Waimea Bay Beach has amazing snorkeling, rock jumping, underwater tunnels, sea turtles, rock climbing, and prime sunsets. It’s one of my favorite beaches on Oahu in both the summer and winter.
TOP THINGS TO DO AT WAIMEA BAY BEACH
So what is it that makes this bay a year-round go-to spot on the North Shore of Oahu? Here are the 11 REASONS Waimea Bay is our favorite beach on Oahu.
WHERE IS WAIMEA BAY
Waimea Bay is up on the North Shore of Oahu. It takes about one hour on the highway from Waikiki to reach Waimea Bay Beach. I’ve pinned the Waimea Bay Beach location to the map below to help you easily navigate.
BEST TOUR FOR WAIMEA BAY & NORTH SHORE
OAHU FULL-ISLAND HIDDEN GEMS TOUR: This whole-day tour is a combination of land and water excursion and will show you Oahu’s famous spots and hidden gems with sea turtles snorkeling on Oahu. The tour picks you up at 7:15 in the morning at selected Waikiki hotels and the itinerary includes Diamond Head Lookout, Tropical Hawaiian Coffee, and Macadamia Nut Farms, ChinaMan’s Hat, North Shore Shrimp Trucks, North Shore Fruit Stand, the legendary Sunset Beach, Turtle Snorkeling, and Dole Pineapple Plantation.
The highlight of the trip is the snorkeling in Hanauma Bay where it’s quite famous for swimming with lots of tropical fish and sea turtles. Don’t worry about the gear as the tour guide will provide you with snorkel gear like goggles and masks. This tour is perfect for visitors who stay in Oahu for a short time but still want to see what Oahu has to offer.
Book your tour: Hidden Gems of Oahu with North Shore Turtle Snorkeling
1. JUMPING OFF THE ROCK AT WAIMEA BAY
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Waimea Bay is the huge rock sitting on the shoreline, half-submerged in the crystal clear water. A group of thrill-seekers gathers on top of the rock, taking deep breaths before making a leap of faith into the water below.
The rock gets jumped from, hundreds if not thousands of times each day. Whether you are an onlooker or doing a backflip from the rock, everyone enjoys a cliff jump, except those landing flat on their back. If you like this spot, check out my Oahu Cliff Jumping Guide.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off)and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
2. UNDERWATER TUNNELS AT WAIMEA BAY
I had visited Waimea Bay too many times to count, but it wasn’t until one of my last visits to the bay that I heard people talking about the tunnels underneath the rock. We decided to check them out and after seeing several people glide through the underwater tunnel we agreed to all give it a go.
This was a seriously cool experience yet still relatively safe if you are an average or better swimmer. There are several tunnels but the main one, also closest to the shore, is only a five-second swim through an eerie cave. Fish swim around you as you push through towards the light on the other side.
3. WATER CLARITY
The water is crystal clear on a calm day to the point where you can see the details on your toes as you look down towards the sand. I once swam out over 200 yds from the shore where the depth is getting towards 30+ ft. I saw something white all the way at the bottom of the ocean and managed to make out a beautiful-looking shell. I am not great at free diving but thought I ought to try this one time.
4. AMAZING SNORKELING AT WAIMEA BAY
It isn’t just the clear water that makes the snorkeling at Waimea Bay out of this world. Huge rocks the size of houses make you feel incredibly small as you dive amongst them. There are so many different species of fish in Waimea Bay and some of them are seriously huge. Even if all you see is fish and the imposing underwater scenery during your snorkel, you will be blown away.
5. SO MANY SEA TURTLES AT WAIMEA BAY
If you have snorkeled in Hawaii before, you may have come to expect more than fish when you put on your fins and goggles and hit the ocean. While most visitors are happy just to see a few fish, a snorkel on Oahu isn’t complete without coming across a Hawaiian Sea Turtle floating around.
Waimea Bay is one of my favorite turtle spots on the island and there are often 3-4 beautiful turtles very close to the shore feeding around the huge rock formations below the surface. The last time we were at Waimea Bay we had to check below us for turtles before we jumped from the rock as that’s how often they were seen swimming around. You might want to check out my guide to the Best Oahu Snorkeling spots with Hawaiian Sea Turtles.
6. WAIMEA BAY ROCK CLIMBING
Waimea Bay also has a unique element few other beaches on the island can boast. A huge natural rock-climbing wall at the back of the beach is often a hangout for amateur climbers testing their ability, scaling the 20-foot rock wall. This area of the beach is a hangout for a mixture of talented people from rock climbers to fire twirlers. If you like rock climbing you should check out the Pali Notches Hike.
7. THE BACKDROP
Behind the rock wall is a beautiful backdrop of the valley. Waimea Valley is a lush green oasis that leads all the way to Waimea Falls. Although you cannot see the falls, I am a sucker for a great backdrop at a beach and it is awesome to look back from the ocean to a wall of impressive mountains.
8. UNBELIEVABLY HUGE WAVES AT WAIMEA BAY
In the winter Waimea Bay is far from a snorkeling beach, in fact, it is not even swimmable for a few months. However, it retains its entertaining qualities with some of the biggest waves in the world. So big in fact, that one of the most prestigious surf competitions, The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, is held here I never thought I would see waves this big in my life but we were able to sit on the cliffs and watch 40ft+ waves roll through.
Outstandingly courageous surfers push their limits and tackle these absolute monster waves to the delight of the crowds who come to witness the spectacle. I also have a gallery of my 18 favorite surf photos I have taken while on Oahu.
What are my favorite pieces of gear for the beach?
There are three pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a beach adventure. These are three items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my beach essentials.
- PackTowl Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a must for travelers. It hardly takes up any room and dries in seconds.
- Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack: The beach can be a great place to ruin your precious gear so having this ultralight dry sack for cameras, phones and valuables mean you have a safe place to store everything.
- GoPro Hero 10: The best and easiest way to capture your underwater and snorkeling adventures.
9. RIVER SURFING
An obscure feature of Waimea Bay is the river channel that runs all the way from the Waimea Falls into the ocean. Quite often the channel doesn’t reach the ocean but on several occasions each year the channel will burst through into the ocean with such ferocity it becomes a surf break in itself. If you get lucky enough to witness people surfing this powerful river, enjoy the rarity of the amazing spectacle because it truly is unbelievable to watch.
10. SPECTACULAR SUNSETS AT WAIMEA BAY
The north shore of Oahu is a prime spot to watch a sunset, and where better than Waimea Bay. People continue to jump off of the rock until the last light which makes for some great photos and a peaceful ending to the day.
11. THE FOOD TRUCKS NEAR WAIMEA BAY
A great beach with so much to do is going to make you hungry so where do you eat. Of course, you can bring your own snacks but why bother when the food trucks are just a short walk down the road. We often complete a sun-soaked day by trudging up the hill to get a fresh plate of pad thai or the famous north shore garlic shrimp from the food trucks. The food trucks, which all have outdoor seating, are lit up by fairy lights and this is how we love to end a great day at Waimea Bay.
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 with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
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
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU