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Where To See Turtles In Waikiki – Complete Guide

If you’re looking for somewhere to see turtles in Waikiki then you’re in the right place.

Nothing can beat that amazing feeling of seeing a turtle up close and personal in their natural habitat! Why not try it for yourself?

This post will tell you all of the best places to see turtles in Waikiki including the exact spots and locations.

Can You Swim With Turtles in Waikiki?

Yes it is absolutely possible to swim with turtles in Waikiki and, in my opinion, it is actually one of the best places in Oahu to snorkel with turtles.

There are other nearby locations where your chances of swimming with turtles are also high (exact locations listed below) however most of the beaches get super busy with tourists.

Waikiki’s turtle beaches don’t get anywhere near as busy as some other popular Oahu beaches meaning it’s much more relaxing.

I also have some insider tips later in the post that will give you a super high chance of spotting a turtle in Waikiki.

Best Places To See Turtles In Waikiki

Waikiki is one of the best places on Oahu to swim and snorkel with turtles however, as I mentioned, there are several other beaches on the island where you’ll also have a high chance of spotting a turtle.

You can visit all of them on a day trip very easily. They vary in distance with some being just 20 minutes from Waikiki and others being up to an hour away.

There are also a few locations in Waikiki itself where you can see and snorkel with turtles. 

💡Insider Tip: For the best chance of swimming with turtles in Waikiki, I’d recommend booking onto a snorkeling tour in Turtle Canyon where you’re almost guaranteed to see a turtle!

Turtle Canyon

Turtle Canyon is the best place to see turtles in Waikiki.

This nature reserve and popular snorkeling site is home to a large number of sea turtles as well as huge shoals of fish and a healthy coral reef with a luscious seagrass bed.

As seagrass is the turtles absolute favorite food, as you can imagine, there are a lot of sea turtles at Turtle Canyon in Waikiki. 

Sounds good right? The only catch is that it’s impossible to get to Turtle Canyon alone so you will need to join a snorkeling excursion or a boat tour to reach it as it lies away from the shore.

Map showing the location of Turtle Canyon.
Map showing the location of Turtle Canyon.

I personally recommend booking onto this 2-hour snorkeling excursion which takes you from Waikiki to Turtle Canyon and includes all of the snorkeling equipment and a knowledgeable guide.

You’ll likely see other animals too including spinner dolphins and flying fish. The flying fish don’t fly out of the water but in the water (no, I don’t get it either).

Here’s exactly what you can expect from a snorkel excursion to Turtle Canyon:

If you don’t want to get into the water yourself but you still want to see the turtles then join this glass-bottom boat tour instead. 

Turtle sightings are actually guaranteed on this tour which shows just how common turtles are at Turtle Canyon. It’s also common to spot dolphins and whales.

Sit back and relax from the comfort of the boat whilst looking through the glass viewing panels beneath you for awesome sea life!

Waikiki Beach

Another place where you can see turtles in Waikiki is at the super popular Waikiki Beach.

Turtles can sometimes be spotted swimming close to the shore, sunbathing on the beach or searching for food. 

It really is a treat to be standing on the sand, or in the ocean, surrounded by palm trees and being able to spot a turtle swimming in the water (it looks like they’re swimming to the beat of the ukelele music!)

Jump aboard a glass-bottom boat tour for the best views of the turtles. This is a super fun way to get out onto the water itself and see the marine life up close without disturbing it.

I’d also recommend standing on the pier for a while and keeping your eyes on the water. Sooner or later a turtle may appear.

An insider tip is to arrive as early as possible in the morning, before all the other tourists arrive, as this is when the turtles are most active.

Sightings are also fairly common around sunset each day.

Once you’re done spotting turtles, why not learn how to surf by booking a surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach? Is there anywhere more iconic to learn to surf than Hawaii?

Map showing the location of Waikiki Beach.
Map showing the location of Waikiki Beach.

San Souci Beach

Another location where you may be able to see turtles in Waikiki is at San Souci Beach.

This beach is located along the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District which is a protected marine area.

San Souci Beach is ideal for those looking for a change of pace from Oahu’s typical more touristy beaches.

It may not be as polished or as famous as Oahu’s other beaches but it does have excellent waves (great for surfing), soft sand and lush, tropical greenery that makes it feel more like a garden than a beach.

