Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog


Divers departing on a Dive in Hawaii

When did snorkeling start out? That’s a question lost to time. The truth is that snorkeling sort of popped into existence. Every culture somehow developed the practice. For example, in 350 BC Aristotle observed a large elephant underwater — the pachyderm, with his trunk out of the surf and breathing underneath the waves, inspired in the philosopher an idea and an invention.

Leonardo da Vinci – he of the Code and the Mona Lisa – drew wild designs of all manner of breathing apparatus during his lifetime in the early 15th century. The Egyptians were using reefs and plants as breathing straws to hunt octopuses off the Red Sea. The truth is that the minute humanity set eyes on the mystery and majesty of the sea, an idea sparked in their brains — a question that needed a resolution — what is it like down there? In this article, we’ll be your guide to the best snorkeling spots in Oahu.

Oahu and snorkeling

Did you know that swimming isn’t a deal breaker when it comes to snorkeling? The practice itself does not require participants to be great swimmers. It’s one of those easy-to-do adventures that caters to all skill levels and in Oahu, with so many spots to choose from when it comes to snorkeling, that rule of thumb is incurably prevalent.

Beneath Oahu’s waters, there’s an aquatic smorgasbord that demands and attracts explorers from every corner of the globe. Like a siren’s wails mesmerizing sailors.

It’s a cherished and incredibly fascinating habitat filled to the gills, with, well, gills. You’ll find all manner of marine life underneath the waves. From cute clown fishes and other tropical delights to mammoth predators like sharks and other adrenaline-pumping vistas.

Nevertheless, skill level matters — at least when it comes to picking the right spot for the dive. It’s not just about taking a plunge, it’s about matching your abilities with the right snorkeling zone. Safety is a priority— and that’s why we’re here to guide you through Oahu’s snorkeling paradise.

diver on a reef

Top picks for Beginners – where to snorkel in Oahu?

If you’re new to snorkeling, Oahu offers a selection of top spots tailored to your skill level. You do not need overly professional equipment let alone any special training to enjoy these spots. The island’s gentle shores provide calm waters, making it ideal for beginners. Places like Hanauma Bay and Shark’s Cove boast shallow depths, ensuring you can ease into the experience.

These locations teem with abundant marine life, offering colorful reef fish and the chance to encounter graceful sea turtles. Oahu’s reputation as a snorkeling haven begins here, offering beginners a safe and joyful introduction to the sport.

Let’s run down some of the best snorkeling spots in Oahu.

Hanauma Bay

Here’s a quick run-down on the Bay’s fascinating geological history. The bay in itself is in reality a volcanic crater turned marine preserve. It was declared a protected nature reserve in 1967 and since then it has rapidly become one of Hawaii’s most cherished bio-diverse zones.

Hanauma Bay is also a legendary snorkeling spot. One that is perfect for beginners. Its shallow depths and calm waters make it an ideal place to ease into snorkeling. If you’ve never snorkeled in your life, then this is the kind of place where you can really wet your sea legs.

Shark’s Cove

Shark’s Cove is another fantastic spot on Oahu for snorkelers. Don’t let the name intimidate you — yes, you might catch a glimpse of a shark now and again, but the puppies that swim in this area are not man-eaters Spielberg built his career on. The cove has shallow depths that a novice can easily traverse through and gentle waters, This location is bursting with all matter of marine life, and rather nifty underwater vistas.

Waimea Bay

The bay is known throughout the world on account of its massive winter surf — which has led to a series of big wave surf competitions since the 1950s. This is the type of bay that comes in the cold months Patrick Swayze’s character in Point Break would have loved.

Waimea Bay is located on Oahu’s North Shore. It is an excellent choice for novice swimmers in summer or simply folks who don’t want to press their luck out in the open seas. The bay features heavenly calm and clear blue waters during the summer months. The whole place is ideal — making it an inviting spot for beginners. You can observe various marine life while gaining confidence in your snorkeling skills.

Lanikai Beach

With soft white sands and crystal blue waters, this beach is a picture-perfect postcard of what Hawaii is famous for. This little slice of heaven is known to be a favorite hotspot for sunbathers and kayakers aside from snorkelers.

Lanikai Beach is a serene location on the windward side of Oahu. It’s the sort of place you know God would retire to if he ever had the chance to do so. It is known for its tranquil waves and crystal-clear waters. This spot is perfect for those new to snorkeling — a halcyon environment and the opportunity to witness an array of colorful fish in its vibrant coral formations.

For the Advanced Divers – Where to snorkel in Oahu?

For those seeking a more challenging and rewarding snorkeling experience, Oahu doesn’t disappoint. For those wanting a bit more adrenaline running through their veins, the island has just the right dose. Oahu is known for its diverse underwater formations and rare marine species. Its migratory patterns and its unique nutrients.

Let’s list some of the best snorkeling spots in Oahu for the advanced diver.

Electric Beach

Electric Beach’s Watt heavy portmanteau comes from the fact that it was once a power plant’s warm water outlet. The highlight here is the warm water outflow from the former power plant, attracting a plethora of marine life, including schools of tropical fish and the occasional sea turtle.

Electric Beach is a popular choice for experienced snorkelers on Oahu. With its deeper waters and a captivating underwater landscape, it’s perfect for those seeking a more risky adventure.

Kaena Point

Remote, rugged, ravaging — these are the adjectives that define Kaena Point. The area is located at the westernmost tip of the island. It is a protected natural reserve and cultural site.

Kaena Point offers a once-in-a-lifetime snorkeling experience for those looking to explore deeper waters and discover unique underwater rock formations. It is the sort of place that gets written up in magazines and has become a bucket-list item for professional snorkelers. During the humpback whale migration season, lucky snorkelers might even witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

diver on the coral reef

Three Tables

Named after its distinctive three flat coral formations, the Tables are renewed through the area for their rather quirky and idiosyncratic tide pools —- different and incredibly rare geological formations.

Three Tables is a must-visit for advanced snorkelers. What makes it so unique? It is known for its intricate underwater topography and diverse marine species. The three flat coral formations create unique “tables” where marine life congregates. Advanced divers can admire the beauty of coral gardens and potentially encounter octopuses, eels, and various species of fish.

Makapu’u Tide Pool

Aside from a stunning coastal backdrop, and a Sea World’s worth of marine life, Makapu’u offers another rather peculiar feature that attracts tourists to the area — Its jaw-dropping lighthouse.

Makapu’u Tide Pools, located on Oahu’s southeastern coast, offer a challenging snorkeling experience with their hidden gems of underwater pools. While the waters can be rough, the diverse marine life and vibrant coral formations make it a rewarding spot for experienced snorkelers. Be prepared for waves and changing tide conditions.

Why Oahu Stands Out?

What sets Oahu’s snorkeling spots apart from other destinations?

It has something most other spots don’t — diversity. Each spot on the map is unique and one of a kind. With personal features and remarkable marine life is unique to each special location. Unlike other swimming posts or regions on the map, an avid snorkeler could spend weeks on the island and still have more spots on their list — spots that are incredibly different from each other.

Each offers a distinctive glimpse into the mystery that is Poseidon’s kingdom. From the vivid coral gardens of Shark’s Cove to the underwater lava tubes of Electric Beach, Oahu’s snorkeling experiences are something to write home about.