Are you ready to explore one of Oahu’s hidden gems?
Turtle Canyon is truly a snorkeler’s paradise with crystal clear waters and an abundance of sea turtles, tropical fish and coral reefs.
Below I explain exactly how to get to Turtle Canyon yourself, including the top snorkeling tours and some insider tips that will help you get the most out of your trip.
So grab your snorkel gear and let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
How To Get To Turtle Canyon Oahu
The easiest and best way to get to Turtle Canyon is by boat. You can take a short boat ride from Waikiki over to Turtle Canyon which lies just off the shore.
It’s not possible to swim or snorkel over to Turtle Canyon.
The boat journey takes around 15 minutes to get from Waikiki to Turtle Canyon and there’s many different companies that will take you there.
I’d recommend booking your boat tour in advance. This is a super popular excursion meaning that the boats fill up fast and there might not be many spots left if you book on the day.
I personally recommend booking onto this snorkeling excursion to Turtle Canyon as it includes all your transport, snorkeling gear, snacks and you’ll even get a cruise up and down Oahu’s stunning coastline.
One bonus of taking the boat is that you may also be able to spot dolphins, and at certain times of year, whales!
If you’re moderately fit then you can also join a kayaking tour to Turtle Canyon. This is an alternate way of getting there but it can be tiring.
Most of the snorkeling tours leave from Kewalo Basin Harbor which is located on the edge of Waikiki.
It’s less than a 10-minute drive from most of Waikiki’s hotels. As an example, the harbor is just a 7-minute drive from Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.
Here’s the exact address for Kewalo Basin Harbor: 1125 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, United States.
Turtle Canyon Oahu Location
Turtle Canyon is located on Oahu’s southern shore, just off the coast of Waikiki. It’s basically an underwater nature preserve that’s located in the ocean.
The exact location for Turtle Canyon is listed as ‘7599+33, Honolulu, HI, United States’ on Google Maps.
Turtle Canyon is located away from the shore in the ocean. It’s closest to Waikiki Beach, Fort DeRussy Beach and Kahanamoku Beach.
Turtle Canyon Oahu Map
Here’s a Turtle Canyon map I made to help you visualize where it is.
Although it may look close to the shore on the map, let me tell you, it’s not. The boat crossing takes 15 minutes so swimming there would take a very long time.
Turtle Canyon Snorkel Excursion
There’s actually a huge variety of different Turtle Canyon snorkel excursions that you can join.
I don’t know about you but I hate when companies give me too many options that all seem super similar. I just want to know which one is best.
That’s why I’ve tried to pick out the absolute best Turtle Canyon snorkel tours without overwhelming you with options.
Turtle Canyon Catamaran Snorkel Cruise From Waikiki
I personally think that this Turtle Canyon catamaran snorkel cruise is the best Turtle Canyon snorkel tour as they actually guarantee that you’ll see turtles.
The tour itself lasts between 2 and 3 hours and gives you that once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with turtles.
As well as a snorkel with turtles experience, you also get a catamaran cruise along Oahu’s coastline.
It’s also super reasonably priced given everything that’s included!
Here’s exactly what it includes:
- Guaranteed turtle sightings
- Snacks, unlimited soft drinks and 2 alcoholic drinks
- Sail along Oahu’s coast in a luxury catamaran
- Views of the iconic Diamond Head
- Professional & knowledgeable guide (literally ask them anything and they’ll know it)
- Use of snorkeling gear
- Choose from a morning or midday tour (midday tour includes lunch!)
This tour is ideal for both beginners and intermediate snorkelers. If this is your first time snorkeling then the guides will talk you through the equipment and show you what to do.
Here’s exactly what you can expect from this Turtle Canyon snorkeling cruise:
Turtle Canyon Kayaking Tour
Another option is to join a kayaking tour to Turtle Canyon where you’ll kayak over to Turtle Canyon, swim with the turtles and then learn to surf in front of Diamond Head.
This tour is run by Shane, a local who was born and bred on the island so he knows it like the back of his hand.
Here’s exactly what’s included in the tour:
- 3-hour tour
- The chance to kayak, snorkel and surf
- Diamond Head views
- A local guide
- Water and snacks
- Photos (so you can remember the experience forever)
I’d only recommend this tour for reasonably fit people as it can be tiring.
Can You Swim To Turtle Canyon?
No, it is not possible to swim to Turtle Canyon. To reach it, you’ll need to join a snorkeling tour.
