Yellow tang tropical fish with large school of damselfish surround antler coral in underwater image.

The 9 Best Snorkeling In West Oahu: 2024 Ultimate Guide

Snorkeling in West Oahu, Hawaii, is an unforgettable experience, a true bucket-list kind of activity!

West Oahu includes a vast stretch of coastline with pristine beaches, extending from the bustling city of Honolulu to the beautiful landscapes along the island’s westernmost tip.

West Oahu boasts some of the best snorkeling spots on the planet with its unique combination of warm tropical currents, crystal-clear calm waters, abundant sunlight, and vibrant coral reefs.

Best snorkeling in West Oahu with green sea turtle swimming among colorful coral reef in clear water
Best snorkeling in West Oahu with green sea turtle swimming among colorful coral reef in clear water

West Oahu has snorkeling spots for all levels of skill and comfort, from calm and protected lagoons to challenging and adventurous sites. You can explore caves, tubes, ledges, and sandbars to add to the thrill of snorkeling.

In this blog post, I will introduce you to the 9 top spots for the best snorkeling in West Oahu, based on my personal experience and research. I will give you an overview of each spot, its popularity and location, its natural beauty and features, and its snorkeling conditions and highlights. 

The top spots for the best snorkeling in West Oahu are easily reachable from popular tourist areas such as Honolulu and Ko Olina.

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

Snorkeling in rich tropical waters of West Oahu
Snorkeling in rich tropical waters of West Oahu

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Why West Oahu Snorkeling is Much Better?

You might be wondering why I chose to focus on West Oahu for snorkeling, when there are many other spots on the island that are also popular and beautiful. 

West coast of Oahu Hawaii, leeward side of Oahu
West coast of Oahu Hawaii, leeward side of Oahu

The eastern shore of Oahu faces the trade winds that blow across the islands, and is aptly named the windward side of the island. In sharp contrast, West Oahu is on the leeward side, and is protected from the strong trade winds, resulting in ideal snorkeling conditions.

Protected from the prevailing trade winds, West Oahu, the leeward side offers tranquil bays, secluded coves, and pristine lagoons that are perfect for snorkeling.

Snorkeling in calm clear waters over coral reefs
Snorkeling in calm clear waters over coral reefs

This subtle difference in wind conditions is crucial to understanding why West Oahu is THE best place to snorkel in Oahu.

West Oahu’s sheltered calm waters provide a serene underwater environment, allowing for excellent visibility and a much better chance to encounter a diverse array of marine species, including colorful tropical fish, playful dolphins, and even graceful sea turtles.

Looking for the best guided snorkeling experiences in West Oahu?

This very popular tour from Ko Olina on a catamaran enables you to cruise the waters looking for dolphins and whales, and then snorkel at a hidden spot rich in marine life.

The tour has close to 900 reviews on Viator with a 4.5 star rating. It includes instruction and quality gear, plus a Hawaiian meal.

>> Check pricing and availability on this Ko Olina snorkeling cruise now!

Or consider this Oahu West Coast dolphin watching and snorkel safari, which has over 500 5-star reviews. The tour is capped at just 15 participants.

You’ll ride in a 32-foot USCG boat and the tour includes snorkel gear. Also look for whales in season!

>> Check pricing and availability on this Oahu West Coast snorkel tour now!

9 Top Spots for the Best Snorkeling in West Oahu

The 9 places for the best snorkeling in West Oahu are: 1) Ko Olina Lagoons, 2) Hawaiian Electric Beach, 3) Makaha Beach Park, 4) Pokai Bay Beach Park, 5) Keawaula Beach (Yokohama Bay), 6) Maili Beach Park (Maili Cove), 7) Nanakuli Beach Park, 8) Kaena Point State Park, and 9) Ko Olina Secret Lagoon.

What is the Best Snorkeling Place in West Oahu for Beginners and Families?

Ko Olina Lagoons is the best snorkeling place in West Oahu for beginners and families with small kids. Other family-friendly options include Pokai Beach Park, Nanakuli Beach Park and Maili Beach Park (which can get crowded).

Clear calm waters at Maili Beach Park, West Oahu, Hawaii
Clear calm waters at Maili Beach Park, West Oahu, Hawaii

What is THE Best Snorkeling Spot in West Oahu for Seeing Tropical Fish?

