Kaneohe Sandbar snorkeling is one of the best things to do in Oahu – you don’t want to miss it!
Oahu is home to many amazing attractions, such as the world-famous Waikiki Beach, the historic Pearl Harbor, and the iconic Diamond Head crater.
But there’s one place that stands out from the rest: Kaneohe Bay.
Kaneohe Bay is a large, sheltered bay on the windward side of Oahu, facing the Koolau Mountains. The bay is one of the most beautiful and scenic places on the island, with calm, turquoise waters, green mangroves, and stunning views.
But what makes Kaneohe Bay truly special is the Kaneohe Sandbar, the largest saltwater sandbar in the world!
Kaneohe Sandbar is a natural formation that can be found at the center of Kaneohe Bay. Depending on the tide, it can be covered with waist-high water or completely exposed, creating a small beach in the middle of the ocean.
The Kaneohe Sandbar is stunning but it’s almost a mile away from shore, so you will need a boat or kayak to get there. But trust me, it’s worth the trip.
The sandbar and its surrounding coral reefs are perfect for snorkeling, playing beach volleyball, having a lunch picnic, and enjoying views of the mountains. You can also see dolphins, turtles, rays, and other marine life in the bay.
Kaneohe Sandbar is like a paradise on earth!
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What is the Kaneohe Sandbar?
Kaneohe Sandbar is a natural formation that can be found at the center of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii’s largest sheltered body of water.
It’s not an island, but it’s not just a patch of sand either. It’s something in between.
And getting to it can be tricky. Want to visit hassle-free? Book this popular boat tour!
Kaneohe Bay is on the east side of Oahu, facing the Koolau Mountains. Though it’s on the windward side of Oahu, Kaneohe Bay is protected by a reef that keeps the water calm and clear.
The sandbar is a ridge of sand that rises from the bottom of the bay, about a mile away from the shore. You need a boat or a kayak to get there.
The sandbar changes with the tides: it can be covered with waist-high water or completely exposed, creating a small beach in the middle of the ocean.
Kaneohe Sandbar is also known as Ahu O Laka, which means “altar of Laka” in Hawaiian. Laka was a voyaging chief who was honored by the ancient Hawaiians.
The sandbar has been a sacred and important place for centuries.
Looking for the best Kaneohe Sandbar boat tour in Oahu?
This highly rated boat excursion to the Kaneohe Sandbar has close to 350 5-star reviews on Viator!
The 2.75-hour afternoon tour gets you to the sandbar hassle-free, allowing you to relax and enjoy the ride. All equipment included.
Snorkel at the sandbar if you wish, spot sea turtles, and enjoy the scenery!
>> Check price and availability on this Kaneohe Sandbar boat tour now!
Kaneohe Bay Kayak Rental
Feeling adventurous? You can rent a kayak and paddle out to the sandbar and back on your own.
You’ll have a lot more autonomy and time to enjoy the bay.
No need to transport the kayak! The equipment is set up for you by the water, ready to go.
>> Check price and availability on a Kaneohe Bay kayak rental now!
Map of Kaneohe Sandbar and Nearby Attractions
See below for a map of Kaneohe Sandbar and nearby attractions:
How to get to Kaneohe Sandbar?
Since Kaneohe Sandbar is about a mile offshore, you have to take a boat or kayak.
Kaneohe Sandbar Boat Tour
The easiest way to get to the sandbar is by joining a Kaneohe Bay sandbar boat tour, a roughly 15 min boat ride.
A boat tour will take you from He’eia Kea Boat Harbor in Kaneohe to the sandbar and back, with stops at the best spots for snorkeling and other activities.
I recommend boat tours because they are convenient and enjoyable. You can see and do a lot in a short time, without any hassle or stress.
You can also experience the sandbar in style and comfort. Some boat tours even include lunch, drinks, and water sports like banana boats and bumper tubes.
You can also listen to live music by local Hawaiian musicians who will set the mood for your adventure.
Kaneohe Sandbar Kayak Tour
Kayaking to Kaneohe sandbar is another great option!
