Snorkeling on Oahu: Turtle Canyon

For the third chapter in our snorkeling series, we explore…

Turtle Canyon

You don’t have to venture far from Waikiki to get a great snorkeling experience. As long as you’re comfortable swimming in deeper water, you can hop on a snorkel boat and head out to Turtle Canyon. They’ll even provide the snorkel gear!


When should I go?

Well the snorkel boats run every day, year-round, rain or shine so really you could do this any time. Just a helpful tip though – if you can go in the winter, there’s a strong possibility of seeing whales in addition to the usual fish, turtles and dolphins.

How can I get there?

If you’re staying in Waikiki, depending on which boat you choose, you either just walk to the starting location (usually on the beach behind one of the hotels) or they can provide transportation if it leaves from one of the nearby boat harbors. We like the Waikiki Rigger, Maitai Catamaran, Waikiki Ocean Club, Port of Waikiki, and Makani Catamaran.

What can I expect?

Hawaiian green sea turtles! Aptly named, Turtle Canyon is a special spot on the reef where turtles come to get their shells cleaned by the resident fish. You cannot touch them, but you can get really close to them and observe their behavior. They are awesome creatures. Just to warn you, it can be hit or miss with the turtles. While they are around pretty often, just keep in mind that they are wild animals. They aren’t going to stick to a set schedule! Some days you could see 10+, other days you may only see a couple or you may unfortunately miss them altogether. Don’t be too discouraged, you’ll also see a ton of tropical fish, including triggerfish, butterflyfish and trumpetfish.

If you’re a strong swimmer, we highly suggest diving down to get a better view of the reef. The deeper you can go, obviously the more you’ll discover. You may even get lucky and see an eel or octopus.

If you’re not a very strong swimmer, don’t worry – you can still observe a lot from the surface, and most of the companies that offer snorkel boat tours also provide flotation devices if you want to use them. Another great thing about having the boat right there is that if at any point you get cold or tired, you can just climb back aboard and relax until the rest of the guests are done.

Post-snorkeling, again depending on who you go with, you may be treated to a sail up and down the Waikiki coastline. This is the perfect way to dry off, warm up and regain energy for your next adventure!


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