The Electric Beach is definitely the overall best location for snorkeling in West Oahu due to its abundance and amazing variety of tropical marine life. However, given the distance offshore and the possibility of strong currents, this location is primarily for intermediate to advanced snorkelers.

Rich marine life in the warm waters of Electric Beach
Rich marine life in the warm waters of Electric Beach

Other options for experienced snorkelers include Kaena Point State Park and Makaha Beach Park.

Which Spots are Less Crowded for Snorkeling in West Oahu?

If you are searching for a secluded (less crowded) option, then Keawaula Beach (Yokohama Bay) is a good option. Other options include Ko Olina Secret Lagoon and Kaena Point State Park (for experienced snorkelers).

Secluded Yokohama Beach in Kaena Point State Park, Oahu, Hawaii
Secluded Yokohama Beach in Kaena Point State Park, Oahu, Hawaii

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

Map of the Best Places for Snorkeling in West Oahu

The below map shows the locations of the 9 top spots for the best snorkeling in West Oahu.

What Will I See While Snorkeling in West Oahu, Hawaii?

Hawaii is home to over 400 species of inshore and reef fishes, many of which are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world.

Dazzling colors of coral reef
Dazzling colors of coral reef

Some of the most common and colorful ones you will see in West Oahu are: yellow tangs, butterflyfishes, angelfishes, wrasses, parrotfishes, surgeonfishes, damselfishes, triggerfishes, pufferfishes, goatfishes, moray eels, lionfishes, scorpionfishes, trumpetfishes, needlefishes, jacks, snappers, groupers, barracudas, sharks, rays, and many more.

You can also encounter larger marine animals, such as Hawaiian green sea turtles, spinner dolphins, humpback whales, and Hawaiian monk seals, that frequent the leeward coast of Oahu. 

Green sea turtle being cleaned by fish
Green sea turtle being cleaned by fish

Want to be able to recognize and identify these fish? Check out our Hawaii fish snorkeling guide for details and photos!

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

Ko Olina Lagoons

Ko Olina Lagoons is the perfect snorkeling spot for families with small kids and beginners!

Ko Olina Lagoons, man-made lagoons in luxurious resort area
Ko Olina Lagoons, man-made lagoons in luxurious resort area

The four manmade lagoons are part of a luxurious resort complex on the southwestern coast of Oahu, about 25 miles west of Honolulu. They have white sandy beaches, palm trees, and protective outer rock formations that create calm and shallow water for snorkeling.

The four lagoons are named Ulua, Nai’a, Kolola and Kohola, and they are connected by a 1.5-mile walking path that offers scenic views of the ocean and the mountains. I like Lagoon 2 and Lagoon 4 because they are closer to coral reefs.

You can get to Ko Olina Lagoons by car from Honolulu by taking H-1 westbound and then following Farrington Highway (HI-93) along the coast to Aliinui Drive. The drive takes about 40 minutes without traffic.

Ko Olina Lagoon, ideal snorkeling in West Oahu for beginners and families with small kids
Ko Olina Lagoon, ideal snorkeling in West Oahu for beginners and families with small kids

There is a small parking lot at each lagoon that fills up quickly on weekends and holidays. You may have to park along Farrington Highway or in the nearby neighborhood streets.

Ulua Lagoon has the most public parking spaces, but it is also the most crowded lagoon. You may want to walk along the path to find a quieter lagoon.

Ko Olina Lagoons have restrooms, showers, picnic tables and lifeguards.

Ko Olina Lagoons are ideal for families with small kids and for beginners. They are very safe and easy for snorkeling, especially for beginners and kids. They are one of the few places on Oahu where you can snorkel year-round without worrying about waves or currents.

Snorkeling in sheltered, calm waters of Ko Olina Lagoons, West Oahu, Hawaii
Snorkeling in sheltered, calm waters of Ko Olina Lagoons, West Oahu, Hawaii

The water depth ranges from 2 to 10 feet, depending on the tide and the location. The water clarity varies depending on the waves and the currents, but it usually gets better the farther away from shore you get.

While snorkeling at Ko Olina Lagoons, you can see a variety of marine life that live in the coral reefs and the rock formations. Some of the common fish you can see are sergeant fish, butterflyfish, wrasses, triggerfish, parrotfish, tangs and cowries.

