WHERE TO SWIM WITH TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII

  • swim with hawaiian sea turtle
  • swim with hawaiian sea turtle
  • swim with hawaiian sea turtle
  • swim with hawaiian sea turtle
  • swim with hawaiian sea turtle
  • swim with hawaiian sea turtle

The 6 best beaches to see or swim with a sea turtle on Oahu, Hawaii.

You have landed on Oahu, now it’s time to meet the locals. I’m not talking about the friendly guy in the Aloha shirt who parked the car at your hotel. It’s time to meet the sea turtles you have dreamt of swimming with ever since you booked your flights! Don’t worry I have you covered.

Before I let you know about all of my favorite spots for swimming with Sea Turtles on Oahu I want you to know that these peaceful guys are protected. You need to respect their space and environment by doing the following:

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SWIMMING WITH SEA TURTLES ON OAHU

Stay 5 yards from the sea turtles at all times. If you are too close currents can sometimes sweep you into the turtle even if you don’t mean to, so give them extra space in case of the unexpected. Touching a turtle is illegal. So stay at least 5 yards away, which gives you room in case the waves push you towards the turtle.

Don’t touch sea turtles. It is illegal and invasive. Consider yourself lucky enough that these creatures allow us to swim and snorkel with them, don’t push your luck by invading their space.

Don’t chase sea turtles. There is no need to scare a turtle if it isn’t trying to hang out with you. Most of the time if you are chill and relaxed around a turtle it will hang around you for a long time. If you begin to try and get too close and intimate they often swim away. The calmer you and your group are, the longer you will get to spend floating nearby as the turtle does its thing. As soon as you start chasing it, your potential to hang out with a turtle is probably over. I’ve often just floated nearby a turtle for 20-minutes and they will slowly come closer or just go about their feeding. I’ve also seen tourists swim straight towards them with a GoPro and off the turtle quickly goes after getting scared.

WHERE TO SWIM WITH SEA TURTLES ON OAHU

Turtles generally head away from the shore when there is a big swell. The calmer the day, the more likely you are to have a turtle encounter. I have personally swum with turtles at all of these beaches multiple times. So here they are:

 

ELECTRIC BEACH

This is the pick of the bunch. It is a solid drive to the western side of the island but if you have a car this is your spot. After the 30 minute drive from Waikiki, you will be treated with clear water and an abundance of wildlife. This beach attracts all kinds of marine life due to the slightly warmer water due to the electric plant nearby. Have your eyes open from the first moment you submerge. I have seen Hawaiian Sea Turtles in waist deep water here but also out in the depths of the ocean. Large schools of Angel Fish are also my other favorite at “Electrics.” Unless your goggles fog up it is impossible not to see an amazing array of wildlife here. If you are a good swimmer and spot Spinner Dolphins out a little further, you can try and swim with the pod. I have done this here before with a tour boat and also after swimming from the shore. It is an amazing feeling to swim with a pod of Spinner Dolphins, especially if you don’t have to pay for a tour to do it.

Want to know more about Electric Beach Click Here

 

swim with hawaiian sea turtle

 

WAIKIKI BEACH

You are probably thinking: “Yeah right, like there would be turtles swimming so close to all those people?” You better believe it. I have seen turtles from many of the rock piers and also swam with one right in front of the Hilton 20 yards from the shore. It might not be the best snorkel spot on the island but if you are feeling lucky, put your snorkel on and swim out just past the pack of tourists and you just might be bump into a Hawaiian Sea Turtle.

swim with hawaiian sea turtle

 

MAKUA BEACH

Even further than Electric Beach, almost as far west as you can go is a beach most tourists have no idea exists. It will take almost an hour from Waikiki but this beach is worth every minute. The water at this beach is as clear as it gets. I don’t even have a way to describe the clarity of the water except for writing 100% clear. Hawaiian Sea Turtles and schools of fish are very common within 100 yards of the shore. The backdrop of Makua Valley and the mountains are breathtaking if you take your eyes off the sea life and look back towards the beach. This is a hotspot for dolphins, especially in the morning. It’s another great spot to try and swim out and hang with a pod of frolicking Spinner Dolphins.

