Episode 120: Top 5 Best Snorkel Spots on Oahu: What to Know Before Snorkeling in Hawaii

by | Apr 11, 2024

In this solo episode, hosted by Bryan Murphy, we dive into the crystalline waters of Oahu to discover the best snorkel spots on Oahu.

Whether you’re dipping your toes into the world of snorkeling for the first time or you’re an experienced diver seeking new adventures, this guide has something for everyone.

Planning a trip to Hawaii? Have any questions? Join our Hawaii’s Best Travel Facebook group here now! It’s the perfect place to ask any questions and to be inspired!

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that I may earn a commission if you use a link provided.

This post gives general info and isn’t legal or authoritative advice. It helps travelers with tips but can’t replace personal abilities, fitness, experience, or local knowledge. Marine activities have risks; assess conditions and follow local laws.

The Top 5 Best Snorkel Spots on Oahu

sharks cove oahu snorkeling

1. Queens Beach, Waikiki

A snorkeling haven right in the heart of Waikiki, perfect for families and snorkelers of all skill levels.

2. Kulima Cove at Turtle Bay

A serene spot known for its turtle sightings, offering a natural pool-like experience ideal for gentle encounters with marine life.

3. Sharks Cove

Despite its name, Sharks Cove, this beginner-friendly paradise boasts a protective reef that forms a natural wonder pool, making it a must-visit during the summer months.

4. Hanauma Bay

As the crown jewel of Oahu’s snorkeling destinations, this protected marine ecosystem teems with vibrant life, requiring reservations and an orientation video for all visitors.

5. Electric Beach

Suited for the more advanced snorkeler, Electric Beach is known for its abundant marine life, thanks to the warm waters from the nearby power plant.

Safety and Conservation: The Heart of Responsible Snorkeling

Snorkeling in Hawaii is not just about the thrill of discovery but also about respecting and preserving the delicate marine ecosystem.

In the episode, Bryan emphasizes the importance of snorkeling with a buddy, using reef-safe sunscreen, and observing marine life without disturbing their natural habitat. Remember, your safety and the protection of marine life are paramount.

Spotting Hawaiian Sea Turtles: A Respectful Encounter

Among the magical experiences awaiting in Oahu’s waters is the chance to spot Hawaiian green sea turtles, or Honu.

These majestic creatures, symbols of good luck and longevity, can often be seen at Papailoa Beach and near Shark’s Cove. Observing these serene beings from a respectful distance ensures both your safety and their well-being.

Embrace the Underwater Marvels of Oahu

Each snorkeling spot in Oahu offers a unique window into the island’s marine biodiversity.

From the beginner-friendly shores of Queens Beach to the thrilling depths of Electric Beach, there’s an underwater world waiting to be explored.

As we cherish these natural wonders, let’s commit to exploring them responsibly, with a deep respect for the marine ecosystems and the cultural heritage of Hawaii.

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Top 5 Oahu Snorkel Spots_edit

[00:00:00] Bryan Murphy: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to snorkel in Hawaii? Well, maybe you're not sure where to go or how to go about planning to snorkel in Hawaii. But a snorkeling in Hawaii is on your bucket list. Today's episode is going to be your guide to the most breathtaking snorkeling spots on the island of Oahu.

[00:00:19] Bryan Murphy: So strap on your fins. We're going to dive into the clear inviting waters of Oahu.

[00:00:25] Announcement: Let's go! Aloha! Welcome to Hawaii's Best. Here, you'll learn what to know before traveling as we discover Hawaiian culture, local businesses, and the experiences that make Hawaii one of the most incredible places in the world.

[00:00:41] Announcement: Before we dive into today's

[00:00:42] Bryan Murphy: episode, are you dreaming of Hawaii's sunny beaches and breathtaking hikes? I know the feeling and the desire to look and feel your best while soaking up the aloha on your trip to Hawaii is invaluable and I felt that too, and that's where Hungry Root comes in. Imagine a personalized grocery [00:01:00] service that understands your health goals and dietary needs and delivers fresh groceries and recipes right to your door.

[00:01:06] Bryan Murphy: You tell them a little bit about yourself and what your goals are, and they tailor your weekly deliveries to fuel you and your family. Our kids personally love Hungry Root, and we've tried pretty much all the meal delivery services out there. Hungryroot is here to help you and your family reach and maintain your health goals.

