Snorkeling Ko Olina Lagoons – Perfect for Families

The Snorkeling at Ko’Olina Lagoons is probably the very best on the island for families and novice swimmers.

These pristinely kept man made lagoons have a real resort style vibe to them, and with them being so sheltered from the ocean, provide a very calm and serene snorkeling experience.

With several luxury resorts located here, Ko Olina is a wonderful spot to spend your vacation or to simply spend the day and enjoy all the activities (and beauty), that this area has to offer.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know for exploring and snorkeling Ko Olina.

About

The Ko’Olina lagoons consist of four man made lagoons, each with its own beautiful sandy beach.

The areas around the lagoons have grass and palm trees, and plenty of shaded areas for relaxing and much of the area is still being developed with various resorts.

ko olina lagoons from above

Ko Olina is a great place to snorkel even on windier days. Many other locations on Oahu may not be accessible depending on the weather conditions but Ko’Olina is very well protected from the ocean by it’s rock barriers

For this reason, Ko Olina Lagoons snorkeling is some of the best on Oahu for young children and novice swimmers due to the water often being very still and calm.

Ko’Olina lagoons are the main beachfront attraction for the guests of the various resorts located here. Because of this they can become quite crowded with guests from the resorts.

There’s a path which connects each of the lagoons, and from the first lagoon to the farthest (lagoon 4) is a mile and a half walk. 

The walk itself between the lagoons makes for a really nice walk with grass on palm trees along the way. The lagoons themselves are virtually identical but if one lagoon happens to be quite busy you can just stroll to the next one. 

pathway between koolina lagoons

Location

Ko’Olina Lagoons are located on southwest Oahu, (near Kapolei), and approximately 40 minutes drive from Waikiki.

Of course if you are staying at one of the resorts in the area then the lagoons will be right on your doorstep, but for those travelling from Waikiki it is a simple drive along Highway 1, headed west.

Difficulty

Ko Olina snorkeling is great for novice swimmers and children. It’s some of the easiest snorkeling on the island in fact.

The lagoons are very well protected from the open ocean by their large rock barriers, which help keep the water calm and serene pretty much most of the time.

As you make your entry into the lagoon itself, it’s a very slow, gradual slope with a soft sandy bottom, and the lagoons at most are only about 4-5 feet deep.

Snorkeling Ko Olina Lagoon

snorkeling ko olina lagoons

Once you’ve entered the lagoon swim directly to the rock barrier and snorkel along the rock barriers that are seperating the lagoon from the ocean – This is where the action is!

You will find a little coral growing on the rocks, some sea urchins burrowing through, and a lot of fish hiding in and around these areas.

If big waves happen to break over the rocks into the lagoon then visibility here will be extremely poor, but this isn’t very common.

The visibility when snorkeling Ko’Olina lagoon is usually good but as the bottom is very sandy and the ocean isn’t very deep it can be prone to poor visibility on occasion if sand is being  swept up from the ocean floor.

The ocean flows in through the two sides of the lagoon, and then flows back out into the ocean through the middle channel

The middle channel where the water flows back out of the lagoon is often roped off and it’s best to avoid this channel so that you don’t get sucked out of the lagoon and into the open ocean!

Marine Life At Ko Olina Lagoon

The marine life that can be seen snorkeling Ko Olina isn’t as abundant as other snorkel faves on Oahu, but you can still see a decent variety of marine life:

  • Butterflyfish
  • Barracuda
  • Goatfish
  • Green Sea Turtles
  • Cornetfish
  • Surgeonfish
  • Moorish Idol
  • Sergeant
  • Silversides
  • Tang
  • Wrasse

Restaurants and Facilities

ko olina lagoon snorkeling

There are plenty of amenities in the area for you to comfortably spend the day here.

Each of the four lagoons have their own restrooms, showers and drinking water, and there are also plenty of restaurants and snack bars around this area. 

Something to be aware of though is that there are no lifeguards situated at the lagoons, but since the waters are calm and make for very easy snorkeling, they’re not really needed.

All four lagoons have free public parking available on a first come first serve basis, but the parking is very limited.

Lagoons 1, 2 and 3 each only have about 20 public parking spaces so these can fill up pretty quickly. Lagoon 4 has the most parking available and it also tends to be the quietest as it is furthest away from the resorts.

If you’re driving to Ko’Olina, then head straight to lagoon four for the best chance of finding a parking space.

In terms of where the nearby resorts are located, Aulani Disney Resort and Spa & the Four Seasons resort are located at lagoon 1. 

There are Beach Villas located at lagoon 2, and Marriotts Beach Club is located at lagoon 3.

Another new resort is also coming to the area. The Atlantis, a five star luxury resort, is due to be built at Ko’Olina right next to the  Aulani Disney Resort.

Tips For Snorkeling Ko Olina

  • Be wary of the middle channel of the lagoon, where the water exits into the ocean – Rip currents can occasionally form and pull you into the ocean. It’s best to avoid these areas if you’re not a strong swimmer.
  • Swimming outside of the lagoons is occasionally possible but I would strongly advise against venturing outside of the lagoon. Only the strongest most confident of swimmers, and only on days when the ocean is calm should attempt this.
  • Ko’Olina Lagoons are a great beach to spend the day at (different places to visit, places to eat, and the beach is gorgeous)
  • Arrive early and just head straight to lagoon number 4 for the most likely chance of finding a parking spot. From here you can just wander down and explore the other lagoons if you wish.
  • Electric Beach, widely regarded as one of the best snorkel spots on Oahu, is a mere 2.5 miles away. Why not check out this spot whilst you’re in the area? (Check out our guide to snorkeling Electric Beach for the lowdown!)
  • Definitely stay to take in a beautiful Ko Olina sunset
sunset at KoOlina Lagoons

Why not check out our Oahu Snorkel Guide – A complete breakdown to all of the best snorkel spots Oahu has to offer!

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