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Is There Good Snorkeling In Waikiki?

Last update: 2024-02-06

Waikiki is one of the most popular beach destinations in Hawaii, known for its beautiful sandy beaches, iconic resorts, and lively atmosphere. While Waikiki offers plenty to see and do above the water, many visitors wonder if there is good snorkeling in Waikiki as well.

The short answer is that yes, there is some decent snorkeling to be found in Waikiki, but it is somewhat limited compared to other locations in Hawaii. The best snorkeling spots are located outside of the main Waikiki strip, and offer the chance to see tropical fish and small reefs. Visitors looking for expansive coral reefs and an abundance of marine life may want to take a short trip to other Oahu snorkeling hot spots.

Snorkeling Spots in Waikiki

Here are some of the best spots for snorkeling in the Waikiki area:

Queen's Surf Beach

Queen's Surf Beach is located near the Honolulu Zoo, just outside of central Waikiki. There is a small reef here that attracts tropical fish like convict tangs, butterflyfish, and wrasse. It's an easy shore entry point without strong currents or waves, making it a nice option for beginner snorkelers. The drawback is that the reef is somewhat small.

beautiful landscape with Queen's beach, villa and mountains, twilight, Adriatic sea

Kaimana Beach

On the eastern end of Waikiki, Kaimana Beach has a shallow reef that extends out from shore. It's home to a variety of colorful coral and reef fish. Kaimana tends to be less crowded than other Waikiki beaches, but parking can be tricky. Look for street parking on residential side streets.

Sans Souci Beach

Sans Souci Beach is known locally as Kaimana Beach or Diamond Head Beach. It offers calm waters and decent snorkeling along the rocky edges. Tropical fish like tangs and convict fish inhabit the reefs here. Sans Souci Beach also has scenic views looking back at the Waikiki skyline.

Diamond Head Lighthouse

Along the shoreline near the Diamond Head Lighthouse are some small reefs and rocky areas that attract reef fish like unicornfish and parrotfish. The entry is made up of rocks so water shoes are recommended. This area can have stronger currents at times so is best for more experienced snorkelers. Look for parking inside Diamond Head State Monument.

Diamond Head Lighthouse from Diamond Head Crater State Monument Honolulu Hawaii Oahu

Snorkeling Tips for Waikiki

If you plan to snorkel in Waikiki, keep these tips in mind:

  • Go early in the morning before crowds arrive and winds pick up. This offers the calmest, clearest conditions.
  • Choose a location based on your skill level. Opt for beaches like Queen's Surf or Kaimana Beach for beginner-friendly shallow reefs.
  • Bring reef-safe sunscreen to avoid harming the marine ecosystem.
  • Watch out for currents. Don't fight against them if caught in one - float until you can swim out safely.
  • Rent gear from local snorkel shops to ensure quality equipment. Purchase water shoes for rocky entries.
  • Book a snorkel cruise to reach better offshore reefs not accessible from shore.
  • If uncomfortable, wear a floatation device like a swim vest for extra buoyancy.

Top Snorkeling Spots on Oahu

While the snorkeling in Waikiki can be decent, it generally pales in comparison to the world-class snorkeling found elsewhere on the island of Oahu. If you have time to venture beyond Waikiki, consider checking out these top snorkeling destinations:

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Hawaii's most popular snorkeling destinations, with vibrant reefs and an abundance of tropical fish. It's a short drive from Waikiki. Note that Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays to give the marine ecosystem a break from human contact.

An aerial view of Hanauma Bay on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii

Shark's Cove

On Oahu's North Shore, Shark's Cove has pristine reefs and lava rock formations that are home to fish, eels, and sometimes sharks! Shore access requires clambering over lava rocks. Go early to beat crowds.

Three Tables

In the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, Three Tables features underwater lava tubes that attract marine life. Enter via the beach park. Three Tables can get crowded so arrive early.

Electric Beach

Near the Kahe Power Plant, Electric Beach gets its name from the warm discharge water that attracts tropical fish in abundance. It's excellent for snorkeling but parking is extremely limited.

Kailua Beach Park

The calm turquoise waters of Kailua Beach offer excellent snorkeling along the coral heads and interesting landscapes like small caves and arches to explore. Shore access is very easy from the large beach park area.

Kailua Beach on the Hawaiian island of Oahu

Is Waikiki Snorkeling Worth It?

For travelers hoping to snorkel right from the shores of Waikiki, the good news is that there are some decent spots to check out. Locations like Queen's Surf Beach, Kaimana Beach, and Sans Souci Beach offer small reefs that attract a nice variety of tropical fish. While the snorkeling pales in comparison to the top Oahu snorkeling beaches, it can still make for an enjoyable activity during a Waikiki trip.

Visitors who are serious about wanting high-quality snorkeling should absolutely make the effort to take a day trip to one of Oahu's famous snorkeling destinations like Hanauma Bay or Shark's Cove. These spots offer expansive reefs and diverse marine ecosystems that simply can't be found within Waikiki itself. Many snorkel cruises and guided tours make it easy to access Oahu's best snorkeling regardless of where you are staying.

Typical picturesque sunset along Waikiki Beach at golden hour

With proper precautions and realistic expectations, snorkeling in Waikiki can be a fun way to explore the underwater scenery. And by combining it with a trip to Oahu's premier snorkeling beaches, you're sure to experience the very best of this popular ocean activity during a Hawaiian vacation.


In conclusion, while Waikiki offers decent snorkeling options for those who want to stay close to their hotel, the best snorkeling can be found at other Oahu beaches. However, don't let that stop you from enjoying a fun snorkeling adventure during your trip to Hawaii - with the right planning and expectations, snorkeling in Waikiki can still be a great experience.

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