Endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles (honus) basking in the sun on Laniakea Beach, North Shore, Oahu

Laniakea Beach, Oahu, HI: 2024 Visitor Guide To Turtle Beach

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Laniakea Beach on the North Shore of Oahu has a unique qualification that makes it an Oahu must visit destination: reliable and consistent sightings of Hawaiian green sea turtles (called honu in Hawaiian)!

For years, green sea turtles have been visiting Laniakea Beach with clockwork-like regularity, no doubt, attracted by the abundant seaweed, green algae and moss on the beach and the lava boulders near the shore.

Locals have aptly nicknamed Laniakea Beach as Oahu’s Turtle Beach!

We found them either basking in the sands or spotted their heads bobbing up and down the shallow shore waters, while they fed.

Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on the sandy shores of Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach), Oahu
Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on the sandy shores of Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach), Oahu

So habitual is their frequency, many are deemed residents, and wildlife volunteers on Laniakea Beach have even named them!

What’s more, ask them a question about one, and hear them rattle off its statistics: age, number of kids, weight, and more!

To think that these majestic creatures were only recently on the brink of extinction, hunted down for their meat.

Once added to the endangered species list and federally protected, their numbers rebounded, especially during Covid-19. So much so, that you’ll see tons of them on many Hawaiian beaches, though none more reliably than Laniakea Beach.

Ready to view some Hawaiian green sea turtles? Read on to plan your trip to Laniakea Beach, Oahu!

Planning your trip to Oahu? Check out our 2024 guide to the most popular tours and excursions in Oahu!

Green moss, seaweed and algae on Laniakea Beach form part of the green sea turtle's diet
Green moss, seaweed and algae on Laniakea Beach form part of the green sea turtle’s diet

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Laniakea Beach Directions

Laniakea Beach is located on the sleepy North Shore of Oahu, between the charming town of Haleiwa and Waimea Beach.

Driving from Honolulu? Directions are straightforward: Highway 1W to Highway 2N to Kamehameha Highway (Highway 99). Cross Haleiwa, and merge onto Highway 83E.

About a mile from Haleiwa, keep a lookout for a public parking lot on your right, with likely lots of cars parked there.

Unfortunately, though you are on a coastal road, Laniakea Beach is not well signposted, and you can easily miss it.

Beautiful Laniakea Beach in summer, can be easily missed from the road
Beautiful Laniakea Beach in summer, can be easily missed from the road

You can use “laniakea beach north shore hi 96712” for Google maps or GPS.

Laniakea Beach Parking

Laniakea Beach parking is off the road, across from the ocean side. Parking used to be a major problem here, but they have now expanded the parking area, and roughly 50+ cars can park here.

Since then, we’ve had no trouble finding an empty spot here, but we typically visit on weekdays.

Aerial view of Laniakea Beach and the North Shore of Oahu
Aerial view of Laniakea Beach and the North Shore of Oahu

Unfortunately, you will have to cross the fairly busy Kamehameha Highway to get over to the beach, but there are pedestrian crossing areas, and many people will likely be crossing with you.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Oahu Island Tours that Stop at Laniakea Beach

Don’t want to drive? Laniakea Beach, with its popular turtles, is now a stop for many Circle Island tours or North Shore of Oahu tours, and that may be a convenient option.

This immensely popular, 5-star rated North Shore Circle Island Adventure Including Snorkeling with the Turtles is different from many of the other North Shore tours in that you spend more time at Laniakea Beach, and can even to snorkel with the turtles.

>> Check pricing and availability on the popular, 5-star rated North Shore Circle Island Adventure Including Snorkeling with the Turtles now!

If you prefer smaller groups, this popular, 5-star rated Small Group North Shore Circle Island Tour Oahu stops at Laniakea Beach (roughly 20 minutes), with plenty of time to snap some photos and selfies with the turtles.

>> Check pricing and availability on the 5-star rated Small Group North Shore Circle Island Tour Oahu now!

A third option, and one that we preferred when vacationing as a family, was the 8 Hour Circle Island Jeep Tour, which offered the flexibility we needed of hotel pickup and the ability to personalize the stops, and how long at each stop.

>> Check pricing and availability on the 5-star rated 8 Hour Circle Island Jeep Tour now!

Here are the three 5-star rated North Shore of Oahu tours again:

Laniakea Beach Map

The Laniakea Beach map below shows the location of Laniakea Beach, and the main attractions nearby.

Laniakea Beach Reservations

No reservations or permits are required for Laniakea Beach currently. There is no entry fee either.

Laniakea Beach Amenities / Facilities

Location: Laniakea Beach, North Shore Oahu, HI 96712
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Shade trees
Food Nearby: Head to Haleiwa for food options
Parking: Parking lot across the street
Directions: About one mile on 83E from Haleiwa

Lifeguards are on duty daily from 09:00 am to 5:30 pm, but note that the tower is on the left side of the beach, away from the rock wall area where the turtles typically are.

Life guard tower at Laniakea beach in Oahu, Hawaii, USA

There are no restrooms or outdoor showers here.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Best Things to Do at Laniakea Beach

Though Hawaiian green sea turtles are all the rage here, Laniakea Beach is quite beautiful, with golden sands that extend into contiguous beaches.