You can kayak from He’eia State Park in Kaneohe to the sandbar and back, with stops at the best spots for snorkeling and exploring.
While kayaking, you can see the coral reefs and caves that are hidden under the water and the marine life that lives in the bay, such as turtles, dolphins, and rays.
Rent a two-person kayak for Kaneohe Bay now: no need to transport it, it will be set up and ready for you by the water!
Self-Guided Kaneohe Sandbar Tour
If you’re feeling adventurous and independent, you can also get to the sandbar by yourself. You will need to rent or bring your own boat or kayak, as well as your own snorkel gear and other equipment.
You will also need to check the tide chart and weather forecast before you go.
A self-guided tour will give you more freedom and flexibility to explore the sandbar at your own leisure. You can also avoid the crowds and have more privacy.
A self-guided tour requires more planning and preparation. You will need to know how to navigate the bay safely and responsibly.
I suggest self-guided tours only if you’re confident and experienced in boating or kayaking. You should also be aware of the risks and challenges involved in getting to the sandbar by yourself.
Captain Bruce offers private boat rentals and charters out to the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
The Best 2023 Kaneohe Sandbar Tours
Some of the best Kaneohe Sandbar tours are described below.
If you have small kids or are looking for a more relaxed option, I highly recommend these two tours:
If you are looking for a more private, beach-like experience the morning tour is better, if you want a more social, party-like atmosphere with more water activities, the afternoon tour is better.
If you are looking for a longer tour, Captain Bobs Picnic Sail offers a Kaneohe Bay Sandbar & Snorkeling Tour with snorkeling, swimming, and water volleyball that is also very nice. Great for a casual outing with family and friends!
If you have teenage kids or are seeking a more thrilling experience, then I recommend the tours with Kaneohe Bay Ocean Sports.
If you are looking for some level of exercise and adventure, kayaking is a good option, and kayak rentals are available from Kama’aina Kayak and Snorkel Eco-Ventures at Heeia State Park in Kaneohe.
Captain Bruce Kaneohe Sandbar Snorkeling Tours
Captain Bruce offers morning and afternoon Kaneohe Bay sandbar snorkeling tours. The tour features a comfortable and spacious catamaran boat that can accommodate up to 30 passengers.
The friendly and professional crew will provide you with snorkeling equipment, instruction, and guidance.
I highly recommend this tour for anyone who wants to have a fun and memorable experience of the sandbar and the bay.
The tour departs from Heeia Kea Small Boat Harbor in Kaneohe twice a day, every Monday to Saturday. The morning tours start at 9:00 am and the afternoon tours start at 1:00 pm.
The prices are $149 for adults, $139 for children, and $199 for the all-inclusive package.
Kaneohe Bay Ocean Sports
This tour company offers several options for ocean sports enthusiasts who want to experience the sandbar.
You can choose from standard or all-inclusive tours that include snorkeling, sandbar volleyball, stand-up paddle boarding, and optional add-ons like banana boat, bumper tube, jet ski, or SeaWalker.
The tours also include live music by local Hawaiian musicians who will serenade you on the catamaran.
The tours depart from Heeia Kea Boat Harbor in Kaneohe and last for 3.5 hours. The morning tours start at 9:00 am and the afternoon tours start at 1:00 pm. The afternoon tours also include a lunch spread of croissant sandwiches, pineapple, salad, and chips.
I think this tour is great for people who love adventure and variety. You can try different activities and have a blast on the water. The live music is also a nice touch that adds to the aloha spirit.
You can book this tour online at https://www.kaneohebayoceansports.com/
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
Kama’aina Kayak and Snorkel Eco-Ventures
This tour company offers kayak and snorkel rentals for people who want to explore the sandbar and the nearby reefs at their own pace.
You can rent single or double (tandem) kayaks and snorkel gear from their location at Heeia State Park in Kaneohe. They also provide life jackets, dry bags, maps, and instructions.
You can paddle to the sandbar or one of the many reefs in the bay where you can see colorful fish, coral, and turtles. You can also enjoy the park facilities like picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and a gift shop.
This tour is ideal for people who prefer a more independent and eco-friendly way to enjoy the sandbar. You can go at your own speed and choose where to go.
You can book online at https://www.kamaainakidskayaking.org/.
Captain Bob’s Picnic Sail
This tour company offers a family-friendly picnic sail to the sandbar with barbecue lunch and drinks. You can snorkel or kayak around the bay with provided equipment.
The sail departs from Heeia Kea Boat Harbor in Kaneohe and lasts for 4 hours. It starts at 10:30 am and includes a barbecue lunch of burgers, hot dogs, chicken, salads, fruits, chips, and drinks. You can also enjoy unlimited soda and juice.
This tour is great for people who want to have a fun and casual day on the sandbar with their friends or family.
You can book this tour online at https://www.captainbobspicnicsail.com/.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
What can I do at Kaneohe Sandbar?
Kaneohe Sandbar is not just a place to see, but also a place for fun-filled water activities for the whole family!
Kaneohe Sandbar Snorkeling
Snorkeling is the most popular activity you can do at the sandbar. The water is clear and shallow, making it easy and safe for beginners and kids.
I remember the first time I went snorkeling at the sandbar. I was amazed by how many different kinds of fish I saw. I even saw a couple of hammerhead sharks!
There were yellow tangs, butterflyfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, and even a moray eel. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
You can often see Hawaiian green sea turtles near the Turtle Reef at the edge of the sandbar.
Check out our Hawaii Fish Snorkeling guide to identify the different fish you will see while snorkeling.
Kayak to Kaneohe Sandbar
Kayaking is a great way to explore the sandbar and its surroundings coral reefs and caves that are hidden under the water.
Kayaking is a relaxing and peaceful activity that lets you enjoy the beauty of Kaneohe Bay.
Paddle boarding is a great activity for all ages and skill levels. You can stand or sit on a board and use a paddle to move around.
Paddle boarding is a fun and easy way to enjoy the water and the scenery at the sandbar.
If you’re looking for some thrill and excitement at the sandbar, you can try some ocean sports that will make your heart race and your adrenaline pump.
You can hop on a banana boat or a bumper tube and ride across the waves at high speed. You can also try jet skiing, parasailing, or wakeboarding if you’re feeling brave.
Water volleyball is a great activity for all ages and fitness levels. Water volleyball is similar to regular volleyball, but it’s played in shallow water with a soft ball.
The Best Time to Visit Kaneohe Sandbar
The Kaneohe Sandbar is a wonderful place to visit all year round, but the activities you want to enjoy will dictate when to visit.
The sandbar is only visible when the tide is low. At high tide, the sandbar is completely submerged underwater.
The best time to see the Kaneohe Sandbar is during a low tide. You can easily find the tide chart on Google or on websites like https://www.tide-forecast.com/.
The low tide starts around 6 AM and will stay low for several hours.
Visiting the sandbar during low tide is great for snorkeling, playing beach volleyball, having a picnic, and enjoying views of the Koolau Mountains and the turquoise water.
You can walk on the soft white sand and see colorful fish, coral, and turtles in the clear water.
Visiting the sandbar during high tide can be fun too, as it is a great snorkeling spot to see Hawaii’s sea life. You can also enjoy ocean sports like banana boat, bumper tube, jet ski, or SeaWalker.
The best time of year to visit the sandbar is during spring or summer, when the weather is more stable and dry. The best time of day to visit the sandbar is in the morning or afternoon, when the sun is not too strong and the wind is not too strong.
I personally love visiting the sandbar in the morning, when it is less crowded and more peaceful.
What Else to See and Do Near Kaneohe Bay?
There are plenty of fun and interesting things to do near Kaneohe Bay, in addition to Kaneohe Sandbar snorkeling. If you are visiting Kaneohe Bay, these are some must-see attractions.
Visit Byodo-In Temple
The Byodo-In Temple is a beautiful replica of a Japanese Buddhist temple that is located at the foot of the Koolau Mountains.
It has a large pond with koi fish, a meditation pavilion, a bell house, and a stunning statue of Buddha.
Currently, the temple is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $2 for children. It is located at 47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744-4562.
For the latest time and price information, please check here.
The best way to see the temple is as part of an Oahu island tour. Check out these highly rated island tours:
We and our friends have taken many of these tours – if you have limited time and want to cover key attractions, you cannot go wrong with one of the above!
But if you want your own private tour, I highly recommend this Private Circle Island Tour with Sunset & Free Photo Session by a Photographer: having the free photo session for the family was worth the splurge!
This temple is one of my favorite places in Oahu – it makes me feel calm and relaxed.
Explore Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is huge and fabulous! No wonder movies like Jurassic Park, Godzilla, and Jumanji were filmed here!
You can ride horses or ATVs, zipline through the forest, kayak on the river, or visit an ancient Hawaiian fishpond.
The ranch is open daily from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm and prices vary depending on the activity or tour you choose. It is located at 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744-5152.
Check out these popular tours:
When we were visiting Oahu with friends, we opted for the Circle Island Jeep Tour since we had limited time. We loved the tour – it was private and we got to see all the key attractions in one go!
Enjoy Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens (Free!)
Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens is a gorgeous botanical garden that covers 400 acres of land. Best of all, no admission fee!
Different sections showcase tropical plants from all around the world, such as Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Polynesia, Melanesia, Hawaii, and the Philippines. You can also see a variety of birds, fish, and insects.
The garden is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and admission is free (check here for latest information). You can also camp there on weekends with a permit. It is located at 45-680 Luluku Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744-1855.
I enjoy visiting this garden because it is very beautiful and educational. I like to walk along the trails, see the different plants and animals, and have a picnic by the lake.
Shop at Tropical Farms (The Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet)
Macadamia nuts are one of the most popular gift items that people take back to the mainland!
Tropical Farms a family-owned farm where you can sample different flavors of macadamia nuts, such as honey roasted, garlic onion, cinnamon glazed, or chocolate covered. You can also buy coffee, tea, honey, candy, souvenirs, and more.
The farm is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and admission is free. You can also join a free tour that shows you how macadamia nuts are grown and processed. It is located at 49-227 Kamehameha Hwy Ste A, Kaneohe, HI 96744-5165.
Many top rated island tours cover the farm:
Visit Kāneʻohe Bay
Kaneohe Bay is the largest sheltered body of water in Hawaii and has many islands, reefs, sandbars, and marine life.
You can also see or visit the Mokoli’i Island (also known as Chinaman’s Hat) and the Moku o Lo’e Island (also known as Coconut Island or Gilligan’s Island – since it is featured in the opening sequence of the hit television show).
Kanoehe Sandbar: FAQ
Should I go to Kaneohe Sandbar in the morning or afternoon?
Early morning, low tide, is when the sandbar is visible (usually for an hour or so). Later, you can be up to waist deep or more in water.
Morning is better for beach-like activities, afternoon is better for water activities.
How hard is it to kayak to Kaneohe Sandbar?
Kaneohe Sandbar is roughly 1.5 miles from He’eia State Park. Kaneohe Bay typically has calm waters. However, you are in the open ocean, and wind and water conditions can change quickly.
Difficulty level will vary based on these conditions. Tandem kayaking and tours are better options if you haven’t kayaked before.
How long does it take to get to Kaneohe Sandbar?
Kaneohe Sandbar is roughly a 15-minute boat ride from the He’eia Kea Small Boat Harbor in O’ahu.
Kayaking to Kaneohe Sandbar can take 45 minutes to an hour depending on the wind and water conditions.
Is Kaneohe Sandbar worth visiting?
Kaneohe Sandbar is definitely worth visiting! The sandbar and its surrounding coral reefs are perfect for snorkeling, playing beach volleyball, having a lunch picnic, and enjoying views of the mountains.
You can also see spinner dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles, humpback whales (in winter), rays, and other marine life in the bay.
Best Oahu Tours
Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?
Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!
The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.
Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!
Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.
A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu advennture for your bucket list.
We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.
Renting a Car in Oahu
If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.
Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).
While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.
We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle
If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!
This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!
Where to Stay in Oahu
Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.
While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.
Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!
On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.
More Oahu Travel Inspiration
Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!
Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.
Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!
More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.
Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.
We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!
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