ALOHA!

 

The best beaches to snorkel on Oahu are Hanauma Bay on the east side of Oahu and Sharks Cove on the North Shore.

Hanauma Bay is the famous bay for snorkeling on Oahu, and there is an expensive entry fee.

 

So you want to go to snorkeling as part of your Oahu itinerary!

Which are the best beaches on Oahu for snorkeling?!

 

Best snorkeling beach spots in Oahu. Best things to do on Oahu. Best places to visit on Oahu. Backpacking Hawaii travel blog

 

 

Is snorkeling free in Oahu?

Yes, it’s possible to go snorkeling in Oahu for free. So snorkeling is one of the free things to do on Oahu!

Although you need to pay to go to the most popular Oahu snorkeling spot, there are also free snorkeling spots in Oahu!

 

🐠 Amazing Oahu snorkeling tour you need to consider:

 

 

 

 

First, the quick list of the top 3 beaches on Oahu to know about when you want to go snorkeling on Oahu.

Then, a bit more about each of the Oahu beaches, including some nearby places you might want to go when you’re in the area… aka how to make it a perfect day on Oahu with hiking in the morning and snorkeling in the afternoon!

And then, a note on snorkeling alone on Oahu and a quick list of what to pack for snorkeling on Oahu.

 

 

Best snorkeling beach spots in Oahu. Best things to do on Oahu. Best places to visit on Oahu. Backpacking Hawaii travel blog
There are affiliate links on this page.

 

 

So now…

 

3 best snorkeling spots in Oahu

 

1. Hanauma Bay

Cost: $25 per person

Best snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay - best snorkeling beaches in Oahu. Hawaii travel blog
Go to Hanauma Bay for possibly the most popular snorkeling spot on Oahu. There is an entry fee to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. You need to make reservations for Hanauma Bay before you go, or you can try for (limited!) walk-in tickets. Another option is the shuttle to Hanauma Bay. While you don’t need to make reservations before you go, for this you need to bring the entry fee of $25 in cash with you as it’s not included in the shuttle fee.

 

 

 

 

oahu snorkeling map: east oahu snorkeling map. honolulu snorkeling map. oahu hawaii
👆 Explore the map of this Oahu snorkeling spot. If you don’t mind walking, then you can get to Hanauma Bay by bus. When playing around with the map for bus routes, be sure to change the departure time to get a better idea of what bus routes are available when you plan on going. If you’ll be going by car, explore things to do on the east side of Oahu! You can do these things by bus too, but it might be a bit much to do on the same day as Hanauma Bay if you’ll be going by bus!

 

 

2. Shark’s Cove

Cost: FREE

Best snorkeling spots on Oahu. North Shore, Shark's Cove, Pupukea - best snorkeling beaches in Oahu. Hawaii travel blog



😴 Search for hotel deals!




Go to Sharks Cove for possibly the best snorkeling spot on the North Shore… when the waters are calm! Snorkeling on the North Shore is free which makes it one of the best things to do on the North Shore!

 

oahu snorkeling map: north shore snorkeling map. honolulu snorkeling map. oahu hawaii
👆 Explore the map of this Oahu snorkeling spot. The best snorkeling spot on the North Shore is at Sharks Cove because that is where the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District is located! Many people will say it’s not reasonable to go to Sharks Cove by bus. But if you manage your expectations (aka long time in transit!), then you can get to Sharks Cove by bus. You can make a day of it with a trip to the North Shore. Explore the North Shore Oahu tourist map. Explore things to do on the North Shore!

 

 

3. Queen’s Beach

Cost: FREE

Best snorkeling spots on Oahu. Waikiki Beach, Queens Beach - best snorkeling beaches in Oahu. Hawaii travel blog
Go to Queen’s Beach for possibly the best snorkeling spot in Waikiki… when the waters are calm! Snorkeling in Waikiki is free which makes it one of the best things to do in Waikiki! See more Waikiki Beach snorkeling spots.

 

 

oahu snorkeling map: waikiki snorkeling map. honolulu snorkeling map. oahu hawaii

oahu snorkeling map. waikiki snorkeling map
👆 Explore the map of this Oahu snorkeling spot. The best snorkeling spot in Waikiki is the southern end of Waikiki because that is where the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District is located! Explore the Waikiki tourist map. Explore things to do in Waikiki!

 

Best snorkeling beach spots in Oahu. Best things to do on Oahu. Best places to visit on Oahu. Backpacking Hawaii travel blog



😴 Search for hotel deals!



 

🐠

 

 

 

 

Marine life conservation districts on Oahu

So among the best Oahu snorkeling spots are Hanauma Bay, Sharks Cove, and Queens Beach, because… they are part of marine life conservation districts!

In Hawaii, there are what’s called marine life conservation districts.

This means that these areas just off the coast are more protected for marine life.

