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Snorkeling ranks high in popularity among the water activities in Oahu and all of Hawaii. There are many welcoming beaches, warm white sand, and clear waters that are simply difficult to ignore, especially for the snorkeler.
If you enjoy snorkeling and you plan to visit Oahu (or you’re already there on vacation), you want to know the best spots for your leisure ocean activity. We invite you to check out this overview of the very best Oahu snorkeling locations.
But before you grab your favorite snorkel and hit the water, be sure you have a clean bill of health and your heart-health, in particular, is in tiptop shape.
1. Kaena Point State Park
Location: Between the Waianae Mountains and the Pacific Ocean
A trip to Keana Point State Park brings you to a postcard-perfect white sand beach that stretches over a mile. It is the best spot for snorkeling in Oahu if you prefer a place with little to no crowds. There are only a few people there at any one time, which means lots of space for your beach towel.
Kaena Point State Park is not just about gorgeous beach sand; there’s quite a good number of marine life, too! Thankfully, the clear blue water gives you more than enough visibility to see the fish as you snorkel in the water.
Snorkeling depth goes down to between 8 and 15 feet deep, but make sure to bring kids only on calm days. You will see some of the marine life while snorkeling at Keana Point State Park includes goatfish, squirrelfish, surgeonfish, triggerfish, damselfish, turtles, crustaceans, and wrasse, Moorish idol, and more.
Remember to bring snacks and drinks because there are no stores nearby to buy them. Finding parking is typically a non-issue because there are usually few cars on the parking lot. Most people coming here prefer to park their cars along the sand. Showers and restrooms are located next to the parking lot.
2. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Location: Southeast of Oahu, near Hawaii Kai
Everyone should have the unique snorkeling experience of the Hanauma Bay at least once, regardless of whether they are a beginner or advanced snorkelers. Why? Just imagine a white sandy beach, calm shallow water, and a high fish population – that’s a fair picture of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, one of Oahu’s best snorkeling spots.
Beachgoers of all ages will enjoy snorkeling in this old volcanic crater that houses the most fish in all of Hawaii. There’s no worry about encountering dangerous or aggressive fish because the ones here are the tamest on the entire island.
Wading into the water is pretty easy because the shoreline is incredibly calm. The shoreline is nearly all-white sand, and if you swim just a short way out, you will be right in the clear water.
Enjoy peeking into the caves and crevices of this living museum with all types of fish, many of which you may never have seen or even imagined.
One more thing; non-residents of Hawaii and those aged 13 years and above are required to pay a small entrance fee.
3. Sharks Cove
Location: Between Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore
One of the most famous and popular Oahu’s snorkeling spots, Sharks Cove is ideal for the intermediate snorkeler. Clear visibility, calm waters, and rich marine life make it an excellent snorkeling location in Oahu.
As you may have guessed, Sharks Cove’s popularity means it can get a bit crowded on occasions, but that doesn’t matter once you’re underwater. This is not a sand beach, though. The entrance is notably rocky, so you want to watch your steps as you get in the water.
Here’s a quick insider tip for cleaning your snorkel: if you forget to bring your mask defog, grab a few naupaka leaves growing near the public showers, squeeze and rub them inside your mask. Rinse the leaves off when you’re ready to snorkel, and your mask will be fog-free!
4. Kuilima Cove
Location: Right next to the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore
There are not many spots on the islands better than Kuilima Cove when it comes to the best snorkeling in Oahu for beginners. Popularly known as the “North Shore” and internationally famous for its surfing spots, there is a huge possibility that you will in love with the sheltered and serene location.
The water here is calm because the natural rock barrier encloses the clove and protects it from the waves. This gives the water a crystal clear quality. Swimming underwater in Kuilima feels like being in an aquarium! Plus, the depth hardly goes over your head, making it safe for novice swimmers and children, too.
The beautiful white sand beach is close to several popular hotels, making it easier to get there and also making the surrounding well kept. There is usually no crowd in Kuilima, so you don’t have to worry if someone is taking notes about your snorkeling skills, and there’s definitely enough room for your beach blanket.
You definitely want to include Kuilima Cove on your places to visit list if the idea of lounging on a gorgeous white sand beach after lazily snorkeling in crystal clear water appeals to you.
5. Three Tables
Location: Between Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline close to Sharks Cove on Oahu’s North Shore.
Three Tables is the best snorkeling in Oahu for the advanced snorkeler. That’s partly due to the occasional strong waves in the area. Even experienced snorkelers need to stay out of the water during very strong currents.
The best times to go snorkeling here is between May and September, when the water just about 15 feet deep. There is a no-fishing law in the area, so when conditions are fairly calm, you can get to see lots of colorful fish and marine life, including underwater arches, ledges, and lava tubes.
The name derives from the three table-like coral formations lining the beach, giving it an attractive backdrop and definitely one of Oahu’s most attractive and best snorkeling. It is best to swim near the table-like corals when snorkeling Three Tables.