Unless you’re some sort of Olympic swimmer, you’ll have a very tough time trying to swim to Turtle Canyon and even then, I wouldn’t recommend it.
It gets up to 40 ft deep in some parts of the canyon which is a bit too deep for swimming.
Below I’ve answered some of the most common questions I get asked all the time about Turtle Canyon in Oahu.
Can You Get To Turtle Canyon Without a Boat?
To reach Turtle Canyon you’ll either need to take a boat or go in a kayak. It’s not possible to swim there.
Turtle Canyon is a nature reserve and snorkeling spot located around 15-minutes (by boat) from Waikiki.
Although it would be lovely if you could swim over from the beach, it just isn’t really possible.
If you’re moderately fit then you can join a kayaking tour where a local guide will lead you over there.
Can You Snorkel To Turtle Canyon?
You can snorkel at Turtle Canyon but you’re not able to swim there.
Many people seem to think that you can jump into the ocean from Waikiki Beach and swim over to Turtle Canyon but unless you’re Michael Phelps then you’re not going to be able to get there.
(Michael Phelps, if you’re reading – I still wouldn’t recommend swimming there. Just save yourself the effort and join this snorkeling tour instead).
Can You Kayak to Turtle Canyon?
Yes it is possible to kayak over to Turtle Canyon but I’d only recommend doing so with a local guide.
This kayaking tour to Turtle Canyon is run by Shane, a local who has spent his whole life in Hawaii so knows it like the back of his hand.
On this tour, you’ll kayak over to Turtle Canyon, swim with the turtles and then learn to surf in front of Diamond Head.
Kayaking by yourself isn’t recommended. Firstly, as a novice, it would be very difficult to know exactly where Turtle Canyon is on your own.
Otherwise it would be kinda dangerous to kayak all that way on your own without someone who knows the area.
Is Turtle Canyon Free?
Whilst there is no entry fee to access Turtle Canyon in Oahu, it’s pretty much impossible to get there without booking a tour (which, of course, costs money).
Unless you happen to have a boat then you’ll have to pay to join a snorkeling tour.
Luckily, there are some really reasonably priced tours that definitely won’t break the bank.
This tour is the cheapest one I could find that will take you to Turtle Canyon for a snorkel with the turtles.
It has excellent reviews so they definitely don’t skimp on anything.
Are There Sharks At Turtle Canyon?
Yes, sharks do show up at Turtle Canyon from time to time but they are not dangerous to humans.
I know you’ve seen Jaws and you’re worried that you might be eaten by a shark so I hate to break it to you but that’s just not going to happen at Turtle Canyon.
The types of sharks that love to munch on human flesh are called bull sharks. They’re those scary-looking, toothy sharks that you’ll see in movies.
The types of sharks you’ll find at Turtle Canyon are reef sharks. These are much smaller, more friendly and don’t enjoy eating humans.
And even then, they’re not super common so you probably won’t see one anyway.
They won’t bother you and won’t try to eat you, I promise.
That being said, if you do see one, don’t bother it. They can become aggressive if provoked e.g. if you start poking it.
Is Turtle Canyon Worth It?
Yes, Turtle Canyon is absolutely worth visiting as it’s actually one of the most reliable places to see turtles in the whole of Oahu.
In fact, it’s probably one of the only places in Hawaii where you’re basically guaranteed to see turtles.
You’ll be able to swim right alongside the turtles and really feel like you’re one of them. Join them as they relax, play or search for food.
And it’s not only turtles that you’ll find at Turtle Canyon. You’ll also be able to swim right alongside a variety of tropical fish, eels, whitetip reef sharks, pufferfish and sometimes even dolphins.
I even heard from someone that they once saw a group of around 20 dolphins at Turtle Canyon!
💡Helpful Tip: It’s actually pretty easy to see dolphins in Oahu if you know where to find them (hint: I list all the exact spots in my complete guide).
How Deep Is Turtle Canyon In Oahu?
The depth at Turtle Canyon varies between 20 ft and 45 ft deep. The majority of the area is around 30 ft to 35 ft with some parts getting as deep as 45 ft and some as shallow as 20 ft.
This may be a little deep for snorkelers on their own which is another reason why I recommend booking a snorkeling tour.
Going with a certified guide is the best way to ensure you stay safe in these deep waters.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading this post on how to get to Turtle Canyon. You certainly won’t regret it!
Another place in Oahu where turtles sightings are basically guaranteed is along the North Shore where you’ll find turtles soaking up the sun on the beaches.
Check out my Oahu North Shore sea turtle guide to find out exactly where!