A school of Yellow tang in the coral reefs near Ko Olina Lagoons on the west coast of Oahu, Hawaii
A school of Yellow tang in the coral reefs near Ko Olina Lagoons on the west coast of Oahu, Hawaii

The best areas to snorkel are along the edge of the reef that leads to the gaps between the rocks, where fresh ocean water flows into the lagoons.

Kahe Point Beach Park (Hawaiian Electric Beach)

Kahe Point Beach Park (Hawaiian Electric Beach Park) is my most favorite place for snorkeling in West Oahu.

This is a rocky beach near the Kahe Point power plant, about 25 miles west of Honolulu. It has two large cooling pipes that release warm water into the ocean (the discharge is not toxic), attracting a lot of marine life, including fish, turtles, rays and dolphins.

Electric Beach, an amazing place to snorkel in West Oahu, Hawaii
Electric Beach, an amazing place to snorkel in West Oahu, Hawaii

You can get to Electric Beach by car from Honolulu by taking H-1 westbound and then following Farrington Highway (HI-93) along the coast towards the town of Kapolei. The drive takes about 40 minutes without traffic.

There is a small parking lot at Electric Beach that fills up quickly on weekends and holidays. You may have to park along Farrington Highway or in the nearby neighborhood streets.

Electric Beach has restrooms and showers located near the entrance of the beach, next to the lifeguard tower.

Due to potentially strong currents, snorkeling at Electric Beach is suitable for intermediate to advanced snorkelers who are good swimmers.

Snorkeling for intermediate and advanced at Electric Beach, West Oahu, Hawaii
Snorkeling for intermediate and advanced at Electric Beach, West Oahu, Hawaii

The best place to snorkel is around the pipes and their surroundings, where you can see most of the sea life. The pipes are about 200-300 feet from shore so swimming fins are recommended, and they are about 20 feet deep at their openings.

Dolphin excursions along the west coast of Oahu near the Electric Beach
Dolphin excursions along the west coast of Oahu near the Electric Beach

You can follow them along their length, or explore the nearby reef areas that extend south of them.

We saw a host of colorful tropical fish including sergeant fish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, wrasses, tangs and cowries.

Coral reefs near Electric Beach offer excellent snorkeling in West Oahu
Coral reefs near Electric Beach offer excellent snorkeling in West Oahu

Electric Beach is one of the best places on Oahu to see dolphins, rays and turtles in their natural habitat.

Swimming with dolphins in Oahu Hawaii of the coast of Electric Beach,
Swimming with dolphins in Oahu Hawaii of the coast of Electric Beach

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

Makaha Beach Park

Makaha Beach Park is a beautiful, white sand beach in the town of Waianae, about 35 miles northwest of Honolulu. Makaha means “fierce” or “savage” in Hawaiian, and it was named after the ancient warriors who lived in this area.

It has a U-shaped bay with shallow coral reefs on two sides, and a deep channel in the middle where you can spot turtles, rays, octopuses and more.

Makaha Beach Park, a great place for snorkeling in West Oahu
Makaha Beach Park, a great place for snorkeling in West Oahu

You can get to Makaha Beach Park by car from Honolulu by taking H-1 westbound and then following Farrington Highway (HI-93) along the coast. The drive takes about an hour without traffic.

There is a small parking lot at Makaha Beach Park that fills up quickly on weekends and holidays. You may have to park along Farrington Highway or in the nearby neighborhood streets.

Calm, clear waters of Makaha Beach for snorkeling in West Oahu
Calm, clear waters of Makaha Beach for snorkeling in West Oahu

Makaha Beach Park has restrooms and showers located near the entrance of the park, next to the lifeguard tower.

Snorkeling at Makaha Beach Park is suitable for intermediate to advanced snorkelers and the beach is often steep, so you will be in deep water right away.

You can see sergeant fish, lavender tangs, parrotfish, butterflyfish, wrasses and triggerfish.

Raccoon butterfly fish in the coral reefs on West Oahu, Hawaii
Raccoon butterfly fish in the coral reefs on West Oahu, Hawaii

We saw a pod of spinner dolphins in the distance while snorkeling at Makaha Beach.

The best areas to snorkel are along the edge of the reef that leads to the channel. You can also snorkel around the buoy that marks the channel entrance, where you may see turtles and rays.

Beautiful Makaha Beach in West Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful Makaha Beach in West Oahu, Hawaii

Makaha Caverns, a series of underwater caves and arches, are also a popular spot for snorkeling, but you will need a boat or a kayak to reach them, as they are too far from shore for snorkeling.

