Looking For Where To See Turtles On Oahu?
If seeing turtles on Oahu is on your bucket list, then you’re in luck! We were born and raised in Oahu, so we know where to find the best spots to see these graceful creatures.
There are many locations to see turtles on Oahu. Whether you want to snorkel with turtles or just observe them from the shoreline, Oahu has it all!
Our guide shares the 12 best spots for where to see turtles on Oahu and also what you should know for the ultimate turtle experience.
Before we dive into the 12 best spots to see turtles on Oahu, please note that sea turtles are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.
If you are fortunate enough to see a turtle in its habitat, keep in mind that you are not allowed to touch them! You should also keep a minimum distance of 10 feet from any turtle you see in Hawaii.
12 Best Spots To See Turtles On Oahu
If you are visiting Oahu for the first time, you’ll discover that there are so many different places to see turtles. This is mainly due to Oahu’s conservation efforts which help ensure a safe environment for the native turtles.
Oahu provides many opportunities to see Hawaiian green sea turtles (honu) whether you want to explore the beaches on your own or prefer to take a tour. Here are our picks for the 12 best spots to see turtles on Oahu!
1. Laniakea Beach
Laniekea Beach is the best place to see turtles on Oahu without a tour. It is so well known by locals for its turtle sightings that it is unofficially named “turtle beach”.
Turtles love this beach as it has the best conditions for eating and basking in the sunshine. If you are lucky enough, you can catch turtles nibbling on the green seagrass that grows on the rocky shore of the beachfront.
This is one of the best beaches for beginner-friendly snorkeling with turtles, as the break is relatively shallow. Although most of the beach is rocky, there are pockets of sandy areas where you can get into the water to swim or snorkel.
If you’re not looking to get in the water, Laniakea is still a great beach to check out as turtles love climbing up onto the shoreline! Mid-day, around 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, is the best time to catch sea turtles laying out on the sand, as this is when the sun is the hottest.
While you most likely won’t be able to see any turtles on the shores if you come before 11:00 am, we have seen turtles in the waters at Laniakea as early as 9:00 am.
Note: The best time to come would have to be during the summer when it’s very serene and calm. Be aware that the current at this beach can pick up during the winter and become very rough, making it hard to snorkel or even stand in the water.
Where Is Laniakea Beach Located?
Laniakea Beach is located on the North Shore of Oahu, about an hour’s drive from Waikiki.
Where To Park At Laniakea Beach?
There is a public parking lot right across the street from Laniakea Beach. Parking is also available along the side of the road if the lot is filled up.
If you are looking to guarantee your chance of seeing turtles on Oahu, Turtle Canyon is the best location. Unfortunately, the only way to get to Turtle Canyon is by boat, so you will need to book a tour.
Turtle Canyon is a beautiful nature preserve off the shore of Waikiki and a hot spot for finding turtles out in the open ocean.
This spot is home to the specific reef that provides a flourishing habitat for algae-feeding fish. Turtles love coming over to this location since these specific fishes can clean the algae off of their shells. This ecosystem basically provides a free car wash for the turtles!
The best way to get out and experience this amazing location is through Turtle Canyons Snorkel Excursion from Waikiki. We highly recommend this amazing 2-hour snorkel excursion guided by an extremely personable and knowledgeable crew.
This guided excursion is an all-inclusive tour, so all the gear you need including flippers and snorkels will be provided. With no work needed on your end, this tour makes it easy to get out there and spot some sea turtles for a memorable experience!
Turtle Canyon is a very popular spot and tends to get very crowded during the day. We highly recommend going earlier in the morning to beat the crowds.
With over 2,600 5-star reviews, you cannot go wrong with the Turtle Canyons Snorkel Excursion! It is also one of the few tours that go out to Turtle Canyon as early as 7:00 a.m.
Where To Find Turtle Canyon?
Turtle Canyon is located about a mile and a half off the shore of Waikiki. The only way to get there is by boat.
Another excellent tour for seeing turtles on Oahu is located on the opposite side of Waikiki. The North Shore (Waimea Bay) Tour is a great choice for a guided experience to see turtles and other Hawaiian marine life.
At Waimea Bay, you will have the opportunity to see not only turtles, but also dolphins, manta rays, and many other Native Hawaiian reef fishes.