[00:01:19] Bryan Murphy: Are you ready to embrace the journey of a healthy you in a convenient way? We'll visit hawaiisbesttravel. com slash hungry today for 30 percent off your first order. Let's make healthy happen together. Aloha my friends and welcome back to another episode of what is best. I'm your host, Brian Murphy here to navigate you through the waters of Oahu's top snorkeling spots.

[00:01:41] Bryan Murphy: I'm your Whether you're planning your first Hawaiian adventure or you're a seasoned traveler to these islands, today's episode is packed with tips to help prepare you for an unforgettable snorkeling experience on Oahu. Snorkeling in Hawaii isn't just about exploring the underwater world. It's about Connecting with nature, [00:02:00] respecting the marine life and immersing yourself in the islands, breathtaking beauty from the bustling shores of Waikiki.

[00:02:07] Bryan Murphy: Yes, there are some snorkeling spots in Waikiki that have made the list to the Serene coves of the North shore. Oh, who offers some of the best snorkeling spots really in the world. And guess what? You don't have to be an expert diver. To enjoy them. Some of these spots are beginner friendly as well. Today, we're not just sharing our top spots, but we're diving into how to make the most out of your snorkeling adventure, ensuring you're well equipped, safe, and ready to be mesmerized by the wonders beneath the ways.

[00:02:37] Bryan Murphy: Plus, I have a tip on where you can most likely view some Hawaiian sea turtles basking in the sun, obviously from a respectful distance. All right. Before we paddle out here, um, let's talk about safety and snorkeling etiquette. Hawaii's waters are as majestic as they are powerful. And we're here to enjoy its beauty while keeping our ocean friends and ourselves and others [00:03:00] safe around us.

[00:03:01] Bryan Murphy: So I'll share some crucial do's and don'ts to make sure your snorkeling adventure is not just memorable, but also responsible as well. So whether you're floating above the coral gardens of Hanama Bay. Or gazing at the underwater lava formations at electric beach. Snorkeling on Oahu is an experience that connects you deeper to the island's natural wonders.

[00:03:23] Bryan Murphy: Now, when it comes to snorkeling, you never know what you're going to get, but you can bet it's going to be a life changing experience. Oahu is an incredible mosaic of snorkeling spots, each with its own flavor and charm, and maybe your Favorite snorkeling spot didn't make this list. This is just an overview of some of the best five spots that I've been able to find.

[00:03:45] Bryan Murphy: When snorkeling though, timing is everything. Oahu welcomes us with different seasons throughout the year. Now it might not be the traditional fall, winter, spring, summer, but there's a variation of that. And in short, summer waters are more clear. And calmer for snorkeling while winters waters have reduced [00:04:00] visibility and are more dangerous with higher surf.

[00:04:04] Bryan Murphy: Because of this, it's important to know that certain spots during the wintertime and those high swells, especially on the North Shore of Oahu, like Sharks Cove, definitely don't want to be snorkeling during those periods of time. And you want to make sure you do that during the calmer summer season as well.

[00:04:22] Bryan Murphy: But we'll unpack that a little bit more later. So it's really about finding that sweet spot when the ocean is just right, inviting you to explore its wonders safely and with the best view underwater. So how did it come about choosing these top Oahu snorkel spots? It's not just about dropping a pin on a map and calling it a day.

[00:04:37] Bryan Murphy: First up, it's about ease of access. We're talking about how simple it is to get into the water and start seeing some of those stunning fish and coral, but safety is a huge deal here too. We're all about having fun, good time, but keeping it safe and responsible is really at the top of the list. And we look for those spots where you can enjoy the oceans without playing tag with the risks.

[00:04:57] Bryan Murphy: Now, another aspect and criteria in [00:05:00] these top five is parking. If you've ever circled a lot for 20 minutes, trying to find a spot, you know, why it's critical. Good snorkeling spots with ample parking are hard to find. And another reason for these that are on the list are facilities. That's another biggie.

[00:05:15] Bryan Murphy: It's always nice to have somewhere to rinse off, relax in the shade. And of course. Another criteria is the fish and marine life visibility because really what's snorkeling without the oohs and aahs and Seeing Hawaii's underwater residents up close crystal clear waters with thriving marine life are what we're after That's what we think about when we go snorkeling So when I put this list together of top snorkeling spots on Oahu I considered all these factors to give you a mix of safety convenience and really visibility of the underwater world Alright, so let's go ahead and let's get into the top five snorkeling spots on Oahu.

[00:05:56] Bryan Murphy: Number five, Queens Beach, Waikiki. Now I know what [00:06:00] you're thinking. Waikiki, really? Okay, just hear me out. This spot is a gem for families and snorkelers of all levels. It's super accessible, right in the heart of Waikiki. And the marine life, it's like swimming in an aquarium. We're talking about schools of vibrant fish.

[00:06:13] Bryan Murphy: Just a stone's throw from the shore. For anyone just wanting to get their fins wet, it's a safe and gentle introduction to snorkeling. Always take precautions as well. But just know this is a good spot to start out. Number four, we paddle out to the North Shore. for Kulima Cove at Turtle Bay. This spot is all about the turtles.

[00:06:36] Bryan Murphy: It's nestled in a unique location that makes it a haven for these gentle giants in the cove. It's like a nature swimming pool protected and serene. Uh, pro tip though, it would be to Shoot for the right side of the cove for calmer waters and a higher chance of Seeing the turtles and don't forget to grab some local snacks on your way Trust me watching turtles with a slice of fresh pineapple is [00:07:00] perfection All right slide in into number three.

[00:07:03] Bryan Murphy: We have sharks Cove despite its name. It's a beautiful Beginner friendly paradise for snorkelers thanks to his protective reef creating a natural pool of wonders Really? I mean the visibility here is unreal And like I mentioned you want to hit the spot up during the summer season when it's calmer and clearer because The waves on the north shore during the winter time get bigger Really crazy across the street from shark's cove.

[00:07:31] Bryan Murphy: You've got food trucks snorkel rentals really making a full day adventure spot Some of my favorite some of our favorite spots there would be sunrise shack. They opened up a spot there not too long ago They got great acai bowls and smoothies and coffee great little spot there Uh, but just a heads up while you're snorkeling, please respect the protective boundaries of the cove to keep it safe and enjoyable for everyone.

[00:07:54] Bryan Murphy: All right, next up, you knew this was on the list, but Hanama Bay, this nature preserve is the crown [00:08:00] jewel of Oahu's snorkeling spots. The marine ecosystem here is thriving, protected by its preserve status, offering snorkels a chance to glide alongside schools of fish in vibrant colors. Didn't even know existed.

[00:08:14] Bryan Murphy: Advice here is to get your reservation, get here early. You're going to need to watch a required orientation video about safety and the bay and remember parking and entrance come with a fee here. It's a small price to pay considering the experience that you'll get. All right. Topping our list. And I was a little reluctant to put this on here, but.

[00:08:34] Bryan Murphy: I went for it. It's electric beach on the West side of Oahu. Why is it called electric beach? It's right next to a power plant that pumps clean warm water into the ocean. And this attracts all sorts of marine life. This spot is for the experienced snorkeler. That's why I was a little hesitant to put it on the list because given it's offshore swim, but if you're up for the adventure.

[00:08:57] Bryan Murphy: You got a buddy with you. You'll be rewarded with [00:09:00] a surreal underwater scene surrounded by more fish than you can really count. But just remember safety comes first. Like I mentioned, bringing a buddy and be prepared that goes for any of the, uh, storm clean spots. Always go out with someone and be prepared for a bit of a swim.

[00:09:17] Bryan Murphy: Uh, Honolulu. County recently added a lifeguard station here, which is awesome. But don't let that make you relax on safety. This is a spot only for experienced snorkelers. Maybe you're staying on the west side, maybe in the Colina area, and you want to get out of that area a little bit. Uh, electric beach is a great spot.

[00:09:36] Bryan Murphy: Even if you aren't going to go snorkeling, it's a great spot to do like a day trip over there. After diving into those amazing snorkeling spots, let's take a moment to talk about something super important, which is responsible snorkeling practices. Now I don't want to sound like a buzzkill, but keeping it real snorkeling, as fun as it is, comes with its risks is actually the leading cause of [00:10:00] accidental deaths among visitors in Hawaii.