Pokai Bay Beach Park (Turtle Beach)

Pokai Bay Beach Park is a sandy beach near the town of Waianae, next to the Waianae Boat Harbor, about 30 miles west of Honolulu. It has a breakwater that protects the bay from waves and currents, creating a calm and clear water for snorkeling.

Beautiful Pokai Bay beach park with the calm, blue, tropical waters
Beautiful Pokai Bay beach park with the calm, blue, tropical waters

Pokai Bay Beach Park has a heiau (ancient Hawaiian temple) on its north end that is dedicated to Ku’ula-kai, the god of fishing.

You can get to Pokai Bay Beach Park by car from Honolulu by taking H-1 westbound and then following Farrington Highway (HI-93) along the coast. The drive takes about an hour without traffic.

There is plenty of parking available at Pokai Bay Beach Park along Bayview Street and near the harbor. You can park for free on the street or in the designated lots.

Snorkeling in West Oahu at Pokai Beach
Snorkeling in West Oahu at Pokai Beach

Pokai Bay Beach Park has restrooms and showers located near the entrance of the beach park, next to the lifeguard tower.

Snorkeling at Pokai Bay Beach Park is very family friendly and is suitable for all levels of snorkelers who are comfortable in shallow water. The water entrance is easy at this location, as there are no waves or currents to deal with.

Calm waters at Pokai Bay beach park ideal for snorkeling in West Oahu
Calm waters at Pokai Bay beach park ideal for snorkeling in West Oahu

The best place to snorkel is around the reef that runs parallel to the shore, where you can see most of the sea life. I recommend you wear swim fins, the reef is about 50 feet from shore, and it is about 10 feet deep at its deepest point.

You can follow it along its length, or explore the different sections that have different types of coral and fish. You can also snorkel around the harbor area, where you may see turtles and dolphins.

While snorkeling at Pokai Bay Beach Park, you can see a lot of marine life that live in the reef and the harbor areas. Colorful tropical fish, such as the vibrant yellow tangs and the curious butterflyfish, can be spotted swimming among the coral reefs.

A school of goat fish against Hawaii's coral reefs
A school of goat fish against Hawaii’s coral reefs

Pokai Bay Beach Park is one of the few places on Oahu where you can snorkel in a calm and protected bay that has a natural reef and a harbor area.

Keawaula Beach (Yokohama Bay)

Yokohama Bay, also known as Keawaula Beach or Yokes, is a remote beach near the end of Farrington Highway, with a long stretch of white sand and turquoise water, surrounded by mountains and cliffs.

Remote and beautiful Keawaula Beach,Yokohama Bay, Kaena Point State Park, Oahu,
Remote and beautiful Keawaula Beach, Yokohama Bay, Kaena Point State Park, Oahu,

I love Keawaula Beach – one of the most scenic beaches on Oahu, but also one of the least visited.

You can get to Yokohama Bay by car from Honolulu by taking H-1 westbound and then following Farrington Highway (HI-93) along the coast. The drive takes about an hour and a half without traffic.

Calm, clear waters at Keawaula Beach: excellent snorkeling in West Oahu
Calm, clear waters at Keawaula Beach: excellent snorkeling in West Oahu

There is limited parking available at Yokohama Bay along Farrington Highway and limited facilities.

Snorkeling at Yokohama Bay is best suited for intermediate and experienced snorkelers due to its deeper waters and occasional stronger currents. The reef is about 100 feet from shore (and I strongly recommend swim fins), and it is about 15 feet deep at its deepest point.

The best areas to snorkel are around the reef that runs parallel to the shore, where you can see most of the sea life. You can follow it along its length, or explore the different sections that have different types of coral and fish.

The coral reefs are home to an abundance of colorful tropical fish, such as the vibrant parrotfish and the graceful butterflyfish. You can also snorkel around the bay area, where you may see turtles and dolphins.

A yellow trumpet fish with a school of millet seed butterfly fish
A yellow trumpet fish with a school of millet seed butterfly fish

.A hiking trail leads to Kaena Point State Park, which is a natural reserve that protects native plants and animals.

Maili Beach Park (Maili Cove)

Maili Beach Park, also known as Maili Point, is a sandy beach near the town of Waianae, about 28 miles west of Honolulu. It has a rocky point that extends into the ocean, creating a reef that attracts fish and coral.