We recommend booking with North Shore Snorkeling Tour which will take you to the safest and best snorkeling spots near Waimea Bay. They provide all the gear you need including flippers and snorkels. You will also get to spend your day with friendly and knowledgeable tour guides who know the ocean!
The best time to experience snorkeling on the North Shore is during the summer since the ocean conditions are very calm.
Where To Find North Shore Snorkeling Tour?
This tour is located on the North Shore, about an hour’s drive out from Waikiki. The tour will begin at the Haleiwa Boat Harbor, and the tour guides will take you from there!
4. Electric Beach (Kahe Point)
Electric Beach, also known as Kahe Point Beach Park, is a remarkable snorkeling spot for seeing turtles on Oahu. This beach is renowned for its crystal-clear water and frequent encounters with Hawaiian Green sea turtles.
The name Electric Beach stems from the Hawaiian Electric Power Plant nearby. Warm water caused by the powerplant helps to attract an abundance of marine life including sea turtles and even dolphins!
Keep in mind that you should never dive down in front of any pipe openings as there is a chance that you could get swept out.
The break of Electric Beach is very small and channel-like. Along this stretch of the channel, sea turtles are most likely to be found right outside of it.
Electric Beach is not recommended for beginner swimmers and snorkelers as the shore break can get very rough. There aren’t lifeguards in the area either, so it’s important to take precautions.
Where Is Electric Beach (Kahe Point) Located?
Electric Beach (Kahe Point) can be found on the west coast of Oahu and is about a 45-minute drive from Waikiki.
Where To Park At Electric Beach (Kahe Point)?
There is a public parking lot at the beach and additional parking along the side of the street. To ensure you are at the right beach, search for “Kahe Point Beach Park” on Google Maps.
5. Haleiwa Ali’i Beach
Haleiwa Ali’i Beach is known for its laid-back atmosphere and its encounters with Hawaiian Green sea turtles. This picturesque beach, named after Hawaiian royalty (Ali’i), offers visitors an extraordinary opportunity to witness sea turtles on Oahu.
While this beach might not be as well-known for turtle sightings, it remains an excellent spot for locals and travelers. The warm shallow waters make Hale’iwa Ali’i beach an ideal feeding ground for sea turtles, which attracts them to the peaceful shores.
This is the perfect beach for spotting turtles and also for getting into the water to snorkel with them. The waters aren’t as rocky and have long stretches of soft sandy areas to see turtles and plenty of other beautiful marine life.
Where Is Haleiwa Ali’i Beach?
Hale’iwa Ali’i Beach is located on the North Shore of Oahu. Again, North Shore in the summer is the best time to visit since the waters are clear and calm. The waters do get rough on the North Shore during the winter.
Where To Park At Haleiwa Ali’i Beach?
There is a public parking lot at the beach park with plenty of stalls available.
6. Waikiki Beach
Waikiki is best known for being the prime spot for travelers to stay on Oahu. However, most visitors are not aware that this long stretch of sandy shorelines is frequently occupied by sea turtles.
Although turtle sightings at Waikiki Beach are not as frequent as the other top locations mentioned in this article, they do still occur. It is always a special moment for those who are able to witness them.
Because of its popularity, Waikiki tends to get crowded which may scare off turtles on the shore. Therefore, the best way to catch a glimpse of sea turtles at Waikiki would be in the waters with them.
Sea turtles in Waikiki Beach can be found in emptier waters between the shore break and the surf break. We have surfed many times at Waikiki Beach, and have seen turtles in the waters on multiple occasions.
Snorkeling is a popular activity at Waikiki Beach, and it offers a better chance to see marine life, including turtles.
Going in the morning is the best time to go looking for turtles in Waikiki as the crowds are SIGNIFICANTLY smaller.
Where To Find Waikiki Beach?
Waikiki Beach is so large, and it can be hard to know where to begin your search for sea turtles. A good spot to start is at the beachfront directly out from the Duke Kahanamoku Statue.
Where To Park At Waikiki Beach?
If you are staying in Waikiki, it is highly recommended that you walk or biki over to the beach. If you need to drive into Waikiki, parking along the sidestreets in Waikiki is an option but very difficult.
Some of the most frustrating experiences we have experienced as locals have been trying to find parking in Waikiki. Paid parking at International Marketplace is highly recommended for a $12 early-bird flat rate.
