Are you planning a trip to Oahu, Hawaii in the future? If so, then you probably already know that there’s a ton to do on the island.
However, if you want to really complete your trip, you can’t forget to add a snorkeling tour in there. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to check them out to bring you the top Oahu snorkeling tours currently offered.
These tours vary in length and all offer something a bit different, yet you can count on each one having friendly and knowledgeable staff to ensure you have a top-notch experience. Be sure to see our Oahu sunset dinner cruise tour reviews.
Top Oahu Snorkel Tours
The 6 Best Rated Oahu Snorkeling Tours For 2021
- Oahu 3-Hour Dolphin Watching & Snorkel Excursion in Waianae
- Oahu Morning Snorkel Sail along Waikiki Beach
- Oahu 3-Hour Waikiki Snorkel & Sailing Adventure with Lunch
- Oahu North Shore Snorkeling Tour from Haleiwa
- Hidden Gems of Oahu Tour with North Shore Turtle Snorkeling
- Oahu Eco-Friendly West Oahu Snorkel Sail with Dolphins
Now lets take a closer look at the Oahu snorkeling tours so you can find the right one for you!
Oahu Snorkel Tour Reviews
- Departure: Dolphin Excursions Shop in Waianae Boat Harbor
- Duration: 3 hours
- Includes: Snorkel gear, sanitized daily, guaranteed dolphin sightings, 2 snorkel sites daily, whale watching during season
- Other: Great views on high-quality vessel with potential dolphin and whale sightings
Starting things off on the right foot, we bring you the 3-Hour Dolphin Watching & Snorkel Excursion in Waianae. Known for having beautiful, rich waters, it’s full of all kinds of sea creatures: dolphins, whales, coral reefs, turtles, tropical fish, and more! You’re sure to love catching sight of them on your boat and under the water!
The check-in process is smooth and straightforward, so you don’t waste any time. Climb onto the luxe, 34-foot cruise vessel, “Nai’a I”. If you’ve done dolphin/snorkel trips in the past but weren’t huge fans, allow this one to change your mind.
- You’ll instantly notice the sheer passion the crew and guides have for the wildlife and are glad to spread that knowledge with those onboard.
The boat ride alone is honestly worth the ticket, thanks to the staff and the excellent comfort onboard. There are various, well-kept bathrooms and ample walking space so you’re never squished together. As you sail, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins playing in the water! The captain will take you to the best snorkeling spot, depending on the current weather and water conditions.
You get your choice from 2 daily excursions: one departing at 7am, and the other at 10:30am. Both offer excellent chances of seeing dolphins, though we did notice that the earlier of the 2 had less people on the water.
Once you get to your snorkeling spot, you’ll receive instruction on how to use your gear, and snorkel gear rentals come included.
Even children on board who’d never snorkeled before were made to feel confident and safe, thanks to the help of the crew.
From December to April, humpback whales are making their way down from Alaska, to the algae-rich waters around the Hawaiian islands. You’ll also have a very good chance of seeing these beautiful giants with their babies!
- Departure: Kewalo Basin Harbor, Waikiki
- Duration: 2 hours
- Includes: Bar snacks, unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, fins and swim vest, snorkeling gear
- Other: If you don’t see turtles, you’ll be able to come back and take the tour again for free
Next up, we bring you the Morning Snorkel Sail Along Waikiki Beach. This 2-hour snorkel adventure is the perfect way to start off your day, filled with loads of fun and exercise! If you’re interested in seeing Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, this is an almost guaranteed chance at swimming with these interesting animals!
With a hotel pickup included, it’s very convenient as you don’t have to worry about meeting at the right location or arriving late. Once you get to the Kewalo Basin Harbor in Waikiki, you’ll hop aboard a 53-foot sailing catamaran.
The sailboat is very impressive, especially if you’ve never been on one before. With a 49-passenger capacity, it’s quite spacious and easy to move around on, too.
As you sail out to your snorkeling spot, the crew will help you with any questions you may have while also keeping on the lookout for any sea critters who may make an appearance.
Bar snacks and unlimited soft drinks are available to keep you nice and energized to properly prepare for your snorkel.
Once you arrive to the reef, the crew will help you get oriented with your gear and any snorkeling tips. No matter how experienced you are, this is a great opportunity, as you’ll be with experienced instructors to help you out. Once in the water, you’ll start looking for sea turtles.
If you don’t see any, you’ll be able to go to the snorkeling tour again for free. Oh, and if you end up going anywhere from December to April, you’re also likely to catch some Humpback whales swimming around!
- Departure: Kewalo Boat Harbor, slip F28
- Duration: 3 hours
- Includes: Breakfast, lunch, unlimited soda and juices, 2 free bar beverages, if you cannot buy or bring your own snorkel and mask, sanitized re-usable sets are available as a backup
- Other: Comprehensive tour offers ample meals and beverages on comfortable boat
If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, the 3-Hour Waikiki Snorkel & Sailing Adventure with Lunch is the way to go. Not only does it come with a snorkeling and sailing trip on a 48-passenger catamaran, they even include a full breakfast, lunch, and much more.
You’ll have everything you need to have a great time and will be sure to want to come back! Once you meet up with the rest of your group, you’ll board the Gold Coast Catamaran.
This large vessel offers some of the best views of the ocean, making it easy to spot all kinds of sea animals. Not only that, but there’s ample room aboard so you’ll always be able to catch great views and comfortable seating.
You can also choose to view from the bow of the boat, which offers up a more “adventurous” setting, with the water from the ocean misting over this area.
While the boat ride itself is very relaxing, but the crew and captain are entertaining and make it fun, too. While riding, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch (depending on the time you select), along with unlimited soft drinks and 2 free bar beverages!
Feel free to hydrate, as there are 2 restrooms located on the catamaran (also handy for changing clothes if necessary).
Once you get to your snorkeling spot, you’ll be provided with a snorkel and mask if you don’t have your own. The crew will offer a bit of guidance, which is helpful if you’re a beginner. Everyone will snorkel close together in order to not disturb the sea turtles, which always seem to be hanging out close by!
The crystal-clear waters make it easy to spot them from a distance, and offer a bit more confidence to beginners.
- Departure: 1775 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu
- Duration: 8 hours
- Includes: Round-trip transportation to and from Waikiki, guided circle island tour of Oahu, snorkel gear
- Other: Comprehensive introduction to the island, full-day exploring
While the aforementioned tours are really great if you are looking for more brief options, we understand there are many who are looking for all-day tours. If that sounds like you, then check out the Hidden Gems of Oahu Tour with North Shore Turtle Snorkeling.
Oahu is known for offering world-class sightseeing and this tour really takes advantage of that, covering all the main sights.
Meet up with your local guide in the morning and head off on a semi-private shuttle to all the “hidden gems” Oahu has to offer. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable, engaging, and make sure to keep you entertained the entire time, sharing fun facts and anecdotes.
You’ll first stop at Halona Blowhole Molten Lava Tubes, which were created from volcanic eruptions. When the tide cooperates, the water will shoot out from the narrow opening, which creates a geyser-like experience! Makapu’u Point lets you see Waimanalo’s sea cliffs, serving up incredible vistas of the rich blue bay waters and the famous Manana or “Rabbit” Island.
If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll surely enjoy the next stop, where you’ll participate in Hawaiian coffee and macadamia nut tastings after you cruise down the island’s eastern coastline. This little shop sits under old Banyan trees, which really creates a nice vibe.
- Pro tip? Don’t pass up the Hawaiian chocolates when you’re there!
After this, you will see legendary sights such as Chinaman’s Hat, the famous surf of North Shore, Diamond Head, Sunset Beach, the Dole Pineapple Plantation, and you’ll even get to go snorkeling with turtles! Along the way, you will also get to try some mouth-watering local eats and food trucks, so come hungry!
This is one of those cruises that will make anyone fall in love with Hawaii. Once your tour is done, they’ll take you back to your hotel so you can get some well-deserved rest!
- Departure: Dock C, Waianae
- Duration: 3 hours
- Includes: Breakfast, lunch, unlimited sodas and juices, 2 free bar beverages, snorkel gear rental
- Other: Relaxing sail with exciting dolphin sightings
Seeing dolphins is an absolute must-do if you’re in Hawaii, which you can do on the Eco-Friendly West Oahu Snorkel Sail with Dolphins. This tour takes place along the gorgeous, picturesque Ko Olina coast, which is aptly known as the “Place of Joy”.