[00:10:02] Bryan Murphy: But don't let that scare you off being informed and prepared can make all the difference. First off, always remember to struggle with a buddy. Like I mentioned, it's not just more fun, but it's a big safety net. Keep an eye on each other and make sure you're both comfortable in the water. You're staying within your limits.

[00:10:20] Bryan Murphy: And of course, pay attention to the local wildlife regulations. There's there's signs and there's flags to pay attention to. They're not just decoration. But those are the keep you and the ocean life safe as well. Speaking of ocean life, let's talk about sunscreen, not just any sunscreen, but reef safe sunscreen, uh, those chemicals and regular sunscreen can really mess up the coral life and marine life, and they're actually illegal in Hawaii.

[00:10:44] Bryan Murphy: So do the reefs a favor and slap on those mineral based sunscreen and Trust me, the fish will thank you. But, uh, I wrote a post about some of the best reef safe sunscreens that you can get right on Amazon. Actually, I'll be sure I'll leak that in the show notes. You can go to Hawaii's best [00:11:00] travel. com slash episode one 20 and a big one.

[00:11:03] Bryan Murphy: It might go without saying, but it needs to be said, please don't touch the coral. Coral is not only a vital part to the ocean ecosystem, but it's also pretty fragile. Even a small touch can cause damage. So keep those fins, hands and everything else. To yourself and just enjoy the view, uh, for those new to snorkeling and maybe a tad nervous about jumping in, consider taking a snorkeling tour.

[00:11:25] Bryan Murphy: We have some blog posts as well. I'll link below on some of these spots that offer snorkel tours. So be sure to check that out. Having a tour is a fantastic way to learn the ropes, get comfortable in the water and discover some of the best spots safely. Plus those guys know a thing or two more than I know about snorkeling.

[00:11:41] Bryan Murphy: And where to find the coolest marine life and maybe some other spots That aren't on this list as well a little bonus because if there's one thing I know everyone loves seeing A hawaiian green sea turtle or honu as they're known locally. These majestic creatures are not just beautiful They're a symbol of good [00:12:00] luck and longevity in hawaiian culture.

[00:12:02] Bryan Murphy: So where can you spot these gentle giants? First up is papa iloa beach Especially during the less crowded times of the year. If you're lucky, you might just find yourself swimming alongside a Honu or watching one gracefully glide by. That's Papa Iloa beach on the North shore of Oahu. The other spot is actually right next to Shark's Cove.

[00:12:22] Bryan Murphy: So why are there snorkeling? You might have an opportunity to actually spot a sea turtle as well. If you come across a sea turtle in the water or on the beach to make sure you keep your distance of about 10 feet, that just helps keep you and the creature safe. And these guidelines are there to ensure that the turtles can go about their business without the stress or harm.

[00:12:42] Bryan Murphy: And honestly, there's something special and truly. Magical about just experiencing them from a distance just doing their own nature thing So just like that We've taken a dive into some of the most incredible snorkeling spots that Oahu has to offer from the family friendly shores of queen's [00:13:00] beach In Waikiki to the experience snorkelers paradise at electric beach each spot offers its own unique slice of underwater wonder Remember, these spots aren't just locations on a map, they're vibrant ecosystems, homes to countless marine species and part of Hawaii's natural heritage.

[00:13:19] Bryan Murphy: Exploring them is a privilege, so let's do so responsibly, keep safety in mind, respect the wildlife, and remember not to touch the coral reefs. Please use ReefSafe sunscreen, snorkel with a buddy, and always, always, stay safe. Keep a respectful distance from our Honu friends for more tips Don't forget to swing by our website hawaiisbesttravel.

[00:13:39] Bryan Murphy: com And there you'll find some blog posts and also Podcast episodes to help you plan your next trip to Hawaii. So until next time, be well, Aloha. If you've ever found any value in listening to our podcasts, it would mean the world to take a couple of seconds and rate the podcast with five [00:14:00] stars in whatever app you're listening to, even better, taking a couple extra seconds and leaving a review would be amazing either way, Mahalo for listening.