Where to snorkel on Oahu away from the crowds

Today we have a guest post from Ken Muise, a resident of Oahu and snorkel enthusiast.

Makaha Beach Park by Ken Muise
Makaha Beach Park by Ken Muise

Most of the time when I read an article about snorkeling in Hawaii, it always comes down to two main places that people head to: Hanauma Bay and Shark’s Cove (Pupukea Beach Park). Those two places are great and they truly do have some of the best snorkeling on Oahu…and they’re probably in the Top 10 of the entire Hawaiian Island chain.

Here’s a quick tip, though: Everyone knows about them and how great they are so everyone goes to those two places. You won’t be alone. Heck, you may not even be alone in a personal 5 sq. foot space at either of those two places.

Snorkel Safety Notes

Please note, of the three snorkel locations listed below only Makaha Beach Park has a lifeguard on duty. That being said, the surf at both Ko’Olina Lagoons and Kaiona Beach Park is typically very, very small or non-existent. Always, check ocean conditions before going out, snorkel safe and use caution when visiting any beach in Hawaii. Honestly gauge your abilities and experience to the environment. Remember this commonly used phrase in Hawaii: “When in doubt, don’t go out.”

Which brings us to the topic of this article:

3 Great Places to Snorkel on Oahu that are NOT Crowded

1. Kaiona Beach Park

Address: Kalanianaole Highway, Waimanalo, HI 96795

Kaiona Beach Park is my secret get-away from Hanauma Bay. Okay, I’ll admit it: I love Hanauma Bay as much as the next snorkeler, but when the parking lot is full (which it often is after 9:30 a.m.) then Kaiona Beach Park is just a 10 minute drive in the same direction. It has a great back drop with Rabbit Island and beautiful, blue ocean. It has healthy reef, and is known as “Honu Heaven” because of the number of turtles that hang out in the shallow waters to feed. Besides fish and turtles, I’ve even seen a seahorse once and a box crab

2.  Ko’Olina Lagoons

Address: 92-1220 Ali’inui Drive, Kapolei, HI 96707

This is a really cool and chill place on west Oahu that has a marina on the back side and is fronted by the four lagoons and resorts which include the Disney Aulani and the future Four Seasons Resort Oahu. I know that it sounds busy, but it’s really not that bad at all. Plenty of room to set up and stay for the day. The best place to snorkel at the lagoons is right up against the walls that separate the man-made lagoons from the open ocean. There are plenty of places for young ones and inexperienced snorkelers to give it a try. I’ve seen turtles, lots of fish, and even a monk seal in the waters at Ko’Olina

3.  Makaha Beach Park

Address: 84-369 Farrington Highway, Waianae, HI 96792

Makaha Beach Park is a different type of snorkeling experience. For the advanced, you can take a 75 to 100 meter swim out to the “turtle cleaning” station by following the underwater cables. It’s worth it once you’re out there but it is a bit of a swim. Closer to shore, I’ve seen turtles and even a few snowflake moray eels (cooler to see and less dangerous than it sounds). However my favorite snorkeling past time at Makaha Beach Park is to explore the area right at the shore break (usually gentle from April through September but less so during the “winter months”) and search for sea shells.

Honu in Ko Olina. Photo by Ken Muise
Honu in Ko Olina. Photo by Ken Muise

So, now you have the best places to snorkel on Oahu that will be (pretty much) free of throngs of people that can sometimes get in the way of the enjoyable time. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that you should always snorkel safely and with a partner and use quality snorkel gear from a trusted snorkel brand. Thanks for your time and I hope it works out for you and, as always, snorkel safe.

About the Author: Ken Muise is an active-duty Soldier living on Oahu and spends most of his free time snorkeling, reading about the activity, and believing that he is a better snorkeler than most. He runs a site that offers snorkel gear reviews and gives away snorkel gear for free every month.

  1. Marie,

    It’s one of my favorite photos I’ve snapped since I’ve lived here. Have fun on your stay.


  2. What is the website that you offer reviews on? I’m stationed out here as well and I’d love to jump into one of your giveaway drawings!

  3. Love this article! Makaha beach is one of my favorites for snorkeling, too! If you go with Wild Side Specialty Tours…they have small group tours catered to each family or individual. If you’re looking for a tour that cares about safety and protecting the environment…they are the best in my opinion!! 🙂

  4. I’ll be on Oahu in a few weeks! Looking forward to these wonderful spots, thank you Ken!

  5. I have heard and read that there are many car break-ins while people are on the beach or snorkeling at Makaha beach. True? What is your experience? Thank you.
    (visiting September 2018, Oahu)

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