So, you’ve booked a trip to Hawaii and now you’re ready to test out your brand new H2O Ninja Mask, but where do you start? With some of the most pristine beaches in the world, Hawaii’s coastlines do not disappoint in terms of underwater adventure, but figuring out where to go, when and on what island can be kind of daunting. In this series, we will break down the best snorkeling spots on each island so you can make the most of your adventure.
Also known as The Gathering Place, O’ahu is the third largest island in the chain of Hawaiian Islands and home to the state capital of Honolulu. Measuring 30 miles wide and 44 miles long, O’ahu is well-known for Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head Crater.
O’ahu’s most-visited snorkeling spot is Hanauma Bay, boasting more than 3,000 visitors per day and located just past Waikiki. Both a nature preserve and marine life conservation district, Hanauma Bay is inhabited by approximately 400 species of marine life with regular guest appearances by the famed green sea turtle and parrotfish. Arrive to Hanauma Bay early for parking availability and fewer crowds.
Waimea Bay, known to many as the origin of surfing, can also be a treasure chest when it comes to snorkeling, due mostly in part to the limitations of fishing in and near this famous North Shore Bay. Recommended for snorkeling only during summer months, spinner dolphins and sea turtles are known to frequent this spot. Arrive before 9 AM to get a parking spot in the small lot and venture out to the left side of the Bay where you will find some live coral and fish waiting.
Shark’s Cove, located just past Waimea Bay, is a bevy of marine life during the calmer summer months. A rocky entrance leads to a shallow water pool, which then extends to a much deeper (up to 20 feet) cove. Navigating through larger boulders, guests often see octopus, needlefish and plenty of sea urchin hanging out in these clear waters. Be wary of venturing too far outside the cove as north shore swells can be dangerous at any time of the year.
Venturing down the west side of the island, you’ll find Makaha Beach Park, a suggestion only for the experienced snorkelers and strong swimmers due to stronger-than-average tides. If you are seeking groups of turtles, this is where you’ll want to head. Standing on the shoreline, look toward 11 o’clock for a floating surf buoy. A short, but deep, swim will lead to live cauliflower coral and large boulders where turtles are usually feasting on algae. You will be swimming back to shore against the current, so be sure to save a bit of energy and follow the channel back to the sand.
Also located on the west side of O’ahu are the man-made Ko’Olina lagoons. A fantastic spot for beginner swimmers or new snorkelers seeking practice, this luxury resort complex offers 4 protected lagoons filled with small local fish and plenty of crystal clear water for exploring. Tune in next week if you plan to snorkel on Maui’s coastline!