If you’re headed to Oahu, snorkeling with the island’s incredible wildlife absolutely has to be on your Hawaii bucket list. Given that many visitors opt to stay in the glitzy Waikiki area, there’s tons of snorkeling tours that depart from or near the neighborhood’s iconic beach.
So if you’re looking to hit the ocean and make a new turtle friend or two, here’s everything you need to know about the best Waikiki snorkeling tours on Oahu.
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Oahu is known for incredible snorkeling and, in fact, you can literally snorkel right off Waikiki Beach. Considered to be one of the best beaches on Oahu, certain areas of Waikiki, like Queens Beach and San Souci, have decent snorkeling for new learners. However, if you’re hoping to see more wildlife and enjoy clearer waters, you’re going to have to get offshore!
That’s where Waikiki snorkeling tours come in—you have plenty of options to choose from that leave from or right by the beach, but will take you out to reefs a bit further away from shore, where you’ll have a way better chance of spotting more types of tropical fish, sea turtles, and possibly even dolphins!
So let’s dive in!
Best Waikiki Snorkeling Tours
Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes
If you’re a total newbie to snorkeling and want to get your feet wet (literally!) before heading into the open ocean, this tour will teach you everything you need to know in a small group setting.
You’ll get to test out your skills in a shallow reef, under the watchful eye of your instructors, so you can feel safe and comfortable, while still seeing some of Hawaii’s beautiful sea life.
Just be aware that the objective of this tour is to get you up to speed with snorkeling in a safe environment—so unfortunately, it’s not super likely you’ll see a ton of cool wildlife, like sea turtles, on this tour. So if you’re really keen on seeing some cool wildlife on the island (and how couldn’t it be?!), you might want to consider doing this tour first and adding one of the other tours later on in your Oahu itinerary.
Length: 2 hours
If you’re ready to hit the open seas, Turtle Canyon is probably the most popular destination for Waikiki snorkeling tours.
This spot is so-named because algae-loving fish, like angelfish and wrasse, head to this particular reef to feast. Accordingly, sea turtles flock here as well, to get the algae cleaned off their shells by these little fish helpers.
There’s tons of snorkeling tours to Turtle Canyon that leave Honolulu, but not all tours are created the same—luckily, this particular tour is a crowd favorite!
It will kick off with a gentle cruise along Honolulu’s coastline, where you can spot dolphins and, in the winter season, even whales leaping into the air from a distance. Once you get to Turtle Canyon, a mile and a half offshore, the crewmembers will provide a short snorkeling briefing and then you’ll be off in the water, ready to see a whole bunch of adorable honu!
If you’re new to snorkeling, the crew are incredibly patient, kind, and full of helpful tips, and there’s always a certified lifeguard on staff to keep a watchful eye on your group.
And once you’re back on the boat, there will be drinks and snacks waiting for you to enjoy as you soak up the sun on your cruise back to Waikiki.
Length: 2 hours
On this tour, you’ll cruise out of the Ala Moana Harbor, past Waikiki Beach and its glittering skyscrapers. Again, you’ll head to Turtle Canyon, where you’ll see schools of tropical fish and, usually, several sea turtles gliding amidst the colorful reef.
This company’s staff does an incredible job of providing helpful tips for snorkeling and how to best observe the turtles, but also makes sure that snorkelers maintain a respectful distance from these beautiful creatures (something that, unfortunately, not all tour groups do).
Additionally, they’re quite hands-on to make sure you have the best experience possible—even diving with your GoPro underwater to make sure you have killer footage to remember your trip!
Length: 6 hours
Want to head somewhere other than Turtle Canyon?
Hanauma Bay, a former volcanic crater, is widely considered to offer the best snorkeling in Oahu, with calm and shallow water and over 400 species of marine life that now call its waters home.
The only problem is—visiting can kinda be a pain. You are required to make reservations online two days ahead of time at 7 AM and, given that only 1,000 tickets are available per day, they usually sell out in minutes. Parking here is not great; renting snorkeling equipment is EXPENSIVE ($20 per person for standard and FORTY DOLLARS for premium gear!); and the lines to get into the bay, rentals, and well, pretty much everything, are usually quite long.
This tour, however, takes care of ALL that for you—you’ll get picked up from your hotel in Waikiki, your ticket will already be reserved for you, and they’ll provide you with the snorkeling equipment—basically allowing a hassle-free visit to Hanauma Bay.
All you have to do is worry about snorkeling through its clear waters and spotting as many fish and wildlife as you can!
Just make sure to read what the tour does and does not include—you’ll still need to pay the company for your admission to Hanauma Bay and the tour doesn’t include extras, like life jackets (which some guests have taken issue with!).
Length: 2 hours
Want something a bit more private?
On this excursion, you’ll depart from Kewalo Basin Harbor and sail out along Waikiki Beach, with views of Diamond Head and the Honolulu skyline. Along the way, you’ll usually see turtles or even spinner dolphins swimming through the water.
Your private captain will take you to an awesome snorkeling spot to drop anchor and jump into the water to swim with tropical fish and, with any luck, a turtle or two.
Beyond just having the boat all to yourself, you’ll also get to play your own music and bring your own food and drink (with an ice-cold cooler waiting on board). It’s basically like a choose-your-own-adventure!