7. Fort DeRussy Beach
Fort DeRussy Beach, which is located right next to Waikiki Beach, is another great spot to catch glimpses of sea turtles.
This beach is a perfect location for beginner-friendly snorkeling and finding turtles as the waters are calm and clear.
A popular spot for turtles to be found is along the south side of the beach next to the pier. There is a chance that sea turtles can even be spotted directly from the pier as the water is very shallow!
Fort DeRussy Beach also has excellent facilities and amenities including picnic areas, showers, and restrooms, making it a comfortable place to spend the day.
The beach is located next to Waikiki, so it can get crowded during the daytime and weekends. If you prefer smaller crowds, consider visiting during weekdays or arriving early in the morning.
Where To Find Fort DeRussy Beach?
Fort DeRussy Beach can be found on the southern shore of Oahu in Waikiki.
Where To Park At Fort DeRussy Beach?
Again, parking can be very tricky if you are in Waikiki. Luckily, paid parking is available in the lot along Kalia Road and up the street from Fort DeRussy Beach. The rates at this parking lot are $4 for the first hour, and $1.50 for every 30 minutes after.
8. Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is a paradise for snorkelers looking to see turtles on Oahu. This stunning nature preserve is not only known for its Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle sightings but also for its vibrant coral reefs and colorful marine life.
The bay has a unique crescent-shaped shoreline that is actually a sunken volcanic crater! This provides a sheltered and calm environment for marine life as well as the perfect opportunity for you to catch turtles swimming among the coral and rock formations.
To preserve the bay’s delicate ecosystem, access to Hanauma Bay is regulated. You will have to book entry tickets in advance at $25 for each non-residential guest. Bookings can be made up to 2 days in advance starting at 7:00 am HST.
Note: Tickets for Hanauma Bay sell out VERY FAST and the bay is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hanauma Bay is an iconic spot that attracts a lot of visitors, so anticipate large crowds.
Be sure to take advantage of the educational resources available at the Hanauma Bay Visitor Center. They do an amazing job at providing valuable insights into the marine life found in the bay and offer tips on how to interact responsibly with the environment.
Where To Find Hanauma Bay?
Hanauma Bay can be found on the southeastern shore of Oahu and is a 25-minute drive from Waikiki.
Where To Park At Hanauma Bay?
Parking is available at Hanauma Bay for a flat rate of $3.
9. Makua Beach
Makua Beach is a picturesque hidden gem on Oahu that offers an amazing environment to see turtles in their natural habitat. It is also one of the more secluded spots on Oahu, away from any big resorts. Here, you’ll be surrounded by the scenic backdrop of Makua Valley and golden sands that stretch for miles.
This beach has extremely clear waters that provide amazing visibility while snorkeling for turtles. You will be able to see as deep down as 30 feet into the ocean! In addition to sea turtles, dolphins and schools of fish can be found in the waters off the shore.
Note: Take extra precaution while snorkeling at Makua Beach since it is a very remote location and there are no lifeguards around this area. The western side of Oahu does get a little rougher during the winter season, so coming during the calmer summer months is a lot safer.
Where To Find Makua Beach?
Makua Beach is on the west coast of Oahu and is a little over an hour’s drive from Waikiki. This is a far drive that not many travelers will want to take. However, it is definitely worth it if you are looking for a spot to see turtles off the beaten path.
Where To Park At Makua Beach?
Makua Beach has a public parking lot and side street parking along the beach. Be extra wary of keeping valuables out of sight when leaving your car unattended at this location.
10. Kailua Beach
While Kailua Beach is not as well known for turtle watching, it still surprises lucky visitors with the occasional presence of Hawaiian green sea turtles. The beach is relatively shallow with gentle waves, making it the perfect place for beginner-friendly snorkeling and spotting turtles.
If you are looking to see more marine life, consider exploring the waters further from the shoreline. Kailua Beach has very clear waters, so you’ll be able to see all the native marine life in the water. With a bit of luck, you may even be able to spot some sea turtles.
This beach is a very safe location to look for turtles on Oahu as it’s very populated and a lifeguard is always on duty. You’ll also find picnic areas, showers, and restrooms at this beach for an enjoyable experience.
Where To Find Kailua Beach?
Kailua Beach can be found on the eastern shore of Oahu and is a 40-minute drive from Waikiki.
