Most tours provide sanitized gear, but I would still recommend bringing your own.
You can check out some of my favorites on my Amazon storefront or in the links below.
The best snorkeling in Waikiki
The best snorkeling in Oahu really isn’t in Waikiki at all, but there are plenty of Waikiki Hotels on the beach! Although snorkeling isn’t as great in Waikiki, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to surf, swim, or take a catamaran cruise.
If you’re looking for snorkeling in Waikiki, well, it’s not the best. Fortunately, Hanauma Bay, one of the best places to snorkel in Hawaii, is nearby.
Unfortunately, tours of Haunama Bay were banned back in 2020. You might think that getting rid of tours would limit the environmental impact, but unfortunately, the opposite might be true.
Without knowledgeable guides, tourists are more likely to hurt the fragile coral.
Although they aren’t allowed to do tours anymore, my friends at Pure Aloha Adventures offer guided snorkel tours and SUP lessons. Make sure to check it out!
If you do decide to snorkel Hanuma Bay on your own, please be mindful of the coral. Also, keep in mind that it’s illegal to touch to be too close to turtles, dolphins, and other sea animals.
You can learn more about animals in Hawaii here. I would also recommend checking out 20 things you should never do in Hawaii to learn more about protecting the coral and other sea life.
You might also enjoy the best Oahu Golf Courses
The best snorkeling in East Oahu
You’ve probably seen photos of this trendy beach. It’s one of the few beaches with good snorkeling on the east side of Oahu.
Lanikai Beach can have lower visibility, so it’s not my first choice for Oahu snorkeling, but it’s worth checking out if you’ll be nearby.
The Mokulua Islands off the shore of Lanikai Beach.
There is a protected reef and live coral, and it’s just an insta-worthy spot that you’ll want to check out. Lanikai Beach is not a park but in a residential area, so arrive early as parking is limited.
The best snorkeling in West Oahu
Makaha Beach Park
Makaha Beach Park offers great swimming, snorkeling, and surfing in the winter. Proceed with caution in the winter as there are better areas for newbies to snorkel.
Makaha Beach Park is one of the more popular beaches in West Oahu. However, it’s more of a local beach, so it isn’t likely to be very busy during the week.
Ko Olina Lagoons
The Ko’Olina Lagoons are four nearly-identical man-made lagoons located in the Ko’Olina Resort area. If you’re staying at resorts like Aulani or the Four Seasons, you can simply walk to this snorkeling spot!
One of the lagoons in front of Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa.
The best snorkeling on the North Shore of Oahu
Most of the snorkeling locations on the North Shore are only accessible during the summer. The inexperienced snorkelers should always be cautious when snorkeling in new areas.
If you’re visiting during the winter, don’t worry, there are plenty of other things to do on the North Shore of Oahu.
This protected cove is a great place to snorkel in the summer. During the winter, you may experience large wave breaks, so it’s not the best spot during that time.
This area is very rocky, so proceed with caution when you enter. The rocks are great places to fish to hide, and you’ll likely see a huge variety of sea life, making Sharks Cove one of the best places to snorkel in Oahu.
While Sharks Cove is one of the best places to snorkel in Oahu, it’s not the best for beginners.
Kuilima Cove is located on a beautiful white sand beach and is one of the best-sheltered spots for snorkeling in Oahu.
The cove is located on the eastern edge of the beautiful Turtle Bay Resort. Kuilima Cove is protected by a natural rock barrier making it one of the few places to snorkel on the North Shore during the winter.
Kuilima Bay is a great spot to snorkel with children and has great water clarity and a wide variety of fish.
If you’ve read my post about the best places to watch a Hawaii sunset, you already know about Sunset Beach. What you may not know is that Sunset Beach is also a great snorkeling spot on Oahu.
Sunset Beach is an extensive beach on the beautiful white sand, but it’s only recommended for snorkeling during the summer months.
Three Tables offers access to the best coral on the North Shore. You do need to proceed with caution and avoid this area during the winter months.
As always, do not step on the coral and avoid touching any sea life. I know that I mention this a lot, but it’s vital, and you’ll probably see me share about it again!
Snorkeling Tours in Oahu
If you prefer a guided tour, there are plenty of fantastic snorkeling tours in Oahu.
- Oahu Turtle Canyon Snorkeling Tour from Waikiki
- Snorkeling Cruise and Swim with Turtles
- Dive with sharks with One Ocean Diving
Does Oahu have the best snorkeling in Hawaii?
I realize that this might be controversial, but I’m often asked where to find the best snorkeling in Hawaii. Does Oahu have the best snorkeling? I’d have to say no.
Oahu has a much larger population and more tourism than the other islands. This means that the water quality isn’t always the best, and there are always larger crowds.
There are fantastic places to snorkel on Oahu, but they can be crowded. If you’re planning your vacation solely around snorkeling, I would recommend Maui or the Big Island.
Hawaiian black triggerfish at Molokini Crater on the island of Maui.
You can learn more about things to do in Maui, snorkeling Molokini Crater, or things to do on the Big Island while you’re at it.
The best Oahu snorkeling
I hope you enjoyed this post with the best snorkeling spots in Oahu. Want more things to do on Oahu? Check out:
- 10 best things to do on Oahu
- The best Oahu Tours
- The best pineapple farms to visit in Hawaii
- The 7 Best Luxury Resorts on Oahu
- 100 things to do in Hawaii | Hawaii Bucket List
More Hawaii Travel Tips
If you can’t get enough of Hawaii, don’t miss some of my top Hawaii posts:
- Is Hawaii safe?
- 10 things to know before going to Hawaii
- How much does it cost to go to Hawaii?
- What is the worst time to go to Hawaii?
- How to survive the flight to Hawaii
Planning a Hawaii vacation
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients for 2021. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I would recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
The best way to get Hawaii travel tips and the most current travel information is to sign up for my email list. I send out one weekly email with the latest news, travel deals, and more. Sign up below.
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