As you enter, to your right you’ll see a lava rock outcropping jutting into the ocean, and most of the turtles tend to be on this side.

On your left is a wide, sandy beach for about 300+ yards, where you have all your typical ocean activities.

As with the other North Shore Oahu beaches, summer waters here are usually calm and almost lake-like.

Calm, lake-like ocean waters at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, in summer
Calm, lake-like ocean waters at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, in summer

Winter is an entirely different story, with rough waves, high surf conditions, and strong, treacherous currents along the coast.

Usually you’ll see red flags and warning signs telling you not to enter the water.

1. Admire Turtles on Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach)

After all, that’s why we were here!

Honus or Hawaiian green sea turtles have been visiting Laniakea Beach for ages, drawn by the green and red grass, called limu (Hawaiian seaweed), on which they graze.

Hawaiian green sea turtle munching on limu (Hawaiian seaweed) on Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Hawaiian green sea turtle munching on limu (Hawaiian seaweed) on Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

You’ll find the green grass on the beach, as well as on lava rocks and boulders, both on the beach, and underwater, along the shore.

When you enter the beach area, head to where the throngs are, and that’s where the turtles are! You’ll find volunteers cordoning off areas around the turtles with red rope and cones, shooing off the selfie-seeking junkies who come in too close.

Hawaiian green sea turtles are still on the endangered species list, and are protected by federal laws. Please keep your distance, at least 10 feet per NOAA guidelines.

Turtle sign at Laniakea Beach in Oahu, Hawaii
Turtle sign at Laniakea Beach in Oahu, Hawaii

Volunteers on Laniakea Beach are a wealth of information, feel free to ask them questions.

Not only will they tell you the name of each of the turtles (yes, they are bona fide residents of Laniakea Beach, and have names!), but their age, weight, and how often you’ll see them on the beach.

We were in awe to hear that some were 80+ years old, and others weighed over 600 pounds!

One of the questions we had for them was when do the turtles congregate in greater numbers on the beach? Apparently, summertime around sunset!

And how true, when we stayed back one trip to view the sunset, they seemed to keep coming to shore in waves, till there were about 20+ of them on the beach!

Truly, viewing Hawaiian green sea turtles on Laniakea Beach is one of the best free things to do on Oahu!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

2. Laniakea Beach Snorkeling

What’s better than viewing green sea turtles on the beach? Snorkeling with them in the shallow shore waters of Laniakea Beach!

Turtle snorkeling in Oahu to watch the beautiful Hawaiian green sea turtles
Turtle snorkeling in Oahu to watch the beautiful Hawaiian green sea turtles

Hope you brought your snorkeling gear with you, and if you are looking to buy personal snorkeling gear instead of renting, check out these light travel-ready ones that we love to take to Hawaii!

The area around the lava rock outcropping is the best place for snorkeling, because the turtles frequent the shallow waters there due to underwater rocks liberally covered with limu (Hawaiian seaweed).

Snorkeling near the lava rock outcropping at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Snorkeling near the lava rock outcropping at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

We did spot other colorful tropical fish, but the waters are a bit murky here. For better snorkeling, I recommend you stop at Shark’s Cove on the North Shore or one of the best West Oahu snorkeling spots.

Note, the lifeguard tower is not close to this area, so enter the water at your own risk.

3. Laniakea Beach Swimming

During summer, Laniakea Beach ocean waters are usually calm, and we saw quite a few people in the warm waters, either for a refreshing dip or swimming along the beach.

The left side of the beach is much better for swimming, with a sandy beach and a gently sloping shore.

Enjoying the warm ocean waters at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, HI
Enjoying the warm ocean waters at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, HI

Winter waters are usually too rough, with treacherous currents. Stay on the beach and enjoy the sand!

I recommend water shoes at Laniakea Beach, even in the water, since sharp rocks are not uncommon here.

4. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Laniakea Beach

The finely powdered, golden sands on Laniakea Beach to the left as you enter are much less crowded, and finding a spot for a bit of sunbathing or relaxing with a book is easy.

Fine golden sands on the left side of Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Fine golden sands on the left side of Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Bring your beach umbrellas and don’t forget reefsafe sunscreen.

Though Laniakea Beach is about 300 yards long to the left, the sandy beach continues into the contiguous beaches, and we took a leisurely stroll along the beaches, with a pleasant evening breeze.

Leisurely stroll along Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Leisurely stroll along Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

5. Stay Back for Spectacular Sunsets

While not as spectacular as the sunsets we viewed from the nearby Sunset Beach further up on the North Shore of Oahu, you can still see some stunning tropical sunsets at Laniakea Beach.

Colorful sunset at Laniakea Beach, in the midst of gathering storm clouds
Colorful sunset at Laniakea Beach, in the midst of gathering storm clouds

Best of all, you don’t have to deal with the crowds that tend to collect at Sunset Beach.

6. Surf or Boogie Board at Laniakea Beach

Winter brings towering waves to the North Shore of Oahu, and Laniakea Beach is no exception!