This can make them good snorkeling spots.

The Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Maui, Lanai, and the Big Island have these conservation districts.

 

On Oahu, there are 3 marine life conservation districts:

 

Within these districts are the beaches of Hanauma Bay, and Shark’s Cove (Pupukea), Queen’s Beach (Waikiki), all of which can make a good base for snorkeling.

 

But these 3 beaches aren’t the only snorkeling spots on Oahu.

But when you need to narrow down your list of choices, it’s a good way to pick your beaches when snorkeling is on the list of things to do when you’re on Oahu! A bit more on each of the snorkeling spots and surrounding areas below.

 

 

Oahu snorkeling tour or snorkel Oahu on your own?!

There are many snorkeling spots in Oahu that you can access on your own from shore. So it’s possible to snorkel off the beach in Oahu. (Including the snorkeling beaches that were mentioned!)

So, if you want to go snorkeling in Oahu, you don’t NEED to go on a snorkeling tour to do so.

Aside from snorkeling, a snorkeling tour can also be about being able to get a Hawaii experience to remember with a day out on the water sailing the ocean!

There are many snorkeling tours that will take you by boat to a prime snorkeling spot off the shores of Oahu.

Also it’s important to note for any snorkeling tour you choose, check for whether or not snorkeling gear is included.

 

More marine life in Hawaii

If you’re interested in snorkeling in Oahu, you may also be interested in these marine life in Hawaii:

 

Know before you go! Know what it is when you see it!

 

More below about snorkeling in Oahu on your own!

 

 

🌴

 
Side note!
Top Oahu tours
Read the reviews at partner website Viator!*

Things you might want to pack for your Hawaii vacation
Read the reviews on Amazon! I'm an Amazon Associate.*
  • For women: Search for a rash guard for swimming and you won't have to worry as much about putting on sunscreen!
  • Water shoes for snorkeling if you won't be wearing fins, or just generally for the beach!
  • Cheapo waterproof phone case so you can capture pictures of colorful fishies swimming underwater!
    • I always have a camera float attached to my phone case that I put around my wrist
  • Snorkeling set: mask and fins
    • Fins allow you to propel further faster (aka see more in less time and energy!)
    • Go cheap if you accept that you need to come up for air frequently: regular swimming googles. They are not as fashionable but if you get swimming goggles, make them the clear kind so you won't be seeing dimmed colors of the colorful fishies!
    • If you are able, I recommend trying out the mask at your local lake (in summer) or pool so you will be good to go in Hawaii when there's actually stuff to see!
  • Travel-friendly turkish towel for the beach (lightweight compared to regular beach towels)
  • For women: Teva walking sandals (one of the best sandal brands for the outdoors, perfect for lots of walking around outside - that's not a lava field!)
  • For men: Teva sandals
  • For women: Merrell hiking shoes (one of the best outdoor shoe brands)
  • For men: Merrell hiking shoes
  • Moisture-wicking tech t-shirt for women perfect for hiking and hot days when you'll be outside a lot sweating
  • tech-t-shirt for men
  • For more ideas, do a search for hiking clothes or swimming clothes!

*As a Viator partner and Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission.


📌 Save this post for later! Save on Pinterest! 👈📌

 

 

Now…

A little more about the top Oahu snorkeling spots from the beach!

Best snorkeling in Oahu: Best snorkeling spots in Oahu without a tour first time including shallow swimming. Best Oahu snorkeling beaches. Best things to do on Oahu. Best places to visit on Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, windward east Oahu, North Shore, Pupukea. marine life conservation districts. Backpacking Hawaii travel blog

 

Best Oahu snorkeling spots for beginners

 

 

 

1. Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay marine life conservation district

Best snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay marine conservation district - best snorkeling beaches in Oahu. Hawaii travel blog

 

Hanauma Bay is a short 20 minute or so drive from Waikiki.

There used to be a direct bus to Hanauma Bay.

You can still get from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay by bus if you don’t mind a lot of walking with your beach gear. It’s a 20 minute walk from the bus stop to Hanauma Bay.

But there’s local food near the bus stop to make up for your effort!

The bus stop you’ll get off for Hanauma Bay is near Koko Marina Center, which is where you can find local food like malasadas at the Leonard’s Bakery food truck or a Hawaiian plate lunch at Fatboy’s. (map)

See more about taking the bus to Hanauma Bay from Waikiki.

Google Maps is a reliable way for taking the bus around Oahu. Just look for the public transportation option!

See more about taking the Oahu bus.

 

As a proper beach park, Hanauma Bay has convenient beach facilities.

There’s also a lifeguard on duty here too.

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay lifeguard. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay current safety. Hawaii travel blog

 

You will want to make a $25 per person reservation before you go to Hanauma Bay.

Here is the official Hanauma Bay reservation website.

