Snorkeling is one of the most popular water activities in Hawaii. Whether you are a mermaid in the water or can barely float, there is a beach for you in Oahu.

For your Hawaii snorkeling adventure, here are the 7 best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling suitable for all levels, from children and beginners to expert snorkelers. 

You don’t have to be a certified diver to encounter marine life. Just don a mask and wade in to meet turtles and tropical fish up close and personal!   

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7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling (for all skill levels) | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

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Best Snorkeling Tours on Oahu

From Honolulu & Waikiki

From West Coast (Ko Olina)

From North Shore

#1.​ Kaneohe Sandbar

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Kaneohe Sandbar | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Kaneohe Bay sandbar, also known as Ahu O Laka, is the world’s largest naturally formed saltwater sandbar. It is surrounded and protected by the coral reef, which makes it a perfect area to snorkel.

This secluded area is only reached by boat. A boat sails to Oahu’s hidden spots with the scenic background of the Ko’olau Mountains, Gilligan’s Island and Chinamans Hat (Mokoli’i). Here, you will see Hawaii’s diverse marine lives surrounding gigantic coral reefs.

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Kaneohe Sandbar | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Peel your eyes open. Do you see a turtle?

You must hire a private boat or sign up for a tour to get there. On the bright side, this also means that you will have a semi-private snorkeling experience with a limited number of people.

Plus, an organized tour usually provides all necessary snorkeling gear, including snorkel, mask, fins and life jackets. Besides the epic snorkeling experience, sandbar activities include volleyball, barbecue lunch on the boat and turtle watching.

Hours: 10:30 am – 2:30 pm (no tours on Sundays & public holidays)

Location: [Open Google Map]

#2.​ Waimea Bay Beach

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Waimea Bay | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

​Waimea Bay Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the North Shore. And it is my second favorite snorkeling spot in Oahu. 

During summer, the water is calm enough for swimming and snorkeling. The gorgeous sandy beach features crystal-clear blue water. In the center, I had high visibility in super clear water; seeing the ripples on the sandy bottom was unique. I recommend snorkeling both sides of the bay around the rocks to observe more aquatic life.

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Waimea Bay | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

You can dive off the rock, too! Watching people jump is also fun.

Be aware that the water gets deep pretty quickly from the shore. Also, winter is not the time for snorkeling here; the waves can be as high as 30 feet, making this an excellent destination for experienced surfers.  

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> Waimea Beach can be crowded in high season. Join this Waimea Bay Snorkeling tour if you fancy snorkeling away from crowds but closer to turtles and dolphins.

#3. Hanauma Bay

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Hanauma Bay | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Hanauma Bay is the most popular snorkeling beach in Hawaii and the most beautiful beach near Diamond Head. The bay boasts stunning scenery with a white sandy beach, palm trees, and turquoise water.

The Nature Preserve is famous for being the habitat for the most diverse fish on Oahu. And the calm shallow water makes it accessible to children and beginners to safely snorkel here.

The underwater visibility could be better, but it gets better further out. While you can spot some fish near the shore, you have to swim out to the reef anyways.

Reservation is required here. This popular spot is open to 3,000 visitors per day. Also, the bay is closed each Monday and Tuesday to preserve the environment.

Insider’s Tip

  • The reservation opens at 7 am HST two days in advance. Each 10-minute window has 30-35 tickets only. It is highly competitive, so open the browser with your credit card in hand and refresh at 7 am sharp to secure the spot. All spots get filled up within the first 15-20 minutes. Note that all sales are final, with no exchange or refund.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to park and line up before admission. Parking is also super challenging. And no late entries are allowed. For an 8:15 am slot, I showed up at 7:30 am. But about 30 cars lined up from the highway to the parking lot. I barely made it. Once you get in, take trams down to the beach.

Admission: $7.50 per person over 12 years old (2.35% service fee for credit card payments)

Parking: $3 for non-residents. Cash only. Limited, first-come first-serve basis.

Hours: Wed-Sun 6:45 am – 4 pm daily (last entry at 1:30 pm), closed Monday – Tuesday for fish feeding.

