Oahu, also known as ‘The Gathering Place’ is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands.
From its busy cities to quiet peaceful surf towns – Oahu has it all.
That’s why there’s no wonder that this Island draws the most visitors of any of the Hawaiian Islands.
Oahu is well known for many things – The state capital, Honolulu (the largest city of Hawaii) is the gateway itself to Hawaii, and about 80% of the population of Oahu reside around this area. Other famous locations that you’re sure to know include the iconic Waikiki beach, and Pearl Harbor.
Oahu is home to approximately 1 million people (two thirds of the population of the state of Hawaii), and it has twice as many visitors as the next most popular Island.
This has had an impact on the environment and the reefs and sea life have suffered as a result. But while snorkeling Oahu isn’t as impressive as Maui or Big Island, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some truly incredible sights to be seen.
In this Oahu snorkel guide we’re going to break down for you all of the best Oahu snorkel locations – From beginner to advanced we’ll show you where to go, what to do and give you handy tips to ensure you have the best possible adventure exploring!
marine life conservation districts
There are 11 Marine Life conservation districts in Hawaii – Three of which are in Oahu:
This means that state law prohibits certain activities (like fishing for one), within these areas. The result of banning the kinds of activities that can hurt or kill marine life is that there is an abundance of sea life in these areas.
Another benefit of this is that the fish in these areas are very friendly, and are used to human presence therefore aren’t afraid to get up close and personal with you – You’ll get plenty of opportunities for some amazing underwater selfies!
Our Guides to The best snorkeling in oahu
The most popular snorkel spot in the world! (and with good reason). Everything you need to know about snorkeling Hanauma Bay
Calm and serene – The peaceful and protected waters at Kuilima Cove are perfect for snorkelers of all ages and abilities.
Nicknamed Electric Beach due to the a nearby power plant, the warm water in this area (thanks to the power plant), attracts an abundance of sea life
Rated as one of the top 12 shore dives in the world by Scuba Diving Magazine. You won’t find any sharks at Shark Cove, but you will see plenty of marine life.
This Idyllic beach is the perfect place for a relaxing day. The pristine white sand beach is nestled between the Waianae mountains and the ocean – Beautiful.
Forming part of the world renowned Waikiki beach – These two snorkel spots are your best (and closest) option for those staying in Waikiki.
Three Tables has a gorgeous sand beach and amazing snorkeling to boot. A stone’s throw away from Sharks Cove – Why not try both in the same day?
kaiona beach park
makaha beach park
A great location to spot Green Sea Turtles! Careful however, this location is for the more advanced swimmer.
Four beautifully pristine man made lagoons – Beautiful beaches and clear waters. Ko Olina lagoons have a real ‘resort’ feel to them.
best time to visit oahu
There are two main seasons in Hawaii – summer and winter. Oahu is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year – the sea temperature remains warm and is great for snorkeling year round, however the best time to visit Oahu for snorkeling is during the summer months.
summer in oahu
The summer runs from May to October and is the warmest, driest and sunniest time of year. The average temperature in the summer is around 80℉/26.5℃ and is actually classed as hurricane season but these are rare.
If your plan is to do a lot of snorkeling when you visit Hawaii then the summer is the best time for this as this is the time of year when the waves are at their calmest.
The South of the Island does sometimes experience a swell during the summer – So make sure to check the forecast before you head out to do any swimming in this area of the island
winters in oahu
Winter is from November to April. The weather at this time is wetter, with lots of rain and sunny spells. The temperature is still warm with an average of around 78℉/25.5℃, and the sea temperature is also still warm.
The waves and strong currents can during winter can make visibility disappointing or impossible, and the water just downright too dangerous to even try – Winters in Oahu really are a surfers paradise.
The North Shore of Oahu in the winter is famous for its big waves which can reach heights of up to 50ft, and this is when annual surfing competitions like the Vans Triple Crown and ‘The Eddie’ are held.
There are multiple snorkel spots on the Island that are worth exploring – As most of the hotels on the island are located around Oahu, we recommend getting a hire car in order to explore all the island has to offer.
Having your own hire car will allow you to set your own itinerary, and while there are many different snorkel tours to choose from, most of the best snorkeling on the island is completely free!
Hanauma Bay is the most visited snorkel spot in the world, and offers what a lot of people would argue as the best snorkeling on Oahu, and costs just $7.50 for entry.
What’s your favourite Oahu snorkel spot? Tell us below!