Cage diving with sharks in Oahu is an incredible experience, a bucket-list activity for thrill seekers and adventure tourists visiting Oahu, Hawaii!
Oahu, the third-largest island in Hawaii, is not only famous for its stunning beaches, surfing waves and lush green landscapes, but also for its rich marine life, including many species of sharks.
Oahu is surrounded by warm and clear waters that host about 40 species of sharks, ranging from the powerful tiger sharks to the graceful reef sharks and the curious hammerhead sharks.
Cage diving and swimming with sharks in Oahu are experiences that you will never forget. They will challenge your fears, expand your knowledge and inspire your respect for these amazing animals.
If you want to encounter sharks in the wild in Oahu, you have several options. You can join a boat tour that takes you to a spot where sharks are known to frequent.
You can either watch them from the boat or get into a floating shark cage that protects you from direct contact with them. You can observe them up close and personal through metal bars or plexiglass windows.
You can go snorkeling or diving at certain locations where sharks are likely to be seen, such as North Shore Oahu, Electric Beach or Haleiwa Trench. You can swim freely in the water without a cage.
If you’re looking for a unique adventure, you’re in for a treat!
In this blog post, we’re going to take you on a journey through the world of sharks in Oahu. We’ll share some personal recommendations, safety tips, and fascinating facts about these majestic creatures.
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Sharks in Oahu, Hawaii: An Introduction
Sharks are a group of fish that have cartilage instead of bones, gills for breathing, and fins for swimming. They belong to a class of animals called Chondrichthyes, which also includes rays and skates.
Sharks have been around for more than 400 million years, they are older than dinosaurs! Sharks come in many sizes, from the tiny pygmy shark that is only 8 inches long, to the whale shark that can grow up to 50 feet or more.
The importance of sharks in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem cannot be overstressed: they keep our oceans healthy and clean by keeping the food chain in check.
Sharks control the populations of herbivorous fish that graze on algae, keeping the coral reefs healthy. They prey on sick, injured, or weak animals, leaving the healthiest ones to survive and reproduce.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
Why are Shark Encounters Popular in Oahu?
Believe it or not, shark encounters have become quite the rage! The thrill of getting up close and personal with these apex predators in their natural habitat is an unforgettable adventure.
The adrenaline rush of being in the open ocean world of sharks, one of the most powerful and misunderstood predators, is simply amazing: you can see them swim around you, sometimes even bumping into the cage.
Most tours will have a marine biologist or knowledgeable crew members who will help you learn more about sharks, their biology, behavior, and conservation efforts.
Many people have a huge fear of sharks!
Shark encounters are a great way to overcome this irrational fear, learn more about sharks and appreciate them for what they are: amazing and important animals that deserve our respect and protection.
Different Kinds of Shark Encounters in the Open Ocean
If you want to see or swim with sharks in the wild, in their natural environment, you have three main options:
Snorkel with Sharks, Oahu
Snorkel with sharks in Oahu is the cheapest option, especially if you opt to snorkel in the shallow reef waters accessible from the beach. You expect to see common reef sharks, typically small.
Cage Dive with Sharks, Oahu
Cage dive with sharks in Oahu requires booking a tour, and you safely lowered under the water in a protected cage. Depending on the location, usually the open ocean, you can see many sharks, some as large as tiger sharks and whale sharks.
Free Dive with Sharks, Oahu
You can also swim with sharks or free dive with sharks in Oahu. This is a cage-less or no cage experience, usually as part of a guided tour, and under the supervision of an experienced naturalist.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
Snorkeling with Sharks in Oahu
Snorkeling with sharks is the easiest and most accessible way to see sharks in their natural habitat, and a great option for beginners or families with kids who want to see sharks in the wild without too much hassle or risk.
You only need a mask, a snorkel and fins to explore the surface of the water, where you can spot sharks swimming below you or around you.
Snorkeling with sharks is usually done in shallow waters near coral reefs or sandy areas, where you can see different kinds of reef sharks, such as whitetip, blacktip or gray reef sharks.
These sharks are generally harmless and shy, but you should still keep a safe distance and respect their space.