Plus, the crew are incredibly kind, accommodating, and happy to provide helpful advice if you’re a newbie snorkeler (or just nervous about getting in the water!).
Length: 2 hours
Another private (and more romantic!) option is this tour, which will take you out from Waikiki in your own catamaran at sunset (I mean, how much more dreamy can you get than that?!).
Because it’s a private tour, this is totally customizable—you can either simply sail around, keeping an eye out for spinner dolphins and taking in the views of Oahu (and the beats of your own music!) or, alternatively, you can ask the captain to head to a good snorkeling spot.
If you want to get underwater with sea life (and I imagine, if you’re reading this article, you do!), the crew provides snorkeling gear and knows exactly where to go so that you’ll see tropical fish and likely a turtle or two. They’re also incredibly skilled at helping new or nervous snorkelers feel safe and confident in the water.
You’ll cruise back to the harbor, enjoying whatever drinks you’ve brought along to chill in the boat’s cooler (maybe some champagne?), as the sun is setting over the Pacific—Oahu looks absolutely magical in the last golden rays of the day!
Length: 2 hours and 30 minutes
This company offers everything a snorkeling tour should—patient, kind, and encouraging staff; a clean and comfortable boat; and a rad snorkeling spot. The company takes its guests either to Turtle Canyon or a more under-the-radar spot, called Turtle Town, depending on which one has better conditions for the day.
But this tour has a few more tricks up its sleeve. For one, the length of the tour is about half an hour longer than almost all of the other Waikiki snorkeling tours.
Another game changer on this tour? It’s the only company that uses a trimaran–a boat which has three hulls, instead of two, which provides a smoother, more stable ride through the water. And, while catamarans typically have one large netted lounge area strung between its two hulls, a trimaran has two of these lounge areas—so you’ll have more areas to relax during the boat ride.
Length: 4 hours
Hoping to see some bigger stuff than tropical fish?
This is one of the only catamaran tours on the island that departs from Honolulu and sails to the west coast of the island. This portion of Oahu’s coastline is known for having an abundance of larger animals, like a wide variety of dolphins, including spinner and bottlenose, and even whales!
The crew onboard is incredibly informative about the wildlife you’ll see. Their tours are often lucky enough to get into the water with some of Hawaii’s most magnificent creatures—but the staff always makes sure that you’ll stay an appropriate distance from them, which is incredibly important to protect Hawaii’s incredible wildlife.
It’s obvious that this company’s staff truly cares about their guests having a good time. If you want one for the books, this is it!
Length: 2 hours
This private excursion, for up to six people, lets you customize the itinerary, from trying to spot manta rays to finding the best snorkeling places by Waikiki. Along the way, you can see dolphins, turtles, and even humpbacks (in the right season, of course).
This company’s guides shine at creating the perfect experience for your group and manages to find snorkeling spots that allow you to see Oahu’s stunning wildlife but without all the crowds. They’re also kind and patient with travelers that might need a little extra time or attention, like kids or seniors. Definitely worth the splurge for a more VIP experience!
Length: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Rounding out this list, on this tour, you’ll board a catamaran and sail from the Ala Moana Harbor to, yup, you guessed it—Turtle Canyon. You’ll ride on a catamaran, led by a naturalist guide, past Waikiki to the reef, where you can see tropical fish and, if you’re lucky, several turtles at one time.
You’d think we’d have enough with the Turtle Canyon tours, but I couldn’t leave this company off the list, given that it’s got a few things going for it.
For one, it’s half an hour longer than most other tours, you’ll get more time actually in the water with the turtles and fish (usually an hour or more!).
Additionally, the crew with this company are funny; incredibly informative about Oahu, the Pacific, and its wildlife; and great with beginners.
Frequently Asked Questions About Snorkeling in Waikiki
Is there good snorkeling in Waikiki?
As noted above, there are definitely some spots on Waikiki Beach that are good options if you want to test out your snorkeling skills or don’t have the time or money to go on a tour. That being said, Waikiki is an extremely popular beach and, unfortunately, most of its coral reefs have died (friendly reminder to NEVER step, kick, or touch coral, which is a fragile, living organism)- which means there’s a lot less wildlife in its waters.
Accordingly, you’re definitely going to have WAY better water clarity and a better chance to see a more diverse array of fish and bigger animals, like turtles, when you get offshore with a tour.
Is snorkeling in Waikiki good for beginners?
If you’re a total newbie, there are places on Waikiki Beach that are awesome to learn how to snorkel, like Queens Beach, but if you want a little bit of extra help, this tour will teach you literally everything you need to know about snorkeling.
Otherwise, if you want to get out in the water, heading out on a tour to Hanauma Bay is an excellent option—given its shallow waters and location in a protected cove, the surf here is almost always calm and approachable for beginners.
Turtle Canyon, off Waikiki Beach, generally has relatively calm waters, but is quite deep—in some areas, up to 45 feet—which might be scary for nervous snorkelers. However, all of the tours above have staff that are trained at helping you feel more comfortable in the water and keeping you safe, so it’s totally doable for even the most novice snorkelers!
I hope you have a better idea of some Waikiki snorkeling tours to get you out on the water—and hopefully, seeing some beautiful fish, turtles, and more! Do you have any questions about snorkeling in Oahu or any of these tours? Let me know in the comments below!