Beautiful Maili Beach Park, West Oahu coast, Hawaii
Beautiful Maili Beach Park, West Oahu coast, Hawaii

It is one of the most popular and accessible beaches on the west coast, but also one of the most crowded.

To reach Maili Beach Park, travel west on Farrington Highway until you reach the town of Waianae. The park is easily accessible and offers ample parking. Maili Beach Park has restrooms and showers.

Maili Beach Park, West Oahu coast, Hawaii
Maili Beach Park, West Oahu coast, Hawaii

Snorkeling at Maili Beach Park is suitable for all levels of snorkelers and is very family friendly as it is easy and safe for kids and beginners who want to learn how to snorkel. There are shallow areas and tide pools where they can play and learn about marine life.

The best areas to snorkel at Maili Beach Park are along the fringing coral reefs that parallel the shoreline. The reef is about 50 to 100 feet from shore, and it is about 5 to 15 feet deep at its deepest point.

You can also snorkel around the bay area, where you may see turtles and dolphins.

Keep your eyes peeled for colorful reef fish such as the striking yellow tangs, the mesmerizing butterflyfish, and the playful sergeant majors. You might also spot sea cucumbers, crabs, and even the occasional green sea turtle.

Ornate Butterfly Tropical Fish
School of Ornate Butterfly Tropical Fish

Maili Beach Park is one of the best places on Oahu to see monk seals in their natural habitat. Monk seals, also known as ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua in Hawaiian, are rare and endangered and considered sacred animals by the native culture.

Nanakuli Beach Park

Nanakuli Beach Park is a sandy beach near the town of Nanakuli, about 28 miles west of Honolulu. It has a rocky point that extends into the ocean, creating a reef that attracts fish and coral.

It is one of the most popular and accessible beaches on the west coast, but also one of the most crowded.

Beautiful Nanakuli Beach Park, among the best snorkeling in West Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful Nanakuli Beach Park, among the best snorkeling in West Oahu, Hawaii

To get to Nanakuli Beach Park, head west on Farrington Highway until you reach the town of Nanakuli. The park offers convenient parking options, and restroom facilities and showers are available nearby.

Snorkeling at Nanakuli Beach Park is family-friendly and suitable for all levels of snorkelers. There are shallow areas and tide pool, and lifeguards on duty.

The best areas to snorkel are around the reef that lies off the rocky point. The reef is about 50 to 100 feet from shore, and it is about 5 to 15 feet deep at its deepest point.

The underwater landscape is stunning with sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and coral formations. You might spot colorful reef fish such as the vibrant triggerfish, the graceful unicornfish, and the playful damselfish.

Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, reef triggerfish
Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, reef triggerfish

Nanakuli Beach Park is one of the best places on Oahu to see monk seals in their natural habitat.

Kaena Point State Park

Kaena Point State Park, also known as Kaena Point or Leina a ka Uhane, is a natural area reserve near the town of Waianae, about 35 miles west of Honolulu. It has a rocky point that marks the westernmost tip of Oahu, where the north and west shores meet.

Kaena Point Beach scenic seascape on the west side of Oahu, Hawaii, USA.
Kaena Point Beach scenic seascape on the west side of Oahu, Hawaii, USA.

Kaena Point State Park is one of the most remote and pristine places on the island, where you can see rare plants, animals and cultural sites. You can see ancient Hawaiian sites such as heiau (temples), ahu (altars) and ki’i pohaku (petroglyphs).

To reach Kaena Point, you can take the scenic Farrington Highway that winds along the coast. However, please note that the road narrows and becomes unpaved as you approach the point.

There are parking areas available, but it’s important to remember to secure your vehicle and not leave any valuables behind. You’ll find basic facilities at the trailheads leading to the snorkeling area.

Snorkeling at Kaena Point State Park is best suited for experienced snorkelers who are fit and adventurous. The water entrance can be difficult at this location, due to waves, currents and rocks that may occur along this part of the coast.

Kaena Point State Park, west Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point State Park, west Oahu, Hawaii

You have to hike about 2.5 miles from either section of the park to reach Kaena Point, where you can enter the water from a small sandy beach or a rocky ledge.

The best place to snorkel is around Kaena Point itself, where you can see most of the sea life. The reef is about 50 feet from shore, and it is about 10 to 20 feet deep at its deepest point.

You can also snorkel around the cove area, where you may see turtles and dolphins.

Keep an eye out for schools of colorful reef fish, such as the vibrant triggerfish, the mesmerizing angelfish, and the elusive unicornfish. If you’re lucky, you might even spot Hawaiian green sea turtles gracefully gliding through the water.

Banded Bandit Angelfish on Coral Reef
Banded Bandit Angelfish on Coral Reef

Ko Olina Secret Lagoon

If you are looking for a hidden gem in West Oahu, you may want to check out the Ko Olina Secret Lagoon.

This is a small, secluded cove that is not part of the four main lagoons in Ko Olina Resort, but rather a natural lagoon that is tucked away behind a fence and a sandy path.

Secret Lagoon Beach, Ko Olina on the west side of Oahu, Hawaii
Secret Lagoon Beach, Ko Olina on the west side of Oahu, Hawaii

The Ko Olina Secret Lagoon is located between the Four Seasons Resort and the Paradise Cove Luau, on the west side of Oahu. It is also known as Lanikuhonua Beach or Lanikuhonua Cultural Institute Beach, as it is part of the Lanikuhonua estate.

To get to the Ko Olina Secret Lagoon, you need to take the exit off of H-1 West to Ko Olina and make a right turn at the sign that says “Lanikuhonua”.

There is a small parking lot and a sidewalk that leads to a sandy path on the left and to the lagoon.

The Ko Olina Secret Lagoon is a great spot for snorkeling, as it has clear water, coral reefs and abundant marine life. You can see fish, turtles, eels, rays and even seals at this lagoon.

Yellow tangs in coral reef waters
Yellow tangs in coral reef waters

The best spots for snorkeling are near the rocks on either side of the lagoon, where you can find more coral and fish.

As with most of the secret beaches in Oahu, the Ko Olina Secret Lagoon is no longer secret! Last time I was there, there were three other snorkelers, but definitely less crowded than the other lagoons!

Secret Ko Olina Lagoon, West Oahu, Hawaii
Secret Ko Olina Lagoon, West Oahu, Hawaii

Bonus: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

While not officially on West Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is still one of my favorite snorkeling spots in Oahu. This stunning bay is located within a volcanic crater that was formed over 32,000 years ago by a series of eruptions.

Snorkeling at the coral reef of Hanauma Bay, a former volcanic crater, now a national reserve
Snorkeling at the coral reef of Hanauma Bay, a former volcanic crater, now a national reserve

The bay is home to a rich and diverse marine ecosystem, with over 400 species of fish, coral, turtles, and other aquatic creatures.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is located on the southeast coast of Oahu, about 9 miles (15 km) east of Waikiki Beach.

Reservations are required and tickets ($25/adult) are in high demand and very limited! You also need to watch a short video about the bay before entering.

Hanauma bay, a popular snorkeling site
Hanauma bay, a popular snorkeling site

Want to avoid the stress and hassle? Consider taking a tour that organizes transportation and provides snorkeling gear.

Nowadays, I just take this guided tour and the experience is much better.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve offers some of the best snorkeling in Oahu, with clear water, calm conditions, and abundant marine life. Some of the best spots are near the reef on either side of the bay, where you can find more coral and fish diversity.

Family snorkeling in calm, tropical waters
Family snorkeling in calm, tropical waters

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a must-see attraction for anyone who loves snorkeling!

Best Snorkeling Boat Tours from West Oahu

Some of the best snorkeling spots in West Oahu are offshore, where you can see more marine life and less crowds. By taking a boat tour, you can get to these spots easily and safely, without having to worry about driving, parking or renting equipment.

Diving and snorkeling gear on a boat tour in Oahu, Hawaii
Diving and snorkeling gear on a boat tour in Oahu, Hawaii

In addition, you can learn from expert guides and naturalists, and have fun and relax on board with food, drinks and music. Some boats offer open bar, free refreshments, showers and restrooms.

Some of the top-rated tours include:

We took the small group snorkel tour with yacht cruise and were really glad we splurged! We had a fantastic time and the drinks were truly bottomless!

Our friends recently opted for this popular combination tour, which includes dolphins, turtles, and fish, and were very happy as well! They had an amazing time swimming with spinner dolphins and snorkeling with turtles!

Snorkeling Equipment

What I love about snorkeling is that it is a fun activity that needs simple and inexpensive equipment: a snug-fitting mask, a snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece, and feet fins!

Basic snorkeling equipment: mask, snorkel, fins
Basic snorkeling equipment: mask, snorkel, fins

Optionally, you may want to use a wetsuit (or a rash guard) and a flotation device.

Where to Rent Snorkeling Equipment in West Oahu

If you don’t want to buy the equipment or bring it with you can rent it from one of the many shops or outfitters in West Oahu. Here are some of the best places to rent snorkeling equipment in West Oahu:

Snorkel Bob’s

A popular snorkeling and gear outfitters in Hawaii with several locations on Oahu, including one near Waikiki on the way to Hanauma Bay.

They offer high-quality snorkeling equipment for all ages and sizes, as well as other beach gear, such as beach chairs, coolers, wetsuits, boogie boards, etc. You can reserve your gear online for discounts and a free boogie board for the week.

Hawaii Eco Divers

A scuba diving and snorkeling outfitter that offers dives and snorkels on the North Shore of Oahu, Waikiki, Honolulu, and the West Side. They provide professional guides and instructors, as well as top-notch equipment for all levels. 

Moku Hawaii

A sporting goods store that offers surfboards, paddle boards, bikes, and snorkel gear for rent or sale. They are located in Waikiki, close to many popular snorkeling spots. 

Waikiki Dive Center

A dive shop that offers scuba diving and snorkeling equipment for rent or sale. They are located in Waikiki, near Ala Moana Beach Park

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?).

Best Time for Snorkeling in West Oahu

Snorkeling in West Oahu is a wonderful activity that you can enjoy all year round.

I usually go snorkeling in West Oahu in the summer months, and try to go early in the morning, before it gets too crowded or windy. I love seeing the sun rise over the ocean and watching the fish wake up.

Best Time of Year for Snorkeling in West Oahu

The best time of the year for snorkeling in West Oahu is from May to September. These are the summer months in Hawaii, when the water is warm, calm, and clear. 

Excellent visibility in crystal clear water in summer
Excellent visibility in crystal clear water in summer

The average sea temperature during these months is about 82 F/27.7C, which is comfortable for staying in the water and exploring marine life.

Best Time of Day to Snorkel in West Oahu

The best time of the day for snorkeling in West Oahu is in the morning when the water is usually calmest and clearest. The morning light also makes the colors of the fish and coral more vibrant and beautiful.

The morning is also a good time to avoid the crowds.

Hanauma Bay sunrise in Oahu Hawaii
Hanauma Bay sunrise in Oahu Hawaii

Some of the popular snorkeling spots in West Oahu, such as Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach) and Ko Olina Lagoons, can get busy later in the day with tourists and locals alike.

Important Tips for Snorkeling in West Oahu

Snorkeling in West Oahu can be a rewarding and fun activity, but it also requires some preparation and safety precautions. 

Select a Snorkeling Spot Suitable for Your Skill Level

Some spots are more accessible, calm and shallow than others, while some may have stronger currents, deeper water and more challenging conditions. 

Calm clear waters of Ko Olina Lagoons, West Oahu, Hawaii
Calm clear waters of Ko Olina Lagoons, West Oahu, Hawaii

Invest in quality snorkeling gear

Having the right equipment can make a big difference in your snorkeling experience. You want to have a mask that fits well and doesn’t leak, fins that are comfortable and efficient, and a wetsuit that keeps you warm and protected. 

Take a snorkeling class or lesson

If you are new to snorkeling or want to improve your skills, it may be a good idea to take a snorkeling class or lesson from a professional instructor. 

Practice breathing through your mouthpiece

One of the most common challenges for beginner snorkelers is getting used to breathing through their mouthpiece. To avoid panic or discomfort, practice breathing through your mouthpiece on land before entering the water.

Familiarize yourself with ocean safety tips and regulations

You should always snorkel with a buddy, stay within your limits, avoid touching or feeding marine life, respect the environment, check the weather and water conditions, wear reef-safe sunscreen, stay hydrated and listen to your guide or instructor.

Book boat tours and make reservations early

West Oahu is a popular destination. Make sure you book / reserve your tour or rental equipment or parking early!

>> Check pricing and availability on this popular snorkeling boat tour!

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.

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!

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!

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!

Did you find this article informative? Pin it for later!

Discover the best spots for snorkeling along the pristine west coast of Oahu, Hawaii!

Disclaimer

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