Where to see Turtles in Oahu | All you need to know BEFORE you go

March 25, 2024

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Wondering where to see turtles in Oahu? As locals deeply familiar with Hawaii, we’re here to guide you through the best places to see sea turtles on Oahu. For couples and families planning a trip to Hawaii, missing out on the chance to witness the grace of these majestic majestic creatures would be a true travesty. These Hawaiian green turtles are not just marine life; they’re iconic gentle giants of the island, and encountering them is an essential part of any Hawaiian adventure.

Having traveled to Hawaii on 20+ trips and lived in Hawaii, we’ve honed our knowledge to share the most pristine locations and best times to see sea turtles in their natural habitat. We’ll share all the secrets we’ve learned along the way.

This guide is tailored for couples and families eager to create unforgettable memories in the breathtaking nature of Oahu, Hawaii. Witnessing Hawaiian green turtles is a life changing experience!

With our guidance, you’ll be sure to make the most of your turtle-spotting excursion and leave with memories to last a lifetime. So, grab your snorkel gear – it’s time to dive into the world of sea turtles in Oahu!

Planning a trip to Hawaii?
Save our ultimate packing list, best sunrise spots, and ways to be a responsible visitor.

Best Spots to See Sea Turtles on Oahu:

Oahu, with its diverse coastline and rich marine habitats, offers numerous opportunities to witness sea turtles in their natural environment. Here are some top spots:

Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach, North Shore)

Also known as Turtle Beach, Laniakea is famous for its resident population of Oahu sea turtles. Arrive early in the morning for the best chance to see these graceful creatures basking on the sand or swimming in the clear waters. The tranquil atmosphere of Laniakea Beach, coupled with its stunning natural beauty, makes it a one of the best places to see turtles on Oahu for turtle lovers.

Turtle Beach is one of the best places to see turtles in Oahu because the turtles love coming to the beach shore daily to rest. Laniakea is one of the rare places on Oahu where you don’t have to swim in the ocean to see turtles!

Electric Beach (West Shore)

Located near the Kahe Power Plant, Electric Beach boasts vibrant marine life, including sea turtles and many other colorful fishes. It’s no wonder, its often referred as one of the best places to swim with sea turtles on Oahu.

Snorkelers can often spot turtles gracefully gliding through the waters, making it a popular spot for underwater adventures. The warm, clear waters of Electric Beach offer excellent visibility, providing snorkelers with the perfect opportunity to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Pro Tip: Electric Beach is recommended for strong swimmers only. If you’re not a strong swimmer, head to Laniakea or any of the spots below to swim with Hawaii sea turtles.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (South Shore)

Beyond its stunning coral reefs, Hanauma Bay is home to a diverse array of marine species, including sea turtles. Snorkelers can often encounter these gentle giants while exploring the bay’s crystal-clear waters.
With its protected bay and strict visitor regulations, Hanauma Bay provides families a unique opportunity to observe sea turtles in a pristine and undisturbed environment.

Pro Tip: Hanauma Bay is the only spot on this list where you have to make a reservation. Make a reservation here and learn more about the state park here. The park entry fee is $25 per person and it’s absolutely worth it!

Makaha Beach and Pokai Bay Beach Park (West Shore)

Known for its golden sands and turquoise waters, Makaha Beach and Pokai Bay Beach Park on the West Shore of Oahu is also a hotspot for sea turtle sightings. Visitors can often spot turtles swimming close to the shore or resting on the sandy bottom. Makaha Beach and Pokai Bay Beach are both beaches where you can swim with turtles on Oahu.

The laid-back atmosphere of Makaha Beach, coupled with its stunning scenery, makes it an ideal destination for a relaxing day of turtle watching. The beaches are also right next to each other so if one beach is too crowded, head to the other along the west shore.

Haleiwa Beach and Haleiwa River (North Shore)

Staying in the North Shore? Haleiwa Beach and the adjacent Haleiwa River are one of best locations for observing sea turtles. This is hands down our favorite places to spot turtles that come rest right on the shore and river banks! The calm waters of the river provide a sanctuary for turtles seeking refuge from the ocean currents, while the nearby beach offers ample opportunities for sightings.

Visitors can stroll along the shoreline to spot Hawaii sea turtles popping up. Alternatively, you can opt to rent a paddle board to paddle along the Haleiwa River (highly recommended), or do a farm package where you get to use their kayaks.

Turtle spotting while paddling is one of favorite things to do on Oahu! We love the Haleiwa River because regardless of how the weather or currents are on the Northshore, the waters are always calm here year round. It’s like a turtle sanctuary on Oahu.

Waikiki Beach (South Shore)

If you want to stay close to your hotel in Waikiki, you can still catch a glimpse of Hawaii sea turtles. Waikiki is a great spot for turtle sightings. Sea turtles can often be seen swimming near the shore, particularly in the early morning (before the beach gets crowded) or late afternoon (right before sunset).

With its convenient location and vibrant energy, Waikiki Beach offers a unique opportunity to witness sea turtles amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life. Book the best Waikiki snorkeling tour.

Turtle Bay (North Shore)

On Oahu’s North Shore is a number of hotel called Turtle Bay and VRBO condos you can rent. As the name suggests, Turtle Bay is a haven for sea turtles, offering visitors the chance to observe these majestic creatures in a picturesque setting.

Additionally, Kuilima Cove, the beach adjacent to this hotel, is home to a Hawaiian sea turtle community. You can spot turtles at Turtle Bay, however you will need to enter the water and swim in order to greet these gentle giants.

Pro Tip: At Turtle Bay, the turtles rarely come up to shore. Be careful around the jagged rocks and coral at Turtle Bay when snorkeling.

Lanikai Beach (Windward Coast)

With its powdery white sands and crystal clear waters, Lanikai Beach is not only one of Oahu’s most beautiful beaches but also one of our favorite spot for sea turtle sightings. We’ve encountered dozens of sea turtles gracefully swimming among the vibrant coral reefs just offshore.

The breathtaking scenery of Lanikai Beach, framed by the iconic Mokulua Islands, creates a perfect backdrop for an unforgettable turtle-spotting adventure.

You can spot turtles at Lanikai Beach, however you will need to enter the water to see the sea turtles. You need to swim further out to the reefs, rent a kayak or paddle out to spot the turtles.

Our Top Hawaii Recommendations
Before you visit Hawaii, here are a few things you can’t miss on your trip to Hawaii!

🐢Swimming With Hawaiian Sea Turtles: Hawaii is one of the best places to swim, snorkel, and dive with Hawaiian sea turtles. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Best turtle snorkel tour.

🚤Nighttime Swimming with Manta Rays: Hawaii’s Kailua-Kona is only place in the world to have a resident of Manta Rays that stay there year round. It is one of the best places to swim with huge Manta Rays, beautiful gentle creatures. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Best Manta Ray Cruise (only on Big Island).

🚌Oahu Island Circle Tour: Experience the top sightseeing bus tour on Oahu with this island day trip. Explore Oahu’s natural wonders, cultural sites, surfing spots, and shopping meccas on this full-day tour. Exceptional Oahu Circle Island tour.

🚌Luau and Polynesian Cultural Center: The Ha Breath of Life Luau at Polynesian Cultural Center is the best luau in Hawaii. The interactive activities at the center is one of the best family and couples activity to learn about Hawaiian culture. Best Luau and cultural excursion.

🌴Lanikai Beach: Called Hawaii’s most beautiful beach, Lanikai beach is a 30 minutes north of Honolulu and is a must-visit spot during sunrise!

🐋Whale Watching Boat Tour: Embark of a whale exploration for the day. Whale season starts in December and lasts until mid-April. Whales arrive yearly in the Hawaiian Islands after a 3,000 mile journey. If you are visiting Hawaii during this time, don’t miss out and reserve your seat to see these magnificent creatures.

🦖Jurassic Valley Zipline Tour: Zipline through world-famous Kualoa Ranch and soar over Jurassic Valley on over a quarter mile of the world famous moutains. Get a bird’s eye view of famous iconic scenery from Jurassic Park, Jurassic World. Best zipline tour.

🏨Where to Stay: An ocean view suite with boho luxury vibes at the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, a gorgeous modern suite with a ocean front view near the beautiful Ala Moana Beach and the world-famous Waikiki Beach, at Prince Waikiki, or a downtown friendly suite outside of town near the Hawaii State Art Museum at Aston at the Exceutive Centre Hotel.

What Should I Know Before Seeing Turtles on Oahu?

Before embarking on your turtle-spotting adventure, here are a few essential tips to keep in mind:

Respect Sea Turtles Habitat:

Hawaiian green turtles are a protected species, and it’s crucial to observe them from a safe distance to avoid causing stress or disruption to their natural behaviors.

Practice Safe Snorkeling:

If you plan to snorkel in areas known for turtle sightings, ensure you have the necessary equipment and skills. Remember to use reef safe sunscreen to protect both your skin and the marine environment.

Be Patient:

While Oahu offers ample opportunities to see sea turtles, sightings are not guaranteed. Exercise patience and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding marine life while keeping an eye out for these majestic creatures.