You can only buy tickets 2 days before, and they go quick. (If you look at recent tickets that have been sold, it tells you when they sold out.)

Hanauma Bay is closed Monday and Tuesday.

More official Hanauma Bay information.

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay coral reef. Hawaii travel blog



 


Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay coral reef. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay snorkeling for beginners. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay coral reef. Hawaii travel blog

 

Read more from the state of Hawaii about the Hanauma Bay marine life conservation district.

 

 

Hiking near Hanauma Bay

Make it an amazing day on the east side of Oahu by doing a hike in the morning near Hanauma Bay.

Then, after you’ve gotten in a good workout that comes with some amazing views, you can go for a recovery swim that includes some snorkeling at Hanauma Bay!

 

Koko Head Hike

Snorkeling spots on Oahu on windward east Oahu. Things to do near Hanauma Bay - Koko Head hike, crater trail. Hawaii travel blog

Do this hike for a strenuous workout that’s right across the street from Hanauma Bay.

 

 

Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail

Snorkeling spots on Oahu on windward east Oahu. Things to do near Hanauma Bay - Makapuu point lighthouse trail hike. Hawaii travel blog

Do this hike for a slightly easier workout on a paved trail. It would be more convenient if you have a car, but there is also the Oahu bus that runs to near Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. The nearest bus stop is a 15 minute walk, and it does require walking on a busy road.

 

 

Beaches near Hanauma Bay

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Things to do near Hanauma Bay - beaches on windward east Oahu. Hawaii travel blog

 

Or, if you want to make it a beach hopping kind of day, see more of the best beaches on the east side of Oahu.

 

 

 

2. Shark’s Cove

Pupukea marine life conservation district

Best snorkeling spots on Oahu. North Shore, Shark's Cove, Pupukea marine conservation district - best snorkeling beaches in Oahu. Hawaii travel blog

 

Shark’s Cove is located on the North Shore.

Because the North Shore is a bit of a distance from Waikiki, you can make this a day trip from Waikiki by adding in some more things to do on the North Shore along with the snorkeling.

It will be about a 1 hour drive.

It’s also possible to take the Oahu bus to the North Shore from Waikiki, as long as you have time and patience! The bus might take 2 hours one way and also might require a transfer. Once again, you can consult Google Maps!

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, North Shore. Sharks Cove. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, North Shore. Sharks Cove snorkeling for beginners, kids. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, North Shore. Sharks Cove snorkeling for beginners, adults. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, North Shore. Sharks Cove. Hawaii travel blog

 

Read more from the state of Hawaii about the Pupukea marine life conservation district.

 

This may not make such a great snorkeling spot in winter though.

In winter, the North Shore waves can be rough. Bad for snorkeling, but this can be good for surfing! The North Shore is internationally known as one of the best surfing spots in the world. If you will be on Oahu in winter, you might test your luck to see if you can check out a surf competition.

For a snorkeling spot on the North Shore in winter as an alternative, you might check the conditions at Kuilima Cove. This is another beginner-friendly snorkeling spot on Oahu.

 

 

Hiking near Shark’s Cove

Make it an amazing day on the North Shore of Oahu by doing a hike in the morning on the North Shore.

Then, after you’ve gotten in a good workout that comes with some amazing views, you can go for a recovery swim that includes some snorkeling at Shark’s Cove!

 

Ehukai Pillbox Hike
Snorkeling spots on Oahu on North Shore. Things to do near Sharks Cove, North Shore - Ehukai pillbox hike trail. Hawaii travel blog
Do this hike for amazing views of the North Shore coast. 

 

 

Beaches near Shark’s Cove

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Things to do near Shark's Cove - beaches on North Shore Oahu. Hawaii travel blog

 

Or, if you want to make it a beach hopping kind of day, see more of the best beaches on the North Shore of Oahu… including a beach where you might be able to see turtles!

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Things to do near Shark's Cove - beaches on North Shore Oahu to see turtles. Hawaii travel blog

 

 

 

3. Queen’s Beach

Waikiki marine life conservation district

Best snorkeling spots on Oahu. Waikiki Beach, Queens Beach, Waikiki marine conversation district - best snorkeling beaches in Oahu. Hawaii travel blog

 

If you’re staying in Waikiki and don’t want to go far, then the Queen’s Beach area can be a good place to go for the best snorkeling in Waikiki.

This is located at the far south end of Waikiki.

It’s also right near the beachside of Kapiolani Park which is a nice grassy area that you can set up your base too.

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu in Waikiki. Sans souci state park. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu in Waikiki. Sans souci state park. Hawaii travel blog

 

There are beach facilities around here with bathrooms and showers so that can make it convenient too.

There’s also a small snack bar nearby.

For reference, you can look for the lifeguard stand 2F, and try snorkeling somewhere around there.