Whilst it’s definitely not guaranteed that you’ll see turtles here, they do show up from time to time.

Map showing the location on San Souci Beach.
Map showing the location on San Souci Beach.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay is one of my favorite places to see turtles in Oahu and the best part is that it’s just a 25 minute drive from Waikiki.

This crescent-shaped bay is actually a protected marine life conservation area which essentially means that a team of staff are working everyday to protect and conserve the marine life and ecosystems of this area.

The bay was created by volcanic activity, in fact the beach is actually located inside the cone of an ancient volcano. Cool right?!

Hanauma Bay is a snorkeler’s paradise as it has rich marine life. Go snorkeling here and you’ll likely come face to face with turtles, tropical fish, colorful corals and more.

Turtles are very commonly spotted swimming around the bay which makes Hanauma Bay one of the best places to snorkel with turtles in Oahu.

It’s ideal for beginners (and families) as the water doesn’t get too deep and the visibility is excellent.

The easiest way to get to Hanauma Bay from Waikiki and snorkel with turtles is by joining a snorkeling tour like this one.

It includes pick-up and drop-off from your hotel in Waikiki and all the snorkeling equipment you’ll need.

Here’s what you can expect from snorkeling at Hanauma Bay:

The whole experience is also super educational so it’s great if you have kids who are interested in marine life. 

You’ll get to watch videos about the animals and learn from the staff about how their conservation efforts work.

💡Helpful Tip: Hanauma Bay is closed every Tuesday to give the wildlife some time to rest and recover so plan your trip with this in mind. 

Map showing the location of Hanauma Bay.
Map showing the location of Hanauma Bay.

Cockroach Cove

Cockroach Cove, also known as Halona Beach Cove, is another great place to see turtles near Waikiki.

The cove is just a 20 minute drive from Waikiki making it one of the closest places to see turtles near to Waikiki.

This beach is super scenic as it’s surrounded by jagged cliffs and mountains. It’s also situated right next to the famous Halona Blowhole meaning you’ll get an excellent view of water gushing out of the top.

The blowhole was created due to volcanic activity. There’s essentially just a hole in the rock that is connected to an underground tunnel. When a big wave comes, water gets forced into the tunnel and comes out of the rock through the hole.

Take a look in the video below:

Turtles are commonly spotted in the waters surrounding this cove so it’s a great place to come if you want to swim with turtles and gaze at impressive natural wonders.

And don’t worry, you probably won’t see any cockroaches here!

Map showing the location of Cockroach Cove.
Map showing the location of Cockroach Cove.

Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach is the best place to snorkel with turtles in Oahu in my opinion. It’s located on Oahu’s north shore which seems to be a favorite spot for the turtles.

This beach is literally nicknamed ‘turtle beach’ due to the large number of turtles that can often be spotted on its shores. In fact, you’re almost guaranteed to see a turtle on this beach, that’s how common they are!

Laniakea Beach is approximately a 1 hour drive from Waikiki meaning it’s pretty easy to visit the beach on a day trip. Just hop in a taxi or take the bus.

Turtles can often be spotted swimming in the bay just off the shore or just basking in the sun on the sand itself. 

When the turtles come onto the shore to lay on the sand, you’ll usually find that volunteers mark off the area using red rope. You shouldn’t cross the red rope, it’s there to protect the turtles.

See what I mean in the video below:

Make sure you bring along some snorkeling equipment and you’ll probably be able to swim right alongside them.

If you really want to see turtles in Oahu then Laniakea Beach is definitely your best bet. The main downside to this beach is that it does get very busy (much too busy for me).

The large crowds may put a bit of a downer on your visit as it can be difficult to get a good view of the turtles with so many people in the water.

For this reason, I’d personally still visit Turtle Canyon in Waikiki over Laniakea Beach as it doesn’t get quite as busy meaning you can get some more 1-on-1 time with the turtles.

Map showing the location of Laniakea Beach.
Map showing the location of Laniakea Beach.

Electric Beach

Another great place where you can see turtles in Oahu is at Electric Beach which is a 30 to 40 minute drive from Waikiki.