Best Oahu Shark Snorkeling Tours
The best option for shark sightings is to join a boat tour where the captain will take you to the best places in the open water where sharks are likely to be seen.
With snorkeling tours, you have three options.
The first option is to combine snorkeling with an Oahu’s North Shore tour that includes snorkeling.
The Deluxe North Shore Tour is a very popular, 5-star rated tour that allows you to select an option to snorkel at North Shore’s Shark Cove area.
The second option is to choose a snorkeling-specific tour where you may see reef sharks as well while exploring coral reefs. You have many 5-star rated tours for this including:
If you have limited time in Oahu, a combination tour will let you see more things. You may also see other iconic Hawaiian marine life including Hawaiian green sea turtles, spinner dolphins, and, in winter months, humpback whales.
However, there is no guarantee you will see sharks, especially the larger ones that are pelagic (prefer the open ocean).
If your primary goal is shark encounters, and you are a beginner or a family with kids, then your best option is snorkeling in a cage that is close to the surface, but in the open ocean.
The best option for this is Hawaii Shark Encounters’ Shark Cage Diving In Oahu.
Hawaii Shark Encounters offers daily tours from Haleiwa Harbor on Oahu’s North Shore. You will be able to sharks like the Galapagos and sandbar sharks, ranging from 5 to 15 feet in length.
You will stay on or close to the surface, in the safety of a floating cage, breathing through a mask and snorkel, while watching sharks swim by through large polyglass windows.
What is the Cost of Shark Snorkeling Tours in Oahu?
The average cost ranges from $50 to $150 per person, depending on the location, the company, the duration and the season.
The cost usually includes the boat tour, the snorkeling equipment, the guide or instructor, and sometimes the photos or videos.
Cage Diving With Sharks in Oahu
Cage diving with sharks is the most thrilling and exciting way to see sharks up close and personal.
You are locked inside a metal cage that protects you from direct contact with the sharks, while you wear a mask and a snorkel or an air helmet to breathe underwater.
You are lowered into the water to a depth of about 10 to 40 feet, where you can observe the sharks through metal bars or plexiglass windows.
Cage diving with sharks is usually done in deep waters near the islands or seamounts, where you can see larger and more aggressive sharks, such as tiger, Galapagos or white sharks.
These sharks are curious and bold, and may approach or bump into the cage to investigate.
Cage diving with sharks requires some courage and nerves of steel, but it is also very safe and controlled.
Best Oahu Shark Cage Diving Tours
Most Oahu shark cage diving tours start from Haleiwa small boat harbor on the North Shore of Oahu and head out into the ocean to the best places where sharks are.
The typical duration is 2 hours, of which usually you are in the shark cage for 20 minutes.
The best tours for cage diving with sharks in Oahu are described below.
We took the North Shore Shark Adventures’ Oahu Shark Dive tour when we were in a group with small kids. The kids loved the adventure, and the thrill of seeing tons of sharks so close! We all had a great time, a lifetime experience.
North Shore Shark Adventures
North Shore Shark Adventures offers small groups, daily tours from Haleiwa Harbor on Oahu’s North Shore. They are the original and most established shark cage diving tour in Hawaii, with over 20 years of experience.
They use a custom-built boat that can accommodate up to 12 passengers, and they provide all the necessary equipment and safety instructions.
They offer a money-back guarantee that you see sharks!
Haleiwa Shark Tours
Haleiwa Shark Tours offers small group daily tours from Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor on Oahu’s North Shore. They are the only shark cage diving experience owned and operated by Native Hawaiians, who regard sharks as sacred and culturally significant animals.
They use a spacious boat that can fit up to 12 passengers, and they provide all the necessary equipment and safety instructions. You may see Galapagos sharks, sandbar sharks, reef sharks, and sometimes tiger sharks.
Hawaii Shark Encounters
Hawaii Shark Encounters offers small group (less than 10 people) daily tours from Haleiwa Harbor on Oahu’s North Shore.
They are a research and conservation organization that aims to educate people about sharks, shark biology and marine life, and they have a team of marine biologists and shark experts on board.