Set sail on an eco-friendly sailboat, which is designed to do no harm, focusing on the preservation of dolphins and other sea creatures.
Not only that, but the vessel is also very comfortable. It comes with nice amenities, like 2 spacious restrooms and a fresh-water shower. This makes it easy to wash off and change your clothes, which is needed after a snorkel.
We found the tour very well-organized, even before you board the boat. Once you do board, you’ll get time to find a seat or stand up. There’s quite a bit of shade on the deck, along with ample tables and seating at the bar.
You will get unlimited non-alcoholic drinks during the entire tour, though there are all kinds of affordable beer and wine options!
- The turquoise waters will undoubtedly call to you, and there are snorkel rentals included with the tour. The warm, clear waters are easy to see all kinds of brightly-colored fish, coral, and more.
Back on the boat, keep your eyes peeled for the chance to see dolphins breaching or playing around. While you’re watching, indulge in a delicious lunch or breakfast – this is a comprehensive tour that is much more fun and memorable than simply heading to a restaurant!
- Departure: Kewalo Harbor slip F29
- Duration: 2.5 hours
- Includes: Lunch, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, 2 bar drinks, snorkel gear
- Other: Luxurious boat complete with lunch and great views
With this cruise, you’ll spend 2.5 hours exploring the azure coastline of Waikiki. The Hilton Hawaiian Village Morning Snorkel with Lunch is one of the best ways to start your day off! The warm blue waters are incredibly inviting, with the promise of seeing tropical fish, corals, and much more!
Setting sail on the legendary Spirit of Aloha, you can expect the duration of your trip to be “smooth sailing” from the very beginning.
- The vessel rides smooth, so there isn’t a whole lot of rocking during the journey. This is a relief for those who tend to get seasick easily, as well as those who are traveling with them!
Including an all-you-can-eat lunch, make sure to arrive hungry, because there’s a lot of delicious food waiting for you! As you eat, you’ll be able to take in amazing views of the waters around you.
There is ample seating located all over the vessel, and you can choose if you’d like to be in the sunshine or shade. Did we mention unlimited soft drinks and 2 alcoholic drinks come included?
After digesting a bit, you’ll put on your snorkel and receive instruction from the crew.
Once you dip in, you’ll be able to swim with sea turtles, and many other water-dwellers. The crew does a great job with beginners, so if this is your first time, there’s no need to worry.
Once you head back on deck, you can get washed up and change with the 2 large restrooms and fresh water shower!
Oahu Travel Guide
Unless you already live in Hawaii, chances are, you’re going to have to use the Honolulu International Airport (HNL), which is the state’s main airport. Just about every major domestic, along with around 16 international carries serve HNL so it’s quite accessible. In fact, it’s one of the busiest airports in the country!
If you are planning your trip to Oahu, make sure you already are aware of the entry requirements. If you’re a US citizen, you obviously won’t need a visa. For some foreigners, there are visa waivers, so it’s worth checking out.
The cheapest flights are usually in January and September, though generally speaking wintertime is less popular.
Oahu is an island that’s actually one of the easier to get around, largely thanks to the wide variety of transportation options available. You don’t have to rely on renting a car, though this is easy to do from Waikiki or downtown Honolulu. Uber and personal drivers are also available, but be prepared for the more expensive cost.
Oahu has a pretty solid transit system, and for just $2, you can ride the bus. Alternatively, the visitor adult pass offers you 4 days of rides for a mere 20 bucks. Just make sure you’re consistently checking their rider alerts and schedule online.
If you really want to go all-out and are a more adventurous spirit, we highly recommend getting around by moped or motorcycle. This is probably a better option during the warmer months, as when temperatures drop it tends to get a bit windy.
If that’s not your kind of thing, most hotels offer a taxi/limo service. We advise against calling a cab on the street, as it’s not the norm there and isn’t particularly safe.
Where to Stay
Are you someone who likes relaxing and enjoying the pools at a resort? Then you’ll love Waikiki. The large city is right on the beach, so it makes sense why you’d find the biggest hotel brands taking up residency here. The Marriot, Hyatt, etc. are all here so you’re sure to find something familiar.