Where To Park At Kailua Beach?
There are multiple public parking lot entrances for Kailua Beach. The best way to access the lots is either from Kailua Road or from the boat ramp on Alala Road.
11. Halona Beach Cove (Cockroach Cove)
Cockroach Cove is a tiny cove-like beach, accessible by a small climb down from the popular Halona Blowhole Lookout. The unique volcanic rock formations surrounding the cove provide a natural sanctuary for marine life.
While not as well-known for sea turtle sightings, the enchanting setting of Halona Beach Cove is a special place to witness these gentle giants if you are lucky.
The waters at this location tend to be on the rougher side. We would not recommend this as a beginner-friendly snorkeling location. If you do snorkel out, make sure to stay away from the blowhole as there is a risk of getting sucked in when the waves come through.
Note: Halona Beach Cove is best when the ocean conditions are completely flat (around 1 ft on the surf report). The current is very strong out here and can be fatal if you venture too far out.
Where To Find Halona Beach Cove?
Halona Beach Cove can be found on the south-eastern shore of Oahu and is a 25-minute drive from Waikiki.
Where To Park At Halona Beach Cove?
There is a small public parking area available at the Halona Blowhole Lookout which gets crowded throughout the day.
If you come early enough, you may be able to have the cove to yourselves since it doesn’t get busy until later in the day!
12. Sea Life Park
Sea Life Park is a great kid-friendly option to put on your itinerary if you want to see turtles on Oahu away from the beach. You can come here to learn all about Hawaiian Sea Turtles and animal conservation on Oahu.
This park is home to the only active breeding ground for Hawaiian green sea turtles in the entire United States! Here, you can get up close to the turtle breeding colony and even participate in the feeding time there.
Sea Life Park has many other exhibits available including a bottlenose dolphin lagoon, shark cove, Humboldt penguin habitat, reef exhibit, and Hawaiian monk seal exhibit.
Day tickets to the park are $45 for walk-in visitors and $40 if you buy online.
Note: You should allot 3-4 hours to explore Sea Life Park to enjoy all the exhibits and not feel rushed.
Where To Find Sea Life Park?
Sea Life Park is located on the east side of Oahu and is a 30-minute drive out from Waikiki. Parking at Sea Life Park for an all-day flat rate is $15 per vehicle per day.
Where To See Turtles On Oahu FAQs
Before embarking on your journey, there are essential facts and guidelines to keep in mind. As incredible as it is to witness turtles in their natural habitat, it’s crucial to understand their behaviors and significance to Hawaii.
We are here to answer your burning questions so you can have a responsible and enjoyable turtle experience!
🐢What Turtle Species Are On Oahu, Hawaii?
Hawaii is home to 5 out of the 7 species of turtles in the entire world! The Hawaiian green sea turtle (honu), Hawksbill turtle, Leatherback turtle, Loggerhead turtle, and Olive Ridley turtle.
The Hawaiian green sea turtle is most commonly found on Oahu. They frequently come to shorelines, allowing travelers to snorkel with them in the shallow water or observe them from the sand.
Note: The other 4 species live in deep-water habitats, so they aren’t as commonly seen. Book a tour to Turtle Canyon to discover all 5 species on Oahu!
🐢What Is The Best Time Of The Year To See Turtles On Oahu?
Turtles heavily rely on the sun’s rays to help regulate their body temperatures. The warmer waters, stronger sun, and calmer conditions during the summer (May to October) attract more turtles to the shoreline.
You will often see sea turtles basking in the sunshine right on the shore during the hottest peaks of the day. 11:00 am to 3:00 pm is the best time to catch sea turtles along the shore!
🐢Can You Touch The Sea Turtles On Oahu?
No – Hawaiian green sea turtles are a threatened species and are protected under federal and state law in Oahu, Hawaii.
Touching, chasing, or disturbing them can disrupt their natural behaviors. It is essential to respect their space and observe them from a safe distance.
Note: The Hawaii State website states that you should maintain a minimum distance of 10 feet away from turtles.
🐢Can You Swim With The Turtles On Oahu?
Yes – You can absolutely swim with turtles on Oahu. Snorkeling is one of the best ways to see turtles in their element. Just keep in mind that the minimum distance to keep from turtles is 10 feet.