You will observe many kinds of sharks from the safety of a floating cage, using a mask and snorkel, looking through large, polyglass windows.
What Does Cage Diving With Sharks in Oahu Cost?
The average cost ranges from $100 to $200 per person, depending on the location, the company, the duration and the season. The cost usually includes the boat tour, the cage diving equipment, the guide or instructor, and sometimes the photos or videos.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
Swimming With Sharks in Oahu
Swimming with sharks is the most challenging and rewarding way to see sharks in their natural habitat. It is a great option for experienced and adventurous divers who want to see sharks in their natural habitat without any barriers.
The boat tour will provide you with diving equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit, regulator, buoyancy control device or a scuba diving gear if you are certified) that fits you well.
You may also wear a shark shield or a camouflage suit if you want to reduce the risk of attracting or provoking the sharks.
You are free to swim in the water without a cage or any other protection, while you wear a mask, a snorkel and fins, or a scuba diving gear if you are certified.
You are accompanied by a guide or an instructor who knows how to interact with the sharks safely and responsibly.
Swimming with sharks is usually done in open waters near the surface or at depth, where you can see different kinds of pelagic sharks, such as hammerhead, silky or oceanic whitetip sharks.
These sharks are shy and wary, but may also get curious or defensive if provoked.
Swimming with sharks requires some skill and experience, but it is also very respectful and educational.
Best Oahu Swimming With Sharks Tours
The best tours for swimming with sharks in Oahu are described below.
We took the One Ocean Diving’s Snorkel and dive with sharks in Hawaii with One Ocean Diving and highly recommend it for the educational value, apart from the fantastic diving experience. This is a unique program, with great shark conservation and research efforts!
One Ocean Diving
One Ocean Diving offers daily tours from Haleiwa Harbor on Oahu’s North Shore.
They are a research and conservation organization that aims to educate people about sharks and marine life, and they have a team of marine biologists and shark experts on board.
They use a spacious boat that can fit up to 16 passengers, and they provide all the necessary equipment and safety instructions. You will be snorkeling in the clear, deep blue, pelagic ocean, 3 miles off Haleiwa coast.
You may swim with sharks including Galapagos sharks, sandbar sharks, reef sharks, and sometimes tiger sharks.
Island View Hawaii
Island View Hawaii, a family-owned and operated business, offers daily tours from Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor on Oahu’s North Shore.
They use a comfortable boat that can hold up to 6 passengers, and they provide all the necessary equipment and safety instructions.
They will take you 3 miles off the coast of Oahu to the pelagic zone of the ocean (about 250 feet deep). You will be free swimming for roughly 40 minutes during which you may see many kinds of sharks including Galapagos and sandbar sharks.
Photos and videos are included for free!
They also offer an alternative Pelagic Shark Dive Tour on a second boat.
What Does Swimming With Sharks in Oahu Cost?
The average cost ranges from $150 to $300 per person, depending on the location, the company, the duration and the season. The cost usually includes the boat tour, the diving equipment, the guide or instructor, and sometimes the photos or videos.
Want to scuba dive with sharks but not yet ready?
If you want to explore scuba diving and can clear the medical, check out this 5-star rated option DISCOVER Scuba Diving Experience in Honolulu. What better place to learn to scuba dive than Oahu?
What Kinds of Sharks Live in Oahu?
There are about 40 different species of sharks that occur in Hawaiian waters, but only a few are common in nearshore waters.
These inshore species are apex predators in their environment, they eat other animals like fish, squid, octopus, crabs, and sometimes even other sharks.
Sharks are very sensitive to their environment and can detect sounds, smells and electric fields from their prey at great distances. They usually hunt at dusk, night, and dawn.
What Sharks Will You See While Swimming or Cage Diving in Oahu?
The sharks in Oahu most commonly seen by snorkelers, swimmers and cage divers are whitetip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, hammerhead sharks, and Galapagos sharks.
Whitetip Reef Sharks
The whitetip reef shark is a small shark (up to 6 feet) that is light brown with white tips on its fins. It likes to stay near coral reefs and caves, where it rests during the day and hunts at night.