Popular surf breaks off Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Popular surf breaks off Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Professional surfers head here to ride the thrilling waves at Laniakea Beach and the neighboring Chun’s Reef Beach.

They have multiple popular surf breaks to choose from including Hultin’s, Himalayas and Chun’s Reef.

Surfer paddling to popular surf breaks on Laniakea Beach, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii
Surfer paddling to popular surf breaks on Laniakea Beach, North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

While not as crazy high as the waves at Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach Park) and Sunset Beach, the waves here are still large enough to warrant only experienced surfers most of the time.

Surf boards and warning flags at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Surf boards and warning flags at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Besides, powerful and treacherous currents run along Laniakea Beach, especially at high surf, so entering the water is very risky!

Summer waves and swells, though, are usually fun even for less experienced surfers and boogie boarders, and you’ll see a lot of younger surfers at Laniakea Beach and Chun’s Reef Beach.

7. Stroll down to Chun’s Reef Beach

As mentioned earlier, contiguous beaches to Laniakea include Papa’iloa Beach, Kawailoa Beach and Chun’s Reef Beach.

After our fill of the Hawaiian green sea turtles at Laniakea Beach, we usually make it a point to stroll down to Chun’s Reef Beach and spend some time there.

Chun's Reef, popular surf break, and sandy beach adjacent to Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Chun’s Reef, popular surf break, and sandy beach adjacent to Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

The beach is much less crowded, since tour bus folks don’t usually have the time to walk over.

Besides, swimming and snorkeling here is a lot better, but again limited to summertime waters.

You also have lifeguards on duty here, and you can check with them before entering the water.

Snorkeling and Water Activities Gear Checklist

Though you can rent snorkeling gear or use the ones that come with tours, we invested in our own gear, mainly due to Covid-19 (why take the risk?).

Snorkel with Hawaiian green sea turtles at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Snorkel with Hawaiian green sea turtles at Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Ocean Safety Tips

Hawaii’s beaches are beautiful, but ocean activities can be dangerous. Ocean conditions are dynamic and can change without warning.

Here are some tips to enjoy the ocean and beaches safely:

  • ALWAYS heed posted warning signs.
  • Check conditions just before you arrive at your chosen beach, and watch conditions at the beach for a bit before you decide to enter the water.
  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach and ask the lifeguard for advice before you enter the water.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean, whether you are standing at the shore or on a cliff above. If you see wet rocks or sand, it means the water has been here recently.
  • Know your limitations, especially if you are not an experienced swimmer. If in doubt, do not go out.
  • If you choose to enter the water, go with a partner or in a group.
  • Know that alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills in the water.
  • Keep children close and always keep your eyes on what they are doing in the water.
  • Watch for sharp coral or rocks or sea urchins.
  • Check advisories regarding water quality at various beaches here.
Laniakea Beach waters can be dangerous in winter, heed the warning signs
Laniakea Beach waters can be dangerous in winter, heed the warning signs

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 adventure 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.

>> Check availability and prices on Oahu car rentals now!

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!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Oahu now!

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.

Our faves include Halekulani for a splurge stay, the Lotus Honolulu for views of Diamond Head, and The Laylow for its awesome location.

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.

>> Look for an Oahu vacation rental on VRBO now!

Laniakea beach, beautiful North Shore of Oahu beach, famous for green sea turtle viewing
Laniakea beach, beautiful North Shore of Oahu beach, famous for green sea turtle viewing

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.

If you ar planning a short first visit to the island, we have the perfect day-by-day 3 days in Oahu itinerary for you!

Of course you’ll want to learn about all the exciting things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, and Waikiki, the touristic core of Oahu. We also have an article on the best places to eat in Waikiki!

Check out our guide to the best beaches in Oahu, and a round-up of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu. Also read about must-visit Oahu waterfalls and botanical gardens in Oahu you have to visit.

Oahu is home to so many must-visit landmarks! Check out our in-depth article on how to visit Pearl Harbor, and our guides on the beautiful Waimea Valley in Oahu and the spectacular Byodo-In Temple.

Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore! Enjoy birding? Check out our guide to the birds of Oahu!

Discover the top places to go snorkeling in west Oahu, where you will find a long coastline with lovely beaches, and tips for snorkeling Kaneohe Sandbar on the island’s east coast as well as the super popular Hanauma Bay.

And if you love marine life, also check out our complete guide to (respectfully!) see and swim with dolphins in Oahu, and the best spots to snorkel with turtles in Oahu.

For hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, we have a round-up of the best Oahu hikes, and if you are looking to exclude the harder Oahu trails, a guide to the best easy Oahu hikes.

Find out how to do the iconic (and VERY popular) Diamond Head Hike near Waikiki for exceptional views. We also have a guide to the very popular Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu.

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!

If you are a garden enthusiast, check out our detailed guide to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, our article on the unique Koko Crater Botanical Garden, and our guide to Foster Botanical Garden!

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Discover the complete guide to Laniakea Beach on Oahu's north shore. Also known as Turtle Beach, Laniakea Beach is very popular for turtle sightings. It's also a very beautiful beach to stroll!

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