However, aside from Waikiki, South Oahu, Leeward Waianae, North Shore, and Windward East are all nice places to stay, too.
Waikiki – Not only will you find plenty of resorts, you’ll also find many hotels designed for business travelers with full meeting rooms, business services, etc. here. The vast majority of all stays on Oahu are located in Waikiki for good reason!
The Moana Surfrider, built over 100 years ago, was Hawaii’s first hotel and definitely a must-visit if you’re into history, Victorian elegance, comfort, or some combination of them. However, we feel like The Royal Hawaiian has quite a bit to offer, too. It has been featured in movies since the 60’s, and offers a bit of that Hollywood glamour to this day. They recently renovated their “luxury tower” as well as most rooms.
Keep in mind that both of these hotels are located in tourist-heavy areas and it will be crowded outside. The Laylow hotel is a bit more affordable, looks beautiful, yet is still considered upscale. Oh, and it’s located a bit further off the beach so you’ll not be so overwhelmed with people. However, you absolutely need to check out the Surfjack Hotel which is a mid-priced boutique resort which really plays homage to that classic 60’s Hawaiian surf culture.
Aside from Waikiki, North Shore is a great area full of vacation homes, charming cottages, along with various comfy B&Bs along the beach. If you’re trying to escape with a significant other or just want something a bit more quiet, North Shore is highly recommended.
Restaurants and Eating Out
Once you land in Oahu, you’re in for a real treat or two. There are countless restaurants and eateries from just about every single country and culture you can imagine! However, you can’t go without trying some traditional Hawaiian food while you’re here.
Speaking of North Shore, it’s here where you’ll find Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp which is an absolute life-changer. The family-run business is sure to make you feel at home, but will blow your mind with their savory, flavor-explosion of seafood. Do yourself a favor and grab the butter and garlic shrimp which is their signature dish.
If you’ve never had Hawaiian food before, Helena’s Hawaiian Food is here to make sure you forever start to crave it. Just one bite of their Kalua Pig or Semi-Salty Lomi Salmon and you’ll never be the same! Everything is rich in flavor, but make sure you leave room for their Haupia dessert: a fresh dessert made of coconut, almost like a pudding.
Looking for something fast and tasty to refuel in-between sightseeing? Then head over to Rainbow Drive-In. It’s the closest thing to a Hawaiian burger joint, with plate lunches that include robust macaroni salad, spam and eggs, shoyu chicken, bento boxes, and more! Oh, and if the heat is getting to you, order a slushy float!
We hope you’re a coffee lover, because some of the best coffee in the world is found here. Gorilla in the Café is in the Waikiki shopping district, though Arvo is adorable, the coffee is incredible, and the staff is super friendly. For breakfast, you can’t get better than Koko Head Café: with a former Top Chef as their well, chef! Order the Breakfast Congee and thank us later.
For dinner, you can’t go wrong with Palace Saimin. Open for 75 years, they manage to combine Chinese-style noodles in a Japanese-style dashi broth. Other selections include wonton min, udon, saimin (of course), and more.
Do you want elegance? Then Senia is a prime choice, with confit duck, tapas, pintxos, and much more. Oh, and they have one of the best wine programs in the state! Everything is made with passion and precision, and that’s reflected not only in the food but the atmosphere and décor.
Nightlife and Entertainment
As Oahu is so rich in culture (and tourist-heavy), you can count on a ton of nightlife options to be available to you. While the sunset cruises are a wonderful way to spend part of an evening, there are many other activities to partake in.
Luaus are a very important part of Hawaii, and is a must-do if you really want to immerse yourself in the culture. Not every luau experience is the same, however, so it’s a good idea to research a bit. For example, some last over 5 hours long and are an entire event, complete with feasts and drinks.
Chances are, if you’re visiting Oahu, you’re already someone who appreciates nature. Check out the Moon Walks at Waimea Valley if you want to see what Mother Nature has blessed us with. You’ll pass by various places of worship, botanical gardens, immense greenery, and waterfalls. Not to mention, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about how lunar phases affected the lives of Native Hawaiians.