You should definitely camp here if you ever get the chance, CLICK HERE to find out how!

swim with hawaiian sea turtle

 

COCKROACH COVE

Next to the popular Halona Blowhole is a small picturesque cove that is a cool spot to hang out for half a day of swimming and rock jumping. The water is often a little wavy here but on some flat days it is quite still. From the lookout you can often spot the Hawaiian Sea Turtles, which are usually very close to the shore.

swim with hawaiian sea turtle

 

HALEIWA

North Shore has no shortage of Hawaiian Sea Turtles, but Haleiwa beach definitely has a solid population. There they can often be found in the channel and the little coves along the coastline. Water clarity here is pretty good too. This beach is close to Old Haleiwa Town, which is convenient for a post beach session smoothie or acai bowl at Haleiwa Bowls our favorite spot on the North Shore.

swim with hawaiian sea turtle

 

LANIAKEA BEACH

If all else fails this is the backup, as it’s full of tourists. There are often turtles resting on the sand which is amazing to see them out of the water. Often the beach is patrolled by a volunteer to make sure everyone is giving the turtles space. I have swum with turtles on many occasions at this beach and not many people get in the water here, so it is still a really cool experience. Most of the tourists are getting out of the car or bus to check out the Hawaiian Sea Turtles on the sand and then head off. In my experience, if there are turtles on the sand, their friends are probably swimming in the small bay.

swim with hawaiian sea turtle

 

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Where to stay on Oahu

Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. 

Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.

Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.

Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.

Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.

 

MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS

I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!

What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY

A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?

Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018

The best Waterfalls: 11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII

Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU, HAWAII

Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII

The Best Hikes on Oahu: 10 BEST HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII

My favorite experience on Oahu: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII

The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU – THE BUCKET LIST

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15 Discussion to this post

  1. I hope to get to Hawaii next year and my main reason for going is sea turtles. THANK you for telling people not to get near them!
    I’d like to know best times of year to see them. I’d hate to go and find it’s not a good time. I read one site that said summer because turtles don’t like the big waves. I do turtle tagging in Mexico for Grupo Tortugueros and we always go out at half moon when tides are lowest. Knowing this, perhaps turtles are there all seasons and half moon time is the best.
    Thanks so much!

  2. Ellie Davis says:

    I loved your advice on not getting to close of a turtle while snorkeling. My husband and I are planning our next vacation trip, and a friend from the office suggest snorkeling, so we are looking for information. It would be a dream come true to be next to a sea turtle for me, and as you mentioned, we need to be grateful that we can be around these wonderful creatures.

  3. Don’t Touch the Turtles! says:

    I cannot reiterate enough for tourists to leave the turtles alone. Not only are they endangered because of humans and they are culturally important to native Hawaiians, they carry salmonella and a form of HPV (thanks to us) that is not treatable by vaccine. Touching them for purposes of social media and your own personal entitlement experience disrupts their biofilm on their shells and skin opening them up to bacteria. For all those of you who intend on touching them (you know who you are) may you bring a gift that keeps on giving from your experience.

  4. Cindi Aljian says:

    We are going end of November beginning of December. Are there better tide conditions for any particular beaches? We will be staying walking distance to Sharks cove. Thank you for this great information!

    • Ralph says:

      Tide conditions on the north shore will deteriorate leading into December. It will be hit and miss during your arrival dates. Your best options will be southern beaches. Waikiki, west side, etc.

  5. Sincerely Disappointed says:

    Please please please stop sending people to Lanikea Beach! People park ILLEGALLY and cross the road ILLEGALLY and it creates the WORST traffic. The other day my car ran out of gas while waiting in traffic for OVER an hour. I would have been able to make it to the gas station I was trying reach it if it weren’t for all the blog posts recommending this mediocre beach. Go to Haleiwa if you want to see turtles.

  6. […] touch them, touching is not only invasive, it’s illegal. It’s recommended to stay at least 2 yards away from them at all times. Also, don’t try to chase them, the calmer you are, the higher your […]

  7. Charlotte Lippmann says:

    Hi, please can you tell me how I can get in touch with the photographer John Schelling please ? We’d like to use one of his photos .
    Thanks
    Charlotte

  8. Jennie says:

    a question for you.. .which of these spots is most kid friendly. Girls are 10 and are dying to see sea turtles. If they could swim with them would be amazing! Thank you!

    • Jackson & Jessie says:

      Laniakea. lots of tourists but you can swim in gentle conditions with lots of turtles. As always keep a safe distance while watching them! Hope it works out.

  9. This post is amazing. Beautiful photos, and for once, accurate information about all the sea turtle spots. I dig it.

  10. […] our way into open water, the clarity allowed us to see the bottom of the ocean. There were several Hawaiian Sea Turtles spotted during the paddle and extensive coral draped the ocean […]

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