Snorkeling on Oahu

Hanauma Bay sees more than 10,000 visitors a day, nearly all coming to snorkel at the pristine marine sanctuary that’s home to more than 300 species of fish. It’s not the only place to snorkel around Oʻahu, though. And you don’t always need a guide to show you the way.

Snorkeling is a must-do activity when you visit any of the Hawaiian Islands, simply because there are fish species that can only be seen here. For the best snorkel experience, hop a catamaran snorkel tour from nearby Kewalo Basin (a mile from Waikiki) and set out for Turtle Canyon and other offshore reef spots.

For those wanting the most memorable experience, a day trip with a dolphin snorkel off the Wai‘anae coast is strongly urged. And if you’re a thrill seeker, a shark dive snorkel (snorkelers are in a cage) off the north shore coast can’t be beat. Both are memorable experiences that will last a lifetime.

Reefs are typically better further out from the shore where the water is clear and the fish plentiful. Wherever you go — even when shore snorkeling — know that it is common to see giant honu (green sea turtles), he‘e (octopus), moray eels, goatfish, puffer fish, butterfly species of fish and, yes, even the humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a (trigger fish).
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Some shoreline snorkel spots can only be reached at certain times of the year. Shark’s Cove, for example, can only be snorkeled during the summer months because the waves get too big during the winter on the North Shore. It is located between world famous surf spots, Waimea Bay and Pipeline.

Year-round, Lanikai Beach on the windward side is a premier spot for shoreline snorkelers. From the fine, white sand beach, visitors can stare out at the thousands of reefs that dot the sandy bottom in the pristine water. It’s a great place for families to snorkel and swim.

There is also a kayak and snorkel tour to Coconut Island (from “Gilligan’s Island” fame), which entails a three-hour tour — or more.

Hanauma Bay, one of Hawaii's top attractions. Photo: Napua Heen / Hawaii.com.

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