Over the last decade the honu (sea turtle) population has skyrocketed throughout Hawaii. They are everywhere, yet you never grow tired of seeing them when snorkeling or walking along the sands of an isolated beach. They are equally abundant on Oahu, but it is possible to go a full week without spotting one up-close if you don’t go to the right places. As a visitor you want to know where to go to snap a photo from a safe distance (you must keep 10-feet away). While there are never guarantees when it comes to the natural inhabitants of the ‘aina and its surrounding waters, the following places are about as close to a sure thing as possible for spotting sea turtles.
5 Almost-Guaranteed Places to Find Sea Turtles on the Sand (or Very Near the Shore) on Oahu
image copyright: @marcus_ocean
This is the most obvious entry. Laniakea has become so synonymous with sea turtles that it has earned the moniker “Turtle Beach”. There are tour buses in Waikiki dedicated solely to this excursion and as such the attraction has become the bane of North Shore residents. Ever wonder why there is so much traffic on this otherwise sleepy side of the island? Laniakea tour buses are to blame. Infrastructure issues aside, this is a great place to spot sea turtles as they bask under the Hawaiian sun if you have never had the opportunity to see them up close before. But therein lies the caveat. If you have had close encounters with sea turtles elsewhere, skip this one. This is a first-timer experience only. View more on Laniakea Beach.
Where to stay on the North Shore:
Pua’ena Point Beach Park
image copyright: @marcus_ocean
This rough-around-the-edges cove is found tucked into the jungle just east of Haleiwa Beach Park in Haleiwa Town, on the North Shore. There is a trail beside Haleiwa Beach Park, where you’ll see a local surf school often set up shop with a van full of soft-top surfboards. This is a good indicator of calm water, which is also what makes the small patch of sand at the end of the trail a great place to rest for sea turtles. If there are too many people on the shore, they will stay in the water, but you’ll get to see them up close (10-feet away please) as they bob up and down with the small waves that slowly crumble on to the sand. View more on Pua’ena Point Beach Park.
Between Hale’Iwa Army Beach and Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park
Smack dab between Hale’Iwa Army Beach and Ali’i Beach Park in Haleiwa is a narrow beach where locals come for pau hana to bask in the evening sun along side sleepy sea life. As of late, sea turtle sightseeing tours have been showing up to this spot, but for the most part it’s relatively uncrowded. Here are the directions from Ali’i Beach Park.
ʻĀweoweo Beach Park
This is the most isolated beach on the list. Aweoweo Beach Park is located in Waialua on the North Shore, roughly between the Haleiwa beaches mentioned above and Dillingham Airfield. You may not find many tourists on the beautiful stretch of the Seven Mile Miracle, but there are plenty of sea turtles to be found in the waters off the shore, along with a few on the sand during a hot afternoon. There are public restrooms nearby, but there aren’t many amenities around so be sure to bring water and snacks which you can pick up in Waialua or Haleiwa beforehand. Here are the directions from Haleiwa Town.
Secret Beach Ko Olina
We’re not giving anything away here, as nothing is really discreet in the resort community of Ko Olina. Secret Beach is located just passed the Four Seasons and Disney Aulani resorts. You can walk there by following the coastal edge of the resort property, or head up Olani Street to Ali’inui Drive, hang a left, and walk to Lanikuhonua Cultural Institute where the beach is found. It’s a 5-minute walk from the the aforementioned – like we said, not a secret. What you’ll find upon arrival is a cozy lagoon and when you wade in your odds of seeing a sea turtle are pretty high. It’s not worth heading to Ko Olina just for this experience but if you’re already staying in the resort community, you’re in luck. Here are the directions from Disney Aulani.
Where to Stay in Ko Olina:
Please do remember to keep a safe (10-feet) distance from the sea turtles when they are laying on the shore. If you encounter them in the water please avoid touching their shells as your skin carries chemicals that are toxic to them. And if you see someone not showing the same respect for these cherished sea creatures please kindly approach them and say something. While the honu population is thriving, they still require our protection.