Kuilima Cove Snorkeling Guide

Kuilima Cove is a small beach located on Oahu’s north shore next to the Turtle Bay Resort.

Often referred to as Turtle Bay Beach, and Bayview Beach, this sheltered bay is protected from the waves by a natural rock barrier making this beautiful and relaxed resort style location an ideal spot for families and first time snorkelers.

Not only is this area a calm and tranquil spot for lazing about in the water, but their is a surprising amount of marine life to be seen here!

Check out my full guide below for all of my Kuilima Cove snorkeling tips!

Kuilima Cove Hawaii Snorkeling

About Kuilima Cove / Turtle Bay Resort Beach

Just to the right of the Turtle Bay Resort Hotel lies the serene and peaceful Kuilima Cove.

Protected on either side by rocks – It’s these rock barriers that help shield the bay from the waves coming in, thus making the waters of Kuilima Cove still and tranquil much of the time.

Being right next to Turtle Bay Resort this beach is where the resort guests go to and it is also especially popular with families with young kids due to its calm quiet waters.

Kuilima Cove Isn’t restricted to hotel guests however – it’s a public beach and is one of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu’s north shore.

The North Shore is famed for its super sized waves and if the surf is rough around other areas of the North Shore than Kuilima Cove can often still be a viable option to swim.

Kuilima Cove is actually a fantastic beach to spend a few hours – All of the amenities you need are close by, so why not snorkel and explore the cove, relax on the beautiful white sand beach, and then head to a nearby restaurant?

Kuilima Cove can get busy at peak times but is nothing compared to somewhere like Hanauma Bay at its peak. That being said it’s usually best to head here earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.

The ease of access to this beach and the vast array of amenities close by (coupled of course with the fact that it’s an excellent location for beginners), are what make Kuilima Cove such a popular spot.

Kuilima Cove Hawaii

Snorkeling Kuilima Cove

You would be surprised at the amount and variety of sea life you can see here in this small cove.

When you enter the water try exploring around the rocks that are to the right side of the Cove – The water here is shallow and you will see plenty of fish hiding amongst the coral and rocks.

The sea reaches depths of around 6ft in the ‘deepest’ areas and in the centre of the cove where the water is the deepest it’s certainly not uncommon to spot Green Sea Turtles.

Visibility within the water at Kuilima Cove can vary greatly – Generally it is very good but it can range from being crystal clear to being quite poor. If the waves/currents are strong then this is what causes the debris/sand being whisked around creating poor visibility.

Kuilima Cove snorkeling is easy enough that those who have never snorkeled before, and even those who would love to snorkel but do not know how to swim can come here and give it a try!

Difficulty

Kuilima Cove snorkeling provides the perfect conditions for beginners, children, and even non swimmers who are looking to snorkel and it’s known for being one of the best beginner snorkeling spots on Oahu.

Kuilima Cove is heavily frequented by families with children and people who are new to snorkeling.

The reason being is that the water here is so calm and the water depth in much of the lagoon is only neck deep, making it perfect for beginner snorkelers.

During the winter when the waves are strong there can be a strong rip current that runs along the left side of the cove and out into the ocean. [The water that enters the cove has to head back out somewhere right?]. This area is sectioned off by buoys so just make sure you stay on the right side of this cordoned off area.

The ocean bed in Kuilima Cove consists of coral flats and rocks with some sandy areas. You don’t need to wear water shoes here but you should be mindful of any sea urchins and coral in the area.

Where To Enter

There’s no special knack to entering Kuilima Cove but you will find that there is more of a sandy entrance towards the right.

The entrance into the water is gradual and sandy and couldn’t be more simple.

Be wary as sea urchins are located in and around the rocky barriers and be careful not to stand on any sharp rocks and corals.

Kuilima Cove Snorkel Guide

Restaurants & Facilities

Kuilima Cove is part of the Turtle Beach Resort but it is also open to the public. There are a number of facilities and amenities in the area to

  • Snorkel gear is available for purchase from the Bay View Beach kiosk located near the hotel, [but I’d generally advise purchasing your gear beforehand]
  • There are restaurants and shops in the area that are open to tourists but beware – the prices here are very high! ($24 for a burger). If this is out of your price range you can bring a cooler with snacks and drinks as an alternative.
  • Parking wise, there is parking lot at Turtle Bay Resort with a small allocation of public spaces. With spaces being limited you should ensure that you arrive early in order to snatch one up! [Just drive in through the main entrance of the hotel and then drive toward the hotel – You’ll find the parking lot located near the tennis courts on the right hand side].
  • You should be aware that there are no lifeguards present at Kuilima Cove.
  • Toilets, changing and shower facilities are all available.

Best Time To Snorkel Kuilima Cove

The North Shore is famous for it’s huge ocean swells and for being a surfers paradise in the winter time which can make many of the best snorkeling spots completely off limits.

That’s not always the case at Kuilima Cove though, as the rock wall and reef which protect the bay are good at repelling some of those large waves. So whilst other North Shore snorkel spots like Three Tables and Shark’s Cove may be no go’s, Kuilima might still be a viable option.

Of course, the best snorkeling at Kuilima Cove beach is going to be during the summer when the ocean is much calmer, creating the perfect “swimming pool” like conditions here.

Marine Life Spotted Here

For such a small location you can see quite a large variety of fish in Kuilima Cove, such as;

  • Butterflyfish
  • Surgeonfish
  • Damselfish
  • Parrotfish
  • Unicorn fish
  • Moorish idol
  • Humuhumunukunukuapuaa
  • Green sea turtles

snorkeling in kuilima cove hawaii

Kuilima Cove Location

Kuilima Cove/Turtle Bay Resort are very close to the most northern part of Oahu. At approximately 41 miles from honolulu you’re looking at around an hours long drive to get here.

Just head down the H-83/Kamehameha Highway, and you can’t miss the signs for the Turtle Bay resort.

Whilst you’re up here in Oahu’s North Shore, primed for an action packed day of snorkeling, you should also think about checking out Three Tables and Shark’s Cove, which are also offer some of the best snorkeling on the Island.

Also check out my guide to the all of the best snorkeling spots in Oahu for some great inspiration.

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Gia Halliday

Hey, my names Gia! My biggest passions are food, travel and basically anything to do with being in the water. Combine all of that with an addiction for buying gear and you end up with with this website!