Imagine coming face-to-face with a wild, Hawaiian green sea turtle, feeling firsthand the awesome power of a breaching humpback whale, snorkeling with dolphins... or is that shark?! Here are some of the best ways to encounter sea life on Oahu.
Whether it’s swimming in Hanauma Bay amid schools of colorful reef fish or searching for honu, Hawaiian for green sea turtle, on a catamaran cruise off the coast, snorkeling is one of the easiest ways to experience Oahu’s sea life. Choose from guided North Shore snorkel trips to kayaking off Kaneohe, where you can beach your boat and explore the underwater world.
Beat the snorkeling crowds by strapping on a tank, jumping in the water, and going deeper than everyone else. If you’re a certified scuba diver, you can explore shipwrecks and underwater caves, and search for nudibranchs, garden eels, and sharks that frequent the tropical deep. If you’ve never gone diving but want to try, sign up for introductory dives, where a professional instructor is right by your side to teach you basic scuba skills.
Whale Watching and Dolphin Cruises
It’s possible to encounter dolphins or whales on a sailing or snorkeling trip, but you can far increase your chances by going on a boat tour that focuses on finding these creatures. From December to April, Oahu’s waters are teeming with migrating humpback whales, which swim from Alaska to Hawaii to mate and give birth just offshore. Spinner dolphins, on the other hand, are local Hawaii residents, as are bottlenose dolphins. Dolphin and whale-watching cruises depart from various spots across the island.
As death-defying and scary as it sounds, shark diving off Oahu’s North Shore is actually one of the island’s most popular and unforgettable activities. From inside a safe, underwater cage, watch as Galapagos, hammerhead, and gray reef sharks emerge from the blue depths and swim curiously around your cage with a powerful sense of grace. You’ll also likely hear whales in the winter months—and because it’s out in the big blue, there’s really no telling what you might see once your cage slips under the surface.
If you want to experience the underwater world without getting your hair wet, consider a submarine ride off Oahu’s southern coast. These adventures are perfect for families with young kids or those who aren’t strong swimmers, as you can view reef fish and corals right from your porthole window. Though a bit counterintuitive, it’s also the perfect water activity when it’s too rainy to go snorkeling or diving.