Kuilima Cove Snorkeling Guide

A small beach located on the North Shore of Oahu, Kuilima Cove is a beautiful resort style location that is ideal for families and first time snorkelers.

This sheltered bay is well protected from the waves making it a calm and tranquil spot for lazing about in the water.

Kuilima Cove Hawaii Snorkeling

About Kuilima Cove

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, making the waters of Kuilima Cove still and tranquil.

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

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 peak times – But if you’re driving we do recommend arriving early to secure a parking space.

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 for families.

Kuilima Cove Hawaii

Snorkeling Kuilima Cove

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

When you enter the water try exploring around the rocks to the side at the right – The water here is shallow and you will see 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 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 shallow that it makes for the perfect snorkeling conditions for a novice.

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? Well this is it – 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 needed for 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 which also helps to make this a great spot for beginners and kids.

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.

Restaurants and shops 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.

There is free parking at Turtle Bay Resort however public parking spaces are limited – Try and arrive early to ensure you can get a parking space. 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.

There are no lifeguards at Kuilima Cove but the beach does have toilet and changing and shower facilities.

Marine Life Spotted Here

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

  • butterflyfish
  • surgeonfish
  • damselfish
  • parrotfish
  • unicorn fish
  • moorish idol
  • humuhumunukunukuapuaa
  • green sea turtles

snorkeling in kuilima cove hawaii


Location & How To Get To Kuilima Cove

Kuilima Cove/Turtle Bay Resort are very close to the most northern part of Oahu. Approximately 41 miles from honolulu (around an hours drive).

Just head down the H-83/Kamehameha Highway – You can’t miss the signs for the Turtle Bay resort