A guide to the best places to snorkel on Oahu, Hawaii.
General: Kid Friendly
|Guide Series: Best Snorkeling Beaches
Hanauma Bay is one of the most famous, and most visited, snorkeling spots in the world. Historical photos show many large finned fish caught here 70+ years ago, but today Hanauma Bay is a protected sanctuary. There is a mandatory video presentation that all visitors must watch before being allowed to visit the beach. To preserve the reef, visitors are informed how to tread lightly to protect the fragile ecosystem. Stepping on any reef in Hawaii is a frowned upon as it damages corals, but it's especially important in the shallows of Hanauma Bay.
The selection of fish is diverse with yellow tangs, parrotfish, eels, and a myriad of other colorful creatures. It's a perfect spot for first-time visitors to Hawaii as there are lifeguards and the bay is protected from large swells. When the water is calm, it's one of my favorite places to snorkel. However, when there are large swells on the east side, the water can be churned up which can reduce visibility. More at: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Beach Park
Electric Beach is named after the power plant that sits just offshore. Two large pipes extend along the ocean floor that expel warm water that cools that plant. Fish love to swim around the warm water creating a unique environment to view many small colorful fish. Early in the morning, you may see pods of spinner dolphins. Electric Beach is popular with both snorkelers and scuba divers alike. Be advised that the flow from the pipe is strong, so be careful not to swim directly in front of it. Unless you are a strong swimmer, you should use fins in this area and consider a boat tour instead of swimming out. Be sure to check out ocean conditions before heading out since it can get rough. More at: Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach)
Sure, it has an unusual nicknamed but don't let that worry you. Beautiful and long with white sand, Pray For Sex Beach (which is really Pray For Sets Beach) is enjoyed by campers on the weekends. It's also a great spot for both fishing and snorkeling. The bay here is also a resting spot of pods of dolphins in the morning. Dolphins hunt at night and seek refuge in coastal bays in many parts of Hawaii. More at: Pray For Sex Beach (Makua Beach)
If you're visiting the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina or Aulani A Disney Resort And Spa, then be sure to give snorkeling try. The lagoons are protected by a man-made reef, which makes it one of the safest places to venture in the ocean in Hawaii. When the visibility is clear, you'll be able to see a variety of colorful fish near the edges of the reef. Great spot to introduce the keikis (kids) to snorkeling. If you're not staying at one of the resorts, it's best to arrive early to secure parking, which is limited. More at: Snorkeling at Ko Olina
Another beginner beach for snorkeling. You can rent snorkel gear at the stand that backs the beach. The beach is primarily enjoyed by guests of Turtle Bay Resort. Kuilima Cove is a small beach, that is generally safe for swimmers due to the long natural rock reef that protects if from large swells. Lots of small fish and turtles can be spotted. More at: Kuilima Cove / Bayview Beach
This is one of the best beaches for snorkeling in Waikiki. It's a white sandy beach in front of The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. Plenty of colorful fish are attracted to the reef a 40 yards offshore. This beach is also the starting point for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, which is the worst day to enjoy snorkeling! More at: Kaimana / Sans Souci Beach @ Waikiki
Shark's cove is the most popular beach for snorkeling on the North Shore. The snorkeling is best on the right side (when facing the ocean), near the cove's entrance. This is a beach that is best visited during the summer when the conditions are very calm. The west side of cove is shallow for those that want to explore a reef diverse with creatures. Be careful though - the reef is jagged. Watch your step and wear water shoes. More at: Pupukea Beach Park / Shark's Cove Beach
Don't forget to bring your mask, fins, snorkel. Of course, you may want to first read Should I Bring My Own Snorkel Gear To Hawaii? along with How To Snorkel if you're new to snorkeling. Finally, and this is a huge one, don't forget to bring sunscreen with you to Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer and read Hawaii Dangers - Read Before You Go.
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