With a live DJ, local music, food, and drinks, Bar 35 is a great place to stay and dance the night away. It attracts a slightly younger crowd, with large dancefloors and a refreshing patio with ample seating. Buho Cantina is a great place to grab a margarita, delicious Mexican food, and relax in the flirtatious downlighting.
For award-winning microbeer and open-air environments, we recommend trying out The Beach House. You’ll be treated to live music and a generally positive, fun vibe.
As we’ve previously mentioned, you can feasibly go to Oahu any time of year and still have a great time. It’s not, for example, New York City, that tends to have hot and humid summers and frigid winters. Everything is pretty calm, though the best time is from mid-April to early June.
Alternatively, anytime between September and mid-December are good too. Just remember that when you really get close to Christmas and New Year’s, crowds are going to thicken and ticket/hotel room prices are going to increase.
Out of all the main Hawaiian islands, Oahu is the driest in terms of weather conditions. That means that it’s rare not to have sunshine and a slight sea breeze. You can plan on bringing your best “great weather” clothes, along with a jacket just in case. You don’t have to worry much about it raining, though if there are showers, they’re not likely to last long.
As we’ve talked about a few times already throughout our guide, Diamond Head is absolutely a landmark you can’t miss. The volcanic cone is the most popular of the state parks here, and is called such because British sailors in the 1800’s thought they had discovered diamonds! Hiking to the top is definitely tiring, but once you get to the summit you’ll realize it’s more than worth it!
A lot of people head to Hawaii for the beautiful beaches and great drinks/food, and that’s perfectly fine. However, we feel you’d be missing out if you didn’t experience Polynesian culture a bit more. The Polynesian Cultural Center has you covered, which is even referred to as the Disney World experience of Hawaii! With all kinds of shows and entertainment, it’s a good idea to plan to be here all day.
If you’re staying in Waikiki, there is also a lot of stuff to do here. Plan on a lot of it being tourist traps, gift shops, and such. However, there are some great upscale shopping centers and an array of towers, rooftop bars, top-notch culinary spots, and white sand beaches aplenty.
Do you know how to swim? Then why not try to learn how to surf right in the spot where it was invented? You can count on learning from the absolute best, and your instructor will take you to areas where there are gentle waves. If you feel confident enough, you may even be able to paddle out into the more intense surf!
If you enjoy being in the water while not falling off a board, there’s always incredible snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. If the crystal-clear turquoise waters don’t attract you, the over 300 species of marine life are sure to! As it is a sanctuary and the top priority is protecting the beings who reside here, only 3000 visitors are allowed to visit per day.
No matter who you are, a trip to Pearl Harbor is sure to move you. In fact, it boasts almost 2 million visitors per year due to its tragic history. The WWII USS Bowfin Sub and the USS Battleship Missouri are both anchored in the bay and you may even be able to board them!
First, if you’re going to surf, we recommend doing so at sunset. The view is just incredible, the sun isn’t too strong, and there aren’t quite as many people out. Why not stay on the beach for dinner, too? The cool thing about Oahu is that everything is practically right on the beach.
Go and grab a bite to eat and have a picnic right there! You don’t have to fight for a reservation or a seat, and you have the best view in the house!
Kalakaua Avenue is like the main touris street which winds through the center of Waikiki. It is full of hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops but these tend to be more expensive for that reason. It is very crowded during the daytime and at night you’ll get to enjoy street performers and live music. It is definitely entertaining, but can be a little annoying if you dislike crowds.
Kuhio Avenue is a great alternative to Kalakaua and runs parallel to it and just a block away. You’ll immediately notice a large price difference in everything! Monsarrat or Kapahulu Avenues may be even better, and is more of a local hotspot instead of a tourist hotspot. Everything is yummy, and the prices are even more attractive.
You may have noticed that one of the tours on our guide mentioned a BYOB structure. As it’s notoriously hard for businesses here to get a liquor license, many just opt for a BYOB approach. Instead of spending almost 20 bucks on a simple cocktail, you can stop at a grocery store, pick up some beer or a bottle of wine, and the restaurant will happily let your drink your own drinks. Many places are cool enough that they’ll even store it in their fridge for you!