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu in Waikiki. lifeguard near queen's beach. Sans souci state park. Hawaii travel blog

 

All beaches in Waikiki are free, so there’s no fee for snorkeling at Queen’s Beach.

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, Waikiki. Queen's Beach with Waikiki Beach skyline. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, Waikiki. Queen's Beach with Waikiki Beach skyline. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, Waikiki. Queen's Beach near pier. Hawaii travel blog

Snorkeling spots on Oahu, Waikiki. Queen's Beach with Diamond Head crater view. Hawaii travel blog

 

Read more from the state of Hawaii about the Waikiki marine life conservation district.

 

 

 

Hiking near Queen’s Beach

Make it an amazing day on Oahu by doing a hike in the morning that will keep you pretty near Waikiki.

Then, after you’ve gotten in a good workout that comes with some amazing views, you can go for a recovery swim that includes some snorkeling in Waikiki!

 

Diamond Head Hike

Snorkeling spots on Oahu in Waikiki. Things to do near Queen's Beach Waikiki - Diamond head hike, crater trail. Hawaii travel blog
Do this hike for the famous views of Waikiki and Honolulu.

 

And there you have it!
Some of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu to consider making a part of your trip to Hawaii!

 

 

Snorkeling alone in Oahu

While it is best to not snorkel alone on Oahu (or anywhere), if you are traveling to Hawaii alone, these listed snorkeling spots I would generally say would be fine if you are a solo snorkeler on Oahu, for the reason that there will likely be many people around.

This at least gives you more of a chance that someone sees you if you get into trouble in the water.

There are also lifeguards near Queen’s Beach and at Hanauma Bay. There is no lifeguard at Shark’s Cove.

Whether you are snorkeling alone or you have a snorkeling buddy, be sure that you take care when snorkeling, always! The ocean is beautiful, but it’s also powerful and can be dangerous!

 

 

What to pack for snorkeling on Oahu

 

1. Waterproof phone case

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Best waterproof phone case to take underwater photos. What to pack for snorkeling in Oahu packing list. What to wear snorkeling in Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, North Shore. Hawaii travel blog

 

 

Pack a waterproof phone pouch for snorkeling for a CHEAP way to waterproof your phone so you can capture some underwater memories!

 

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Waterproof phone case to take best underwater photos. What to pack for snorkeling in Oahu packing list. What to wear snorkeling in Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, North Shore. Hawaii travel blog

 

 

2. Water shoes

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Beach water shoes. What to pack for snorkeling in Oahu packing list. What to wear snorkeling in Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, North Shore. Hawaii travel blog

 

Pack this if you won’t be wearing fins when you snorkel.

Water shoes can help to protect your feet from hidden rocks on the beach and if you accidentally hit coral reef.

Coral reef is sharp!

I was swimming at Hanauma Bay barefoot and accidentally kicked the reef below me. It didn’t really hurt, but when I got out of the water, I noticed my foot was bleeding! And then started freaking out the rest of the day about a possible coral reef infection. 😉 Better to not go snorkeling on Oahu barefoot!

 

 

3. Sunscreen that’s not a part of the Hawaii sunscreen ban

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Reef-safe sunscreen for Hawaii sunscreen ban. What to pack for snorkeling in Oahu packing list. What to wear snorkeling in Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, North Shore. Hawaii travel blog

 

The type of sunscreen that you wear is kind of a big deal for locals in Hawaii.

There is now a ban in sales in Hawaii of sunscreen that contain certain chemicals.

Now, you could buy any sunscreen you like back home and then bring it to Hawaii.

But… it would likely be very appreciated if you wear a type of reef-safe sunscreen that locals prefer!

Best sunscreen for Oahu: See more about how to know if your sunscreen is the good type for snorkeling on Oahu.

 

 

4. Snorkeling set

Snorkeling spots on Oahu. Snorkeling gear for beginners - rent or buy. What to pack for snorkeling in Oahu packing list. What to wear snorkeling in Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, North Shore. Hawaii travel blog

 

Pack this to have your own snorkeling gear for your future snorkeling trips too!

It is possible to rent snorkeling gear on Oahu, and you can also find some basic snorkel sets sold in convenience stores in Waikiki too.

But it can be convenient to not have to spend time shopping for this when you don’t have a lot of time during your Hawaii vacation!

 

 

See more of snorkeling essentials for Hawaii, including why to wear a rash guard when snorkeling!

 

Also see more of the best Oahu beaches.

 

Headed to another island in Hawaii? See more snorkeling spots on other Hawaiian islands!

 

And plan more of your trip to Oahu!

 

More snorkeling in the US: Best snorkeling in Florida

 

 

HAPPY SNORKELING ON OAHU!

 

Best snorkeling beach spots in Oahu. Best things to do on Oahu. Best places to visit on Oahu. Backpacking Hawaii travel blog