Location: [Open Google Map]

#4.​ Shark’s Cove

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Shark’s Cove | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

​Shark’s Cove on the North Shore is a local’s favorite snorkeling and diving spot. The stunning coral beach with dramatic cliff views is ranked the Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World by Scuba Diving Magazine.

Don’t let the name scare you away. The name comes from the shape of the reef. You probably will not see any sharks there. Instead, be ready to capture sea turtles and fish on your Go Pro.

Generally, Shark’s Cove is recommended for intermediate snorkelers as they can go beyond the rock wall to enjoy more aquatic life. Enjoy tamed waves in summer. But stay away from the North Shore’s infamous big waves during the surf season (October through April).

There are only a handful of parking spaces. It is best to go early, like before 9 am. By 9:30 am, the highway around the area gets seriously jampacked!

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> Oh, do I hear you want to see some sharks? Join shark cage diving. It is one of the most popular activities on the North Shore.

#5. Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach) 

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach) | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

​Laniakea Beach is the most famous white sand beach on the North Shore for turtles.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles prey on seagrass and algae around coral reefs in the morning. Around noon, they come out to the beach to bask in the sun. (Touching or getting close to these turtles is strictly prohibited by law.)

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach) | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Where coral reefs are, diverse marine life is found, such as turtles and fish. As you might have guessed, Laniakea Beach is the best place to snorkel with turtles in Oahu.

It can be crowded in summer for turtle spotting and in winter for surfing. Parking can be challenging; however, you can find parking lots and street spots nearby if you are willing to walk a little bit.

Location: [Open Google Map]

#6. Kuilima Cove

Kuilima Cove is another famous snorkeling beach near the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore.

Unlike the other North Shore locations, Kuilima Cove is the most sheltered and serene snorkeling spot. The natural rock barriers surrounding the cove keep the water calm year-round. The neck-deep water remains clean with high visibility. Therefore, it is an ideal snorkeling place for children and beginners.

Location: [Open Google Map]

#7. Mokulua Islands 

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: The Mokes | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Mokulua Islands, affectionately called the Mokes, are twin islands off the coast of Kailua Beach along Oahu’s East Shore.

It is not necessarily a snorkeling destination; however, the islets are surrounded by coral offshores. And you may have serendipitous encounters with turtles.

The best way to reach the secluded beach is by kayaking from Kailua Beach Park. It takes about an hour one way. You can enjoy the stunning coastal view in peace and take a break as often as you wish.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Packing List for Snorkeling in Hawaii

22 Essential Things to Pack for Hawaii: #9 Snorkeling Gear | #Hawaii #Hawaiipackinglist #BeachVacationPackingList

The snorkeling gear we bought did not fog up! You can clearly see our faces, although it’s not my favorite selfie (We look foolish! haha.) I’m wearing a rash guard swimsuit, Gull mask and snorkel. Big O is wearing a Tusa Mask and snorkel.

Snorkeling Gear

Don’t buy snorkeling gear if you think you want to go snorkeling once. You can rent it in Hawaii.

But if you plan to snorkel a few times on the island, you should invest in a reliable mask and snorkel set. I brought my trusty snorkeling set (anti-fog mask and snorkel) for hygiene and convenience.


I doubt anyone would go to Hawaii without a swimsuit. But I was so surprised at how chilly it can get in the water in the middle of summer in Hawaii! To protect you from wind and sun, I recommend either wearing a long sleeve rash guard shirt on top of bikini, or putting on a long sleeve rash guard swimsuit.

Reef Safe Sunscreen

Wear reef-safe sunscreen and preserve marine life in Hawaii. Read more info on this and a list of Hawaii-approved reef-safe sunscreens here >>

Waterproof Camera

Buying Go Pro Hero and Floating Hand Grip was my best travel investment. The underwater scene in Hawaii is so beautiful, and you will want to capture what you see.

For a full packing list, see my thorough article: 22 Essential Things to Pack for Hawaii >>

Bon Voyage!

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling (for all skill levels) | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii