2023 Best Snorkeling in Oahu – Top 5

Alison Bell, Photographer

The best snorkeling in Oahu according to who? Google? Locals? Trip Advisor? NOPE.

Every year Hawaii Magazine hosts a Reader’s Choice Awards for everything Hawaii – every island, every topic, every category from food to what to do. Their readership is global! So this isn’t according to
Google, or locals, but people who most likely have travel or frequently come to the Hawaiian Islands.

But before we can talk about the top 5 places, we need to talk safety!

Snorkel Safety

Have you been snorkeling before? Are you comfortable or experienced in the ocean swimming? And don’t roll your eyes! People drown from snorkeling EVERY YEAR. They probably didn’t think much about it either, did they?

Always know the conditions of the water. Check out HIoceansafety.com. This is a Hawaii Government sponsored website with a list of lifeguarded beaches and a description of every coast during every season.

  • Wear a life jacket.
  • Stay alert – pop up and know where you are!
  • Always go with a buddy

Snorkeling Gear

Like all things, you get what you pay for. Don’t go cheap here. Plenty of snorkel rentals are available all over island. Do some math and it may be more reasonable to buy decent gear for yourself.

Active Oahu Tours has a great list of options.

Best Snorkeling Oahu: Snorkeling Waikiki

Snorkeling right outside your hotel in Waikiki is limited at best. (The Hilton Lagoon has some fish and is great for kids). There’s so many people and very little rock structure for fish to live, you’re better off venturing out of Waikiki to snorkel.

Hanauma Bay is super close to Waikiki though!

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Best Snorkeling Oahu: Oahu Snorkeling Tours

There are gobs of snorkeling tours all over Oahu, but they can be really expensive. Do the math with car rentals, gas, and gear rental to see if its worthwhile for your family.

If you’ve already got a car, why not go on your own?

One tour in particular though is cage-free swimming with sharks! One Ocean Diving is lead by a conservationist that provides the right gear for snorkeling with sharks. This is one tour you can’t replicate on your own!

DSC 7962 by Alison Bell, Photographer

Hi! I’m Alison, your chaos coordinator, toddler briber, and parent commiserator. Oh! And Oahu family photographer!

As the ringleader of my own 4-boy circus, I know how hard getting family photos can be.

I run my photo session like a party. I give you something TO DO so you don’t feel awkward wondering, “Where do I put my HANDS?!”

Dad is playing with the kids, everyone forgets what’s ACTUALLY happening, and you look amazing bc you’re actually enjoying yourself. #whoknewphotoscouldbefun

Fast. Fun. Done.


2023 Reader’s Choice Awards for 5 Best Snorkeling in Oahu

These five snorkeling spots are voted best in Oahu by real life people!

Alison Bell, Photographer

1. Best Snorkeling in Oahu: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a strictly guarded State Park with tickets sold by the City & County of Honolulu. Its uniquely protected by volcanic rock on both sides, just at the base of Koko Head, east of Waikiki.

To snorkel, you’ll need a ticket reserved 48 hours in advance. The hours of operation are SUPER limited and sell out in minutes. Don’t believe me? Check out the site and it’ll tell you the date/time of sell out.

They offer 35 tickets every 10 minutes. Yes, you read that right!

Its open to the public Wednesday-Sunday 6:45am-1:30pm

Features:

  • Lifeguard
  • Snorkel rentals on site
  • Bathrooms
  • Paid parking

2. Best Snorkeling in Oahu: Waimea Bay

One of these is not like the others and Waimea Bay is it! Voted one of the best snorkeling in Oahu in 2023, Waimea Bay lacks the features found at the other spots – rock formations and sea life!

What you’ll find at Waimea Bay is completely different. It’s underwater plains for as far as you can see. Locals will “run with rocks” underwater and see how far they can go.

Hawaii Travel tips with kids
I’ve taken my own kids as young as 3 to snorkel.

3. Best Snorkeling in Oahu: Kahe Point Beach (Electric Beach)

Electric Beach gets its nickname from the water discharged here from the electric station. The water is used to cool the turbines and disguarded at Kahe Point. The water is unnaturally warm making a field day for fish and other marine life.

This area is pretty popular and gets crowded quickly. Go as early as possible for the best visibility and parking.

4. Best Snorkeling in Oahu: Sharks Cove Oahu

Located on the North Shore, Sharks Cove is protected by a volcanic rock formation keeping the water calm even when the surf is more intense elsewhere on the North Shore. There’s lots of underwater caves here with a shallow sandy bottom. Its a great place for both new and experienced snorkelers. The underwater rock formations and caves create shelter for a lot of marine life.

best snorkeling in oahu
Ko’Olina lagoons have a surprising amount of marine life.
Oahu-family photograpeher alison Bell,

Have you thought about family photos while you’re in Hawai’i?

Its photo season year-round here in Hawaii and I want you to take advantage of it!

Take home the bright skies, warm air and blue water to relive it over and over because you’ll never experience this place with the kids these ages ever again.

This is your one shot. Take it!

As the ringleader of my own 4 boy circus, I know how hard getting family photos can be. I’m here to change that.

If I could dress your kids and literally hang your family photos on your walls, I would …but I can’t, so I do just about everything else in between. That’s why I take the time to hold your hand from start to finish.

Because what good are family photos if your kids never see them?

I only accept two families a week, so if you have dates, reach out to Alison Bell, Photographer now.

5. Best Snorkeling Oahu: Ko’Olina Lagoons

The lagoons are manmade features of the Ko’Olina resort area. There’s four total and you’ll be surprised at what you can find! The lagoons go surprisingly deep for being small and manmade. The water is super calm for new swimmers and kids. If you go early you might find marine life in the shallows like we did! We found a 8 inch flounder in just 2-3 feet of water!

Features:

  • Parking, but you’ll wait for it
  • Resort food stands, you’ll also pay for that!
  • No lifeguard on duty
  • Showers
  • Water bottle refill stations
  • Bathrooms

More Resources for Traveling to Oahu

I'm a USMC spouse, South Carolina native, recovering homeschool mama of a 4 boy circus. They've taught me the most important facet of family photography: KEEP IT FUN!

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I find joy in chaos. The louder, the better!

I'm a USMC spouse, South Carolina native, recovering homeschool mama of a 4 boy circus.

They've taught me the most important facet of family photography: KEEP IT FUN!

hey, I'm Alison!

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