The name ‘Electric Beach’ is actually just a nickname but you’ll find that most people know it as that. The name comes from the presence of an electric power plant nearby however this beach’s real, but lesser known, name is Kahe Point.

I absolutely love this beach because the water is super toasty! This is all due to the nearby power plant which releases warm water into the ocean (don’t worry, it’s completely safe).

The warm water makes for a nice snorkeling environment (especially in the winter) and the turtles seem to love it too!

Check out the beautiful turtle spotted at Electric Beach in the video below:

As you can see in the video, visibility is super clear here so you’ll get an excellent view of the turtles.

This beach is one of my top picks because, as well as turtles, it’s common to be able to see dolphins from this beach too!

This beach is much quieter than other ones on this list like Laniakea Beach. You’ll get a bit more room to yourself which is much better in my opinion.

Another bonus is that this beach is super picturesque with soft sand, crystal clear waters and a beautiful view of the nearby islands.

Map showing the location of Electric Beach.
Map showing the location of Electric Beach.

Haleʻiwa Beach

Another one of the best beaches in Oahu with turtles is Haleʻiwa Beach which sits on Oahu’s north shore around an hour’s drive from Waikiki.

Turtles love to lounge around on the sand on Haleʻiwa Beach and swim around the reef that sits near to the shore.

This beach is also super picturesque with a wide stretch of sand and lush, tropical vegetation.

The waves can get big here which means that it’s pretty popular with surfers. Bring along your surfboard or snorkeling equipment to swim with turtles.

Map showing the location of Hale'iwa Beach.
Map showing the location of Hale’iwa Beach.

Did you know that you can actually see turtles all over Honolulu? Check out my guide on the best places to see turtles in Honolulu.

Best Time of Year to See Turtles in Oahu

The best time of year to see sea turtles in Oahu depends on the species of turtle that you are wanting to see.

For the green sea turtle, the best time to see them is during the summer months usually between June and September. 

These types of turtles usually come to shore during this time to lay their eggs on the beaches.

For the hawksbill turtles, the best time to see them is during the winter months, usually between December and March. 

These types of turtles are more likely to be seen laying on the rocks or swimming near the shore.

As you can see, this means that you have a good chance of spotting turtles at any time of year in Oahu.

Did you know that you can also go whale watching in Oahu at certain times of year?

What Time of Day Are Sea Turtles Most Active in Hawaii?

Sea turtles in Hawaii are most active during the day particularly in the early morning and in the late afternoon around sunset.

The turtles love to come onto the sand to bask in the sun or they enjoy just swimming around close to the shore.

Remember that as sea turtles are wild animals, it’s not always easy to predict their behavior as it can depend on several factors including the weather, the tides and more.

If you are lucky enough to spot a sea turtle whilst in Waikiki (or anywhere in Hawaii) then remember to treat it with respect.

Don’t touch the turtle as, not only will it upset the turtle, but it’s also illegal in Hawaii. Also ensure that you give the turtle plenty of space and try not to disrupt its natural behavior.

Just watch the turtle from a distance and let it do its thing!

I’ve listed some more useful swimming with turtles tips below.

Tips For Swimming With Turtles In Waikiki

If you’re going to be swimming with turtles in Waikiki then there’s a few things you should know.

Remember that all of the different turtle species present in the waters around Hawaii are endangered so it’s really important that we do all we can to protect them.

Here’s a few tips:

  • Don’t be too loud. Try to be as quiet as possible when swimming up to a turtle as loud noises will scare them away.
  • Do not touch the turtle. Turtles are wild animals and should be respected.
  • Do not get too close. This might scare the turtle and they could bite you if they get really scared (don’t worry this is super rare!).
  • Do not feed the turtles. They don’t need help finding food.
  • Always approach a turtle from the side. This gives them a clear view of you and a clear path ahead of them if they want to swim onwards.
  • Don’t disrupt the turtle’s natural behavior. You can enjoy the turtles by watching them do their thing but try not to disturb them.

These key tips aim to protect both you and the turtles.

Thanks for reading this post on where to see turtles in Waikiki. 

As well as turtles, did you know that you can also see dolphins in Oahu

There are actually so many different spots and locations in Oahu where you have a super high chance of seeing a dolphin (I list them all in my post).

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Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

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