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Where To Swim With Sea Turtles, Oahu, Hawaii: Complete Guide


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Reggi Orr



Welcome to the breathtaking island of Oahu, Hawaii, where adventure awaits at every corner. One of the most incredible experiences you can have on this tropical paradise is swimming with sea turtles. Oahu is home to several species of sea turtles, including the famous Hawaiian green sea turtle, also known as honu in Hawaiian.


Swimming alongside these gentle giants is an unforgettable experience that allows you to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. Not only are sea turtles captivating to watch, but they also play a vital role in maintaining the health of our oceans. As eco-conscious travelers, it’s important to enjoy this incredible encounter while respecting the well-being of the turtles and their natural habitat.


In this complete guide, we will explore the best time to swim with sea turtles, the top spots on Oahu to find them, and essential guidelines to ensure a responsible and enjoyable experience. So grab your snorkeling gear, and let’s dive into an adventure of a lifetime with Oahu’s sea turtles!


About Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are ancient creatures that have inhabited the Earth’s oceans for millions of years. These graceful reptiles are equipped with streamlined bodies and powerful flippers that allow them to navigate through the water with ease. Oahu is home to the Hawaiian green sea turtle, which is one of the largest species of sea turtles.


These incredible animals can reach lengths of up to four feet and weigh over 300 pounds. Hawaiian green sea turtles are named for the color of their fat, which is tinged green from their herbivorous diet. They primarily feed on sea grasses and algae, and their feeding habits contribute to the health of the marine ecosystem.


Sea turtles have a unique life cycle that involves long migrations between feeding and nesting grounds. Female sea turtles will come ashore to lay their eggs in the warm sands of Oahu’s beaches. It is during this nesting season that the female sea turtles are most vulnerable, as they can be easily disturbed by human activity.


It is estimated that only about one in a thousand sea turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood, making their conservation and protection critical. Oahu is committed to preserving these magnificent creatures, and visitors to the island can contribute to their conservation efforts by following responsible guidelines when swimming with sea turtles.


Best Time to Swim with Sea Turtles

While sea turtles can be found in the waters surrounding Oahu throughout the year, there are certain times that offer better opportunities for swimming with these majestic creatures. The best time to encounter sea turtles is during the summer months from May to September.


During this period, the weather conditions are generally more favorable, with calmer seas and better visibility underwater. The water temperatures are warmer, attracting the turtles to the shallow coastal areas where they can be easily spotted.


It’s important to note that sea turtles are protected under federal law, and there are strict guidelines in place to ensure their safety and well-being. As a responsible visitor, it’s crucial to refrain from approaching sea turtles too closely, touching or chasing them, or disrupting their natural behavior.


Remember to always maintain a safe distance of at least ten feet from the turtles and observe them from a respectful distance. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a memorable and ethical experience swimming with sea turtles on Oahu.


Where to Find Sea Turtles on Oahu

Oahu offers several prime locations where you can spot sea turtles in their natural habitat. Here are some of the best spots to find these incredible creatures:

  1. Laniakea Beach: Located on the North Shore of Oahu, Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, is famous for its regular turtle sightings. These gentle giants often bask on the sandy shores, providing visitors with an incredible opportunity to observe them up close.

  2. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: This beautiful marine sanctuary on the southeastern coast of Oahu is not only a snorkeler’s paradise but also a haven for sea turtles. Explore the clear waters and keep an eye out for the turtles gracefully gliding through the coral reefs.

  3. Makapu’u Beach: Situated east of Waikiki, Makapu’u Beach is known for its stunning views and crystal-clear waters. It is another popular location to spot sea turtles. Snorkel among the vibrant marine life and watch as the turtles gracefully swim by.

Keep in mind that these locations are known for frequent turtle sightings, but encounters with sea turtles in the wild are never guaranteed. However, with a little patience and a keen eye, your chances of spotting these magnificent creatures are greatly increased.


Popular Beaches for Sea Turtle Encounters

Oahu is blessed with numerous stunning beaches where you can have incredible sea turtle encounters. Here are some of the most popular beaches known for their turtle sightings:

  • Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach): Located on the North Shore, Laniakea Beach is renowned for its frequent turtle sightings. The turtles often come ashore to rest, providing visitors with an unforgettable opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat.

  • Waikiki Beach: As one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii, Waikiki is not just a hotspot for sunbathing and swimming. Sea turtles can often be seen swimming near the shores, especially in the early morning or late afternoon.

  • Makaha Beach: Situated on the western part of the island, Makaha Beach is known for its clear waters and vibrant marine life. Snorkelers at Makaha Beach frequently spot sea turtles gracefully swimming by, making it a popular spot for underwater encounters.

It’s important to remember that sea turtles are protected under federal law, and it is illegal to touch or disturb them. Respect the turtles’ space and observe them from a safe distance. Enjoy the magic of these incredible creatures, but always prioritize their well-being and conservation.


