WHERE TO SWIM WITH TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII

electric beach oahu

You have landed on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and now it’s time to meet the locals. 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 with all of the best beaches where you might be lucky enough to spot a turtle. I’ve also included some of the top snorkeling tours that take you to hotspots where you can have an eco-friendly encounter with turtles and dolphins.

Hawaiian green sea turtles, also known as honu, are native to Hawaii. They can be found on all of the Hawaiian Islands including Oahu. They are the largest hard-shelled sea turtle in the world, and can reach lengths of up to four feet and even weigh more than 300 pounds. There are seven types of sea turtles, which can be found on Oahu but the Hawaiian green sea turtle is the most common turtle in Hawaii.

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 following the rules and guidelines that you will find at the bottom of this blog post.

BEST TOURS FOR SNORKELING WITH TURTLES

Oahu Turtle Snorkeling Tours

RATESDURATION
Hanauma Bay Guided Snorkel Tour$1263 hours
Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran $804 hours
Hidden Gems of Oahu with North Shore Turtle Snorkeling $948 hours
Oahu Snorkel Cruise: Swim with Turtles in the Wild$1004 hours
Catamaran Sail and Snorkel on Oahu $1473 hours

Turtle Snorkel Tour Descriptions

Tour: Hanauma Bay Guided Snorkel Tour

Hanauma Bay is the top snorkeling spot on Oahu for a reason. It’s nice and shallow, easy for beginners, and has lots of beautiful reefs, fish, and even turtles if you are lucky. On this Oahu snorkel tour, everything from pick up to drop off and in between was easy and smooth. Another edge on signing up this tour is you can choose a couple of morning departure times.  The tour guide will provide basic snorkel equipment such as a high-quality silicone dive mask, snorkel, and fins then take you to the reef. If you are a novice, the inner reef is ideal for you, whilst the outer reef is good to thrill advanced snorkelers. Personally, this tour does a great job and is perfect if you want a guide to point out the marine life to you, provide the equipment, and most importantly, keep you safe in the water!

Click Here to check the rates and availability of this tour on the booking website.

Tour: Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran 

Have you ever dreamt of snorkeling with green turtles in Oahu? Then it’s time to do it! Let Catamaran Cruise take care of getting you there with everything you need for a lovely day of snorkeling and cruising. For $97, you will get pretty much everything you need from pick-up and drop-off, snorkeling and SCUBA equipment, lunch and snacks, complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and expert guide. There are two tour options; a 2-hour morning tour and a 3-hour midday tour. It is impossible not to spot green turtles during the tour but if you don’t see any on your tour, you can book another tour for free. As a photo lover, I like the chill on the deck of the boat and take photos of Waikiki’s insane scenery. Definitely worth the time and the money for this one!

Click Here to check the rates and availability of this tour on the booking website.

WHERE TO SWIM WITH SEA TURTLES ON OAHU

Those tours are great fun and will all but guarantee they can help you have an awesome experience snorkeling with a turtle. However, you can also just head out to the beach and see if you are lucky enough to have an encounter by yourself. In my experience, 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 swam 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.

Electric Beach or “Electrics” is a 40 minute drive from Waikiki. The official name of this location is Kahe Point Beach Park but locals know this spot by its nickname first. It is called Electric Beach because there is a power plant beside this narrow enclave. The warm water from the power plant attracts an abundance of sea-life, making it one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. It doesn’t have postcard palms or a mile-long stretch of sand, but you don’t come here for landscapes. The real action is under the water.

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.

Read my full blog post: SNORKELING AT ELECTRIC BEACH ON OAHU, HAWAII

swim with hawaiian sea turtle
Kahe Point Seascape and Fisherman
Kahe Power Plant, Oahu

WAIKIKI BEACH

You are probably thinking: “Yeah right, like there would be turtles swimming so close to thousands of 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 Hotel, just twenty 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 of the drive. The water at Makua 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.

Read my full blog post: MAKUA BEACH ON OAHU, HAWAII

Makua (Tunnels) Beach
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.

Halona Beach Cove on Oahu
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.

Haleiwa Beach Park.
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.

Laniakea Beach
Laniakea Beach

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.

MY FOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES ON OAHU

Looking for some idea for activities on your rest day from hiking? These are my favorite activities on the island… especially the doors-off helicopter flight.

  • Oahu scenic helicopter flight: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off). You will be absolutely blown away when you see Oahu from the sky! Click to book your tour: Doors-Off Helicopter Flight Tour
  • North Shore Shark Cage Adventure: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks! Click to book your tour: North Shore Shark Cage Experience
  • Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Half-Day Cruise: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins. A once in a lifetime experience. Click to book your tour: Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour
  • Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: One of my favorite memories of Hawaii is floating in the water with a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. On this tour that is exactly what you will do! Click to book your tour: Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran

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. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries.

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. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway. 

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. You can grab a dorm room for under $35 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach. 

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. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind. 

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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!

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

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

Oahu Open Door Helicopter Review and Photos: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII

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Blog Comments

  1. Can you please make sure to note on the top of the Page that touching or coming close to green sea turtle is illegal in hawaii.

  2. You Cannot swim with turtles Anywhere. You can kill them, give them a heart attack, keep them from laying eggs, chase them away from their protected spots –
    You are doing great harm to these protected creatures just by using these words to entice people to your tours. When you say “swim with the turtles” and show pictures of people doing exactly that, don’t try to use the excuse that you will educate them. Many many people will look at your pictures and your words and never buy a tour from you. So yeah, you educated them to think it’s ok. But I guess prostituting the turtles so you can make a buck is okay..not really, it’s horrendous.

  3. Please don’t advertise where to go to find and or swim with turtles. You are endangering the existence of these turtles. They come here to rest and nest, but your influences don’t allow that… which is very important to their existence. It is also against the law to physically handle or touch them. If you’re going to continue advertising where to find them, atleast know your laws about the turtles and advertising them for exploitation and profit before doing so. We have too many deaths and cruelty incidents of our sea turtles by visitors, this is why we ask you stop. You can be held LIABLE for that. Hawaii Laws are tricky, but I don’t think you know that. Please research for yourself.

  4. Where is the information that explains the law about staying away from the turtles?

    There’s much info here , good stuff , but the information about being a good human and leaving them alone should be front and center.

    Mahalo!!

    1. Hi there,

      I think it was pretty clear in the article. It is mentioned at the top of the article about the guidelines and then I deliver an in-depth coverage of how to interact with turtles.

      Regards,

      Jackson

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  6. Thank you for the tips. We went to Electric Beach, we were in the water for less than a minute and saw 2 turtles. We were able to snorkel a safe distance away for as long as we wanted. I don’t think we would have come across them without your tip. It made our trip complete!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. Don’t Touch the Turtles!

    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.

  10. 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!

    1. 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.

  11. Sincerely Disappointed

    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.

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  13. Charlotte Lippmann

    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

  14. 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!

    1. Jackson & Jessie

      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.

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