When my husband and I planned our return trip to Hawaii the only activity on my mind was snorkeling with sea turtles on Oahu.
Because let’s get real — is there anything better than swimming with sea turtles in Hawaii?!
As you may remember, I wrote about the best spots for snorkeling with sea turtles on Maui ages ago and it seems like many of you found that list helpful (which is great).
So today I’d like to follow up by highlighting the best spots to find sea turtles in Oahu in the hopes that you’ll find this post helpful too.
As you know, I’m not one for small talk, so let’s get to the good stuff!
Best Spots for Sea Turtles on Oahu
Swimming with Sea Turtles on Oahu (Helpful Tips)
Don’t touch the sea turtles
- Sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to touch a sea turtle in Hawaii and there is a $10,000 fine associated with the penalty. Sea turtles are considered sacred in Hawaii so keep a minimum distance of 10 feet to avoid touching them.
Best time to see sea turtles
- Did you know that there’s an optimal time to spot sea turtles? Try snorkeling with sea turtles from 11am – 2pm and it will greatly improve your chances of spotting them. In fact, all of our sightings and encounters occurred within that time frame.
Reef-safe sunscreen is a MUST!
Did you know that the active ingredients in traditional sunscreen are toxic to reef systems and marine life? Here’s the (inexpensive) reef-safe sunscreen we used during our trip and it worked very well. In fact, we’ve re-purchased it 3 times.
Snorkeling with Sea Turtles on Oahu (Essential Gear)
Let’s cover proper snorkeling gear to ensure you’re set up for success while swimming with sea turtles on Oahu.
A good snorkeling mask
- I purchased this mask prior to my trip and was very happy with it. I noticed a lot of people using this mask and would consider purchasing it for my next trip.
- Nothing ruins an underwater party quicker than a foggy mask. It’s worth spending a few extra dollars and purchasing anti-fog spray, this is the spray I highly recommend.
Flippers are a must
- These are the flippers I have used the past 5+ years (I practically lived in them when we visited the Virgin Islands and would repurchase them in a heartbeat!).
- I also purchased these snorkeling socks to prevent blisters and now refuse to snorkel without them – serious game changer!
A proper rash-guard (laugh all you want, but I’m serious)
- A rash guard is essential, especially if you run cold like me. I bought this one before our trip and put it to good use on several occasions. It’s highly reviewed on amazon — another perk.
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Where to Find Sea Turtles on Oahu
#1: Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)
Location: Pohaku Loa Way, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Listen, they don’t unofficially call this Turtle Beach for nothing! Well, I mean they actually call it Laniakea Beach which translates to “wide sky.” But a wide sky is only half the story here, because the sea turtles steal the show.
The shallow surf makes it a perfect place to snorkel with sea turtles regardless of your skill level. Based on first hand experience, there’s plenty of them to see here! In fact, this area is so well known for sea turtles on Oahu that volunteers walk the beach and post signs to ensure folks don’t get too close to the turtles on shore.
P.S. Laniakea beach is often regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, so it gets very busy very fast. Regardless, I highly recommend visiting even if you don’t plan to swim with the sea turtles because the views alone are worth a visit.
Tip: Don’t mistake “Turtle Beach” for Turtle Bay Resort.
#2: Electric Beach
When doing research for our trip to Hawaii, many friends recommended visiting Electric Beach specifically for the sea turtles. Little did we know what a treat we were in for! The water here creates the perfect conditions for a variety of marine life — from Angel Fish to Clown Fist and even Spinner Dolphins in the distance.
But as you know, we wanted to see the gentle sea turtles most! Thankfully, we spotted two within minutes of hitting the water, so yes — if you’re looking for sea turtles on Oahu, Electric Beach is definitely worth a stop.
Location: Electric Beach is on the west side of Oahu, about 40 minutes from Waikiki Beach.
#3: Makua Beach
In some ways Makua Beach feels like a secret of sorts because not many people make the drive over. However, the beach itself is breathtaking and photographers flock in droves during sunset for good reason. But Makua Beach is not only good for great photos, it’s a great place to swing with sea turtles as well!
The clear water makes visibility a complete breeze and the schools of fish that playfully wiz by are a joy to behold. Your chance of seeing sea turtles increases as you head further offshore, make the effort to go the distance and you won’t regret it.
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#4. Haleiwa Beach
Located a stone’s throw from Laniakea Beach is Haleiwa Beach. It’s a great place to swim with sea turtles on Oahu because the water is very clear and sea turtles seem to frequent this beach.
During our visit we came across 4 turtles resting on the shore around sunrise. It was so fun to play around with them in the water for about an hour. I suggest wearing a rash guard while swimming here because the water gets colder the further you go from the shore.
#5. Cockroach Cove (Kaupo Bay)
Neighboring the famous Halona Blowhole is Cockroach Cove, which is another great spot to snorkel with sea turtles on Oahu!
Chock-full of tide pools and great snorkeling opportunities, Cockroach Cove is ripe for exploration. The waters in this area aren’t well suited for young swimmers, so I suggest snorkeling here if you have some experience and make sure to visit on a calm sunny day for the best snorkeling conditions.
Best Spots for Sea Turtles on Oahu (Honorable Mentions)
The five beaches mentioned above are the best spots to find sea turtles on Oahu based on our experience. With that said, the five beaches below are also great spots for sea turtles. We’ve seen these gentle giants at the beaches below but with less frequency than the other beaches mentioned earlier. In any case, try your luck!
- Aki’s Beach
- Halona Beach Cove
- Kuilima Cove Snorkeling
- Ko Olina
Are there sea turtles at Waikiki Beach?
Yes! Believe it or not. The best time to spot sea turtles at Waikiki Beach is around sunrise and noon.
We spent a lot of time walking around Waikiki Beach because our hotel was along the shoreline. During these walks, we’d consistently see sea turtles from the pier. What’s more, while cooling off after drinks at Duke’s Bar, we came across a little guy that was swimming close to shore. It was so cool!
Learn about the Hawaiian Turtle
Hawaii is home to five different species of sea turtles. The green sea turtle (Honu in Hawaiian) is by far the most common on Oahu.
The second most common is the Hawksbill sea turtle, but they are seen much less frequently. The remaining three species tend to hang out in deeper waters, so chances are you won’t come across the Olive ridley, Leatherback or Loggerhead.
Fun fact: Leatherbacks are the largest living sea turtles and can weigh more than 2,000 pounds! But don’t worry, you thrill seeker, you. The green sea turtle is quite large as well – see below.
Turtles eat algae (referred to as “limu” in Hawaiian)
- Limu is found in abundance around Hawaii’s coral reefs — making the reefs an ideal spot to find sea turtles.
- Fun fact: Sea turtles sometimes cross entire oceans to feed on limu before returning home. For instance, some Loggerhead turtles migrate from Japan to Big Sur, California for grub before returning home again – how crazy is that?!
Sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea
- That’s a long time in the water, considering the average life span of a green sea turtle ranges from 30 to 80 years!
- Sea turtles are adapted to the ocean but require air to breathe, it’s not uncommon to see a little head bopping above the water every now and then.
Where to see sea turtles on Oahu (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s the best spots to find sea turtles on Oahu:
- Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)
- Electric Beach
- Makua Beach
- Haleiwa Beach
- Cockroach Beach (Kaupo Bay)
- Aki’s Beach
- Halona Beach Cove
- Kuilima Cove Snorkeling
- Ko Olina
Need more helpful information?
I hope you enjoy your time snorkeling with sea turtles on Oahu!
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Until next time,
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