Of course a few curious turtles may swim up to you, but do not panic! It is recommended to avoid any sudden movement that can startle turtles.
Here are some other tips to observe turtles safely:
- Avoid surrounding or crowding them so they can move freely without feeling trapped or threatened
- Use underwater cameras responsibly, as the flash can disturb them
- Do not feed them. Feeding wildlife can disrupt their natural diet and behavior
- Follow local regulations and guidelines. Many popular turtle-watching spots will likely have posted signs with rules to protect turtles and their habitats.
🐢Are Seeing Turtles Guaranteed?
No – Unless you go to Sea Life Park, seeing turtles in the wild is never guaranteed.
You’re always taking a gamble if you adventure on your own because of uncontrollable factors such as weather, season, and many other unknowns.
Give yourself the best odds of seeing turtles on Oahu by visiting the top spots we have mentioned in this article!
Packing List For Seeing Turtles On Oahu
Wondering what you need for your expedition to find turtles on Oahu? It is essential to be well prepared if you want to see turtles in action.
In the list below, we will walk you through the must-have items to make your experience safe, enjoyable, and respectful of the marine ecosystem.
Snorkels and fins are an absolute must if you are going to attempt to swim with turtles at the beach.
The mask helps you clearly see underwater and breathe comfortably, while the fins allow you to keep up with these fast swimmers.
Snorkeling is a great activity on Oahu not only to see turtles but to also experience the vibrant marine life!
As we’ve spent a lot of time snorkeling all over Oahu, we often run into problems with foggy masks.
Though many masks say they’re already anti-fogging, Anti-fog solution is a must. It ruins the whole experience if you constantly have to keep wiping off your masks.
This Anti-fog solution is the perfect choice because it’s also reef-friendly!
While snorkeling with turtles, your back is constantly being exposed to the sun. This puts you at a HIGH risk for sunburn.
As you can definitely lose track of time swimming with turtles, a rashguard is highly recommended.
Sunscreen is definitely a must when searching for turtles. Though, Hawaii has rules on what types of sunscreens are allowed.
Any sunscreens containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate has been banned from use in Hawaii since 2021. These active ingredients cause detrimental harm to the coral reefs, which greatly impacts all marine life in Oahu.
One of our favorite reef-safe sunscreen brands we like to use is Sun Bum. We have found that it is not as sticky compared to other sunscreens, and it also has a great smell!
They also have a face stick sunscreen which you can apply throughout the day without getting your hands messy!
Closing Thoughts: Where To See Turtles On Oahu
If seeing turtles is on your Oahu itinerary, be sure to visit the most famous spots on the island.
Whether you’re looking to observe these beautiful creatures on the shore or getting in the water with them to swim in their habitat, you’ll be in for an amazing adventure here in paradise.
Pack your bags, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime with turtles on Oahu!
Hawaii Vacation Planning Guide
Should I Rent A Car In Hawaii?
Absolutely – In order to make the most of your time in Hawaii, renting a car is highly recommended. We personally like to rent with Discover Cars as they have the best rates!
What Is The Best Way To Book My Hawaii Accommodations?
For hotels, booking.com is the best way to book your Hawaii accommodations. They offer many perks like free cancellation, transparent pricing without hidden fees, and a great rewards program.
Should I Buy Travel Insurance?
Yes – Traveling to Hawaii is a huge financial investment that you’ll want to protect. The best way to compare travel insurance packages from different companies is through Visitors Coverage. Baseline coverage for Hawaii travel insurance ranges from $5-$15 USD per day.
What Is The Best Site To Buy Flights To Hawaii?
The best flight deals to Hawaii can be found on WayAway.
What Do I Pack For Hawaii?
Check out our Ultimate Hawaii Dress Code Guide to get insider knowledge on what you need to pack for Hawaii!
Is It Better To Book A Tour Package Or Adventure On Your Own?
It really depends on the traveler. Viator is the best place to book all types of Hawaii tours and activities from individual bookings to multi-day tour packages.
When Is The Cheapest Time To Travel To Hawaii?
During the off-season months from April to May and September to November. There are fewer visitors around these times.
Is Hawaii Safe To Travel To?
Yes – Overall Hawaii is a safe place to travel to, especially if you are staying in the touristy areas. Your main safety concern should be with the oceans or hiking trails in Hawaii.