It eats small fish and invertebrates, such as crabs and octopus. It is not very aggressive and usually ignores humans, unless they bother it or try to feed it.
The sandbar shark is a medium-sized shark (up to 8 feet) that is gray with a white belly and a high dorsal fin. It likes to swim in shallow waters near sandy bottoms and reef edges, where it feeds on fish and crustaceans, such as shrimp and lobster.
It is also not very aggressive and usually avoids humans, unless they are in its territory or have food.
The hammerhead shark is a group of sharks that have a flat head with eyes on each end. There are nine species of hammerhead sharks, but the most common ones in Hawaii are the smooth hammerhead and the scalloped hammerhead.
They have different shapes of their heads, and use them to scan for electric fields from their prey. They form large schools during the day and disperse at night.
They are shy and cautious around humans, but may get curious or defensive if provoked.
The Galapagos shark is a medium-sized shark (up to 12 feet) that is brownish gray on its dorsal surface and white on its underside. It likes to swim in deep waters near rocky reefs or islands, where it eats bottom fish and squid.
It is curious and bold around humans, and may approach boats or cages to investigate. It may also get aggressive if it feels threatened or if there is food around.
Uncommon, but Easily Recognizable, Sharks in Oahu
These sharks are not very common, but they have some special features that make them stand out from the rest.
The tiger shark is a very large shark (up to 18 feet) that has a blunt snout and dark stripes on its sides. It is considered the most dangerous shark in Hawaiian waters because of its unpredictable behavior and tendency to bite anything that moves.
It is an opportunistic feeder that eats almost anything, from fish and turtles to birds and garbage. It can be found in various habitats, from shallow bays to open ocean.
The whale shark is the biggest shark in the world (up to 50 feet or more). It is not really a whale, but a fish that looks like one.
It has a wide mouth that can filter plankton, small fish and crustaceans from the water. It has a gray body with white spots and stripes.
It likes to swim in warm waters near the surface, sometimes with other whale sharks or other fish. It is gentle and harmless to humans, who can swim alongside it if they are respectful.
What is the Cultural Significance of Sharks in Oahu?
Sharks are considered sacred animals by many Native Hawaiians, who call them mano. In Hawaiian culture, sharks are believed to be ancestral guardians or family protectors, known as ʻaumākua.
Some families have a special connection or relationship with a specific shark or shark species, and may even recognize them by markings or scars.
Sharks are also respected for their strength, wisdom, and courage, and may inspire people to emulate these qualities.
Tips for Oahu Shark Encounter Adventures
Sharks are not mindless killers that attack humans for no reason. They are curious and intelligent animals that sometimes mistake humans for their natural prey or act defensively when provoked.
If you decide on a shark encounter adventure, please remember to be respectful of the sharks and their environment.
Follow these tips to have a safe and enjoyable shark encounter:
- Do not feed, touch, or harass the sharks. Feeding can alter their natural behavior and make them associate humans with food, which can increase the risk of bites.
- Wear a shark shield or a camouflage suit if you want to reduce the risk of attracting or provoking the sharks
- Do not use flash photography or bright lights which can irritate the sharks’ eyes and make them uncomfortable or aggressive.
- If you see a shark, stay calm and move slowly away from it. Most sharks are not interested in humans and will leave you alone if you do not bother them.
- Do not wear shiny jewelry or bright colors which can attract the sharks’ attention and make them mistake you for prey or a rival.
- Do not swim alone or near stream mouths or fishing boats where sharks are more likely to be present and hungry. Always swim with a buddy and stay close to the shore or the boat.
- Do not swim if you have any open wounds or are menstruating. Sharks can smell blood from far away and may be curious or attracted by it.
- Wear a life jacket or a flotation device if you are not confident in your swimming ability.
- Bring a waterproof camera or a GoPro to capture your shark encounter.
- If you are prone to motion sickness, bring or take medicine or natural remedies for sea sickness.
- Use reefsafe, biodegradabale sunscreen.
You can also check out Hawaii’s shark safety tips.
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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