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One of the best things to do in Oahu is see the native Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.
Thankfully there are a number of beaches on the island that make either viewing or snorkelling alongside these incredible turtles possible.
⚠️ Remember: The green sea turtle is an endangered species. It is therefore illegal to touch these wild animals, even if they come near you, those found to be breaking this rule can face prosecution.
1. Laniakea Beach
If there’s just one beach you visit in Oahu to look for Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles in their natural habitat, make it Laniakea Beach. As this beach provides you with the highest chance of seeing these beautiful creatures.
However, given the high likelihood of seeing turtles here, it’s also the most popular with individual tourists and group tours coming here throughout the day.
As such it’s highly advisable to get here early for a good parking spot (along the roadside) and a nice position on the beach.
That being said, the best time of day to see the turtles is usually between 11am and 1pm or late in the afternoon just before sunset.
There are volunteers present at the beach every day, to look after the safety of these endangered creatures and inform visitors about the turtles including their names and other facts.
If the turtles make their way onto the beach to bask in the sunshine, the volunteers will usually rope off an area that the public is not allowed access to.
2. Electric Beach
Found on the southwest coast of the island of Oahu, Electric Beach gets its name due to the nearby power plant.
From the power plant, there is a water outflow pipe going into the ocean.
The warm water released by the electric plant combined with this pipe has created somewhat of an artificial reef roughly 100 – 200 metres offshore which attracts an extensive variety of marine life including;
- Spinner dolphins
- Moray eels
- Hawaiian Sea Turtles
However, while the beach itself is beautiful it’s advised that only those with experience enter the water as the shore break can be brought and there are strong currents.
3. Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and is incredibly popular with surfers.
So much so that the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, located on Waikiki Beach has become a symbol of the surf culture of the island.
The popular neighbourhood is notorious for its waterside cocktail bars, designer fashion stores, and high-rise hotels.
However, it’s also a great spot for seeing sea turtles and other incredible marine life that come here to eat the seaweed.
While fish can be seen in the bay close to the rocks all day, you’ll have the best chance of seeing sea turtles during the early hours or just before the sun sets.
4. Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is a stunning marine conservation area located on the southeastern coast of Oahu. The bay is formed within a volcanic cone and is home to schools of fish and turtles.
Access to Hanauma Bay is limited with tickets being sold two days in advance of your visit and selling out within a matter of minutes.
However, don’t let the hassle of trying to get tickets here put you off visiting, as Hanauma Bay is incredible and is one of our personal favourite places to snorkel on the island of Oahu.
While snorkelling and swimming are the most popular activities here, you can also sunbathe or picnic on the beach, take a guided reef walk or explore the hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the bay and surrounding areas.
5. Haleiwa Beach
Situated on the north shore, Haleiwa Beach boasts a range of amenities including;
- Multiple large parking lots
- Picnic tables
- Toilet & shower facilities
This combined with the nearby North Shore Marketplace which is host to a number of stores and food outlets makes it a great choice for families looking to spend a day at the beach and see sea turtles in the process.
This beach has some of the calmest water in all of the north shore which makes it great for learning to surf, while the shallow waters make it a great place for swimming and snorkelling.
6. Makua Beach
Makua Beach (also known as Tunnels Beach) is one of the best places to see turtles in Oahu.
Set on a beautiful backdrop of the Waianae Mountian Range and Makua Valley, this beach can only be accessed by narrow roads with limited connections to the rest of the island.
Unsurprisingly, this makes this beach one of the quietest on the island, even in the height of summer.
However, that’s not the only benefit of visiting Makua Beach as this beach also benefits from a range of diverse marine life including both dolphins and sea turtles.
This beach is classed by many as the ultimate snorkelling destination in Oahu and is situated on the leeward (west) coast side which also makes it the perfect sunset destination.
7. Kuilima Cove (Turtle Beach)
Kuilima Cove (also known as Turtle Beach) is situated within the five-star luxury Turtle Bay Beach Resort, however, both entry and parking are available for the general public for free – although it can feel as though you’re trespassing on multiple occasions.
If you’re looking for an incredible family-friendly beach in the north of Oahu where you have the opportunity to snorkel and see turtles then we can’t recommend Turtle Beach enough!
Snorkelling gear, drinks and snacks are all available from the beach hut, while the beachside restaurant also has rave reviews.
While the prices of food and rental equipment are high in comparison to the rest of the island, the facilities of the beach more than makeup for it.
We visited this beach during the winter months (January) and found that it was one of the only beaches on the north shore where we had the chance to safely swim (even with our one-year-old) since the ocean swells are limited by the reef.
8. Waimea Bay Beach Park
In the winter months, Waimea Bay is home to a number of high-profile surf competitions with some of the best surfers in the world battling it out on the 30ft waves.
During this time you can’t swim in the water, parking can be difficult (especially on competition days) and you’re unlikely to see turtles.
However, during the summer months, the waves reduce significantly and this beach becomes a haven for those looking to swim, dive, snorkel and see a wide range of marine life, including the Hawaiian Sea Turtle.
This beach benefits from a small parking lot (and some street parking), an on-duty lifeguard and toilets which makes it a great choice for families or those looking to drive from Waikiki.
9. Shark’s Cove, Haleiwa
Shark’s Cove is a large set of tide pools which make up part of Pupukea Beach Park, which is subsequently made up of several coves and beaches.
Unsurprisingly, the beautiful blue waters and rocky terrain here are a haven for marine life including butterfly fish, eels, and turtles which often result in this being one of the best snorkelling destinations in Oahu.
However, there are some drawbacks to visiting Shark’s Cove.
Most notably, the terrain both in and out of the water is sharp and rocky. As such we recommend investing in either some flippers or a pair of water shoes and avoiding this beach with young children.
In addition to this, the parking lot is incredibly small in relation to the area’s popularity which can make getting space incredibly difficult, as a result, we recommend arriving early morning (ideally before 9am / 10am).
10. Black Sand Beach
Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in all of Oahu, most notably for the unusual black sand.
This sand is actually made of basalt and created by lava from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the water and then cools.
While taking a piece of this incredible beach home with you may seem like the perfect souvenir. Doing so is against state law and could result in a huge fine.
However, not only is this beach photogenic it’s also perfect for swimming and snorkelling being that it’s both easily accessible and home to a diverse range of marine life including the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle.
11. Cockroach Cove
Previously known as Holona Beach, Peering Place, and Eternity Beach the current name of Cockroach Cove, doesn’t really make this beach sound like somewhere you want to add to your vacation plans.
However, names aside, during the summer months when the weather is good, this beach benefits from calm waters and long beautiful stretches of sand with turtles found across the shoreline and in the coves making it the perfect place to visit.
Situated next to Halona Blowhole (with rocks that provide the perfect viewing platform), this beach has been featured in a number of high-profile films including; Here to Eternity, Pirates of the Caribbean and 50 First Dates.
12. Kahe Point Beach Park
Situated on the west side of Oahu, just north of the Ko Olina Resorts is Kahe Point Beach Park.
This beach benefits from crystal-clear water and a diverse range of marine life which make it perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Turtles are often not found on the beach here and instead in the water, with reports of them popping alongside swimmers throughout the day.
Being that this is a beach park there are more facilities here than at some other beaches on this list including lifeguards and toilets.