Protected Areas for Sea Turtles

Oahu takes great measures to protect its sea turtle population and their habitats. There are designated protected areas where sea turtles are given the space and conservation they need. These protected areas include:

  1. Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary: This sanctuary not only protects humpback whales but also serves as a safe haven for sea turtles. It covers a significant portion of the waters surrounding Oahu, providing a protected environment for the turtles to thrive.

  2. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: As mentioned earlier, Hanauma Bay is not only a popular snorkeling spot but also a protected nature preserve. It is home to a diverse range of marine life, including sea turtles. By visiting Hanauma Bay, you can support the preservation efforts and ensure the longevity of the sea turtle population.

It’s crucial to be mindful of these protected areas and follow any rules or guidelines in place. This includes respecting no-entry zones and avoiding any activities that could harm the sea turtles or their habitats. By adhering to these guidelines, we can play an active role in the conservation of these magnificent creatures.


Responsible Sea Turtle Swimming Guidelines

Swimming with sea turtles is a magical experience, but it’s important to remember that we are entering their natural environment as guests. To ensure the well-being of the turtles and their habitats, it’s essential to follow these responsible swimming guidelines:

  1. Maintain a safe distance: Keep at least ten feet away from the sea turtles at all times. This distance allows them to swim and behave naturally without feeling threatened or stressed.

  2. Do not touch or chase them: It is illegal to touch or chase sea turtles in most jurisdictions. Respect their space and appreciate them from a respectful distance. Touching them can disrupt their protective slime layer and cause them stress.

  3. Do not feed them: Feeding sea turtles interrupts their natural foraging behavior and can lead to dependency on humans. Feeding them inappropriate food can also harm their digestive systems. Let them continue their natural feeding habits undisturbed.

  4. Avoid flash photography: Flash photography can startle sea turtles and negatively impact their behavior. As a guideline, refrain from using flash when taking pictures of sea turtles. Natural lighting will still allow you to capture memorable moments.

  5. Dispose of trash properly: Always dispose of trash and litter in designated bins. Leaving trash on the beach or in the water can harm sea turtles and other marine life if they accidentally ingest or become entangled in it.

By following these guidelines, we can ensure that our interactions with sea turtles are positive, respectful, and do not harm these incredible creatures. Remember, the well-being and conservation of sea turtles are paramount, and it is our responsibility to protect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.


Other Activities to Enjoy on Oahu

Oahu is a treasure trove of natural wonders and thrilling adventures. While swimming with sea turtles is undoubtedly a highlight, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy on the island. Here are some recommendations to make the most of your time in Oahu:

  • Hiking: Explore Oahu’s diverse landscapes through its numerous hiking trails. From the iconic Diamond Head Summit Trail to the lush Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, there are options for every skill level and stunning vistas to behold.

  • Surfing: Experience the thrill of riding the legendary waves of Oahu. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, the island offers surf breaks for all levels of expertise. Grab a board and catch a wave at famous spots like Waikiki Beach or Sunset Beach.

  • Pearl Harbor: Delve into the history of World War II by visiting Pearl Harbor. Explore the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, where you can learn about the events that shaped the region and pay homage to the fallen servicemen.

  • Paddleboarding: Glide through the turquoise waters of Oahu on a stand-up paddleboard. Experience a unique perspective of the island’s coastline, spot marine life beneath your board, and bask in the sun as you paddle along calm waters.

  • Luau Experience: Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Hawaii by attending a traditional luau. Enjoy a feast of traditional Hawaiian cuisine, witness captivating hula performances, and learn about the island’s history and customs.

These activities are just a taste of what Oahu has to offer. Whether you prefer relaxation on the beautiful beaches, exploring hidden gems, or seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures, Oahu has something for everyone.



Swimming with sea turtles on Oahu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows you to connect with the beauty of nature and appreciate the incredible marine life that inhabits the island’s waters. As you embark on this adventure, remember to prioritize the well-being and conservation of these magnificent creatures.


Responsible sea turtle swimming guidelines, such as maintaining a safe distance, refraining from touching or feeding them, and disposing of trash properly, are crucial to ensuring the long-term survival of sea turtles and their habitats. By adhering to these guidelines, you can participate in the preservation efforts and contribute to the protection of these gentle giants.


Beyond swimming with sea turtles, Oahu offers a plethora of activities for visitors to enjoy. From hiking stunning trails to experiencing the thrill of surfing, exploring historical landmarks to indulging in delicious local cuisine, the island has something for every traveler.


As you journey through Oahu, take the time to appreciate the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and the importance of conservation. Let the sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun, and the presence of sea turtles remind you of the interconnectedness of all living things and the need to protect and cherish our natural world.


So grab your snorkeling gear, dive into the crystal-clear waters, and create memories that will last a lifetime as you swim alongside the majestic sea turtles of Oahu.