Safety Tips for Oahu Turtle Spotting:

Always maintain a safe distance of at least 6-10 feet from sea turtles to avoid causing stress or interfering with their activities.

  • Refrain from touching or attempting to ride sea turtles, as this can harm both the turtles and yourself.
  • Avoid feeding sea turtles or any other marine life, as it can disrupt their natural behaviors and health.

Hawaiian Sea Turtle Viewing Tips:

  • Consider joining a guided snorkeling tour led by knowledgeable local experts who can enhance your turtle-spotting experience while ensuring minimal impact on the environment.
  • Choose eco-friendly tour operators that prioritize wildlife conservation and adhere to responsible tourism practices.

What to do when you see turtles in the wild

Sea turtles are protected species and wild creatures. If you and your family are fortunate enough to come across turtles in the wild, remember these rules:

  • Maintain a respectful distance and observe the turtles quietly without disturbing them. Stay 6-10 feet away.
  • Don’t touch or feed the turtles. (It’s illegal in Hawaii to touch or feed them.)
  • Refrain from chasing turtles, as this can cause them stress and disrupt their natural behaviors.
  • Capture memories responsibly by taking photos from a safe distance without using flash photography, which can startle the turtles.
  • Wear reef-safe sunscreen to protect the marine life around you.
  • If you are snorkeling, try to approach them from the side so as not to frighten them. The calmer you are, the closer you’ll be able to approach a sea turtle and witness its graceful movements!

Understanding federal protection laws for sea turtles in Hawaii:

Hawaiian green turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is illegal to harm, harass, or disturb these turtles in any way. Violations of these laws can result in hefty fines and penalties. As visitors and wildlife enthusiasts, we must respect their natural habitats

So What Do I Need to Bring To See Turtles on Oahu?

  • Check out our ultimate Hawaii packing list, which includes our favorite Snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, and fins, for underwater exploration) and time tested beach products
  • Reef-safe sunscreen to protect your skin and the marine environment.
  • Water-resistant camera or smartphone for capturing unforgettable moments with sea turtles and other marine life.
  • Eco-friendly beach essentials, such as reusable water bottles and beach towels, to minimize environmental impact.

Spot Sea Turtles on Oahu With a Snorkeling Tour

For an immersive and educational experience, consider booking a snorkeling tour with reputable operators like this Oahu snorkeling tour or this Waikiki snorkeling tour. These tours provide insights into the island’s marine ecosystems while offering opportunities to observe sea turtles in their natural habitat. With expert guides leading the way, you can rest assured knowing that your turtle-spotting adventure is both safe and environmentally responsible.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I swim with sea turtles in Oahu?

Yes, you can absolutely swim with sea turtles in Oahu, at a safe distance 6-10 feet away. While swimming alongside sea turtles is a memorable experience, it’s essential to do so responsibly and without causing harm to the turtles or their habitat.

If it’s your first time swimming in the open ocean, snorkeling tours offer opportunities to observe sea turtles up close safely while adhering to conservation guidelines.

What is the best time of year to see turtles in Oahu?

Sea turtles can be spotted in Oahu year-round, but sightings and water clarity may vary depending on factors such as weather and water conditions. Generally, early mornings and late afternoons offer the best chances for encountering these majestic creatures.

Early mornings (7-10am) are when Hawaii sea turtles are waking up and going to look for their morning breakfast. Late afternoons (2-6pm) are when Hawaii sea turtles are returning from sea to take their afternoon and evening naps.

Are sea turtles endangered in Hawaii?

Yes, Hawaiian green turtles are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act due to habitat loss, pollution, and other human-induced threats. It’s essential to protect and conserve these iconic creatures for future generations to enjoy.

In conclusion, witnessing sea turtles in their natural habitat is an unforgettable experience that highlights the beauty and importance of marine conservation efforts. By following responsible tourism practices and respecting federal protection laws, couples and families can create lasting memories while preserving Oahu’s precious marine ecosystems for generations to come.

  1. Olivia Grace says:

    This is so cool! Hanauma Bay Looks like a place I would love! Thank you for sharing all this super helpful info!

  2. Olivia Grace says:

    Hanauma Bay Looks like a place I would love! Thank you for sharing all this super helpful info!

  3. Lenore says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Oahu it seems like an absolute dream! I’d love to check out Turtle Beach and Waikiki Beach to see the green turtles. Great tips on how to maintain their safety and respect their environment.

  4. Cosette says:

    Oh, I would love to swim with sea turtles and to observe them on the beach. There are so many spots on the island to see them in the wild.

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