WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII
The 6 best beaches to swim with a sea turtle on Oahu, Hawaii.
TEXT BY JACKSON GROVES // IMAGES BY JOHN SCHELLING
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. You have dreamt of swimming with sea turtles ever since you booked your flights! Don’t worry we have you covered.
Before I reveal all of our 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:
You might also like to check out my favorite hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Stay 2 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.
Don’t touch sea turtles. It is illegal and invasive. Consider yourself lucky enough that these creatures allow us to swim with them, don’t push your luck.
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 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 it’s thing. As soon as you start chasing it, your potential to hang out with a turtle is probably over.
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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 swam with turtles at all of these beaches multiple times. So here they are:
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
Want to know the best spots to get an Acai Bowl on Oahu? Click Here
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 swam 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.
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!