Oahu Activity Guide--Water Activities

Maybe your favorite Oahu activity will be in the water...I know mine is! There are so many great Oahu water activities to do. If you truly want to experience Hawaii, you have to see it from the ocean.

You can go swimming, surfing, boogie-boarding, snorkeling, boating, kayaking, etc. The possiblities are endless...

The ocean does amazing things to people. It can exhilarate you like you never have been before. On the other hand, it can also calm you to a feeling of incredible peace.

One way or another, you have to experience the ocean. So just get "on" it, or "in" it, or "under" it. Just DO it!

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Oahu Snorkeling

  • Hanauma Bay
  • Snorkel at Hanauma Bay--A must-do Oahu activity.

    If you are a beginner at snorkeling, Hanauma Bay is the best place for this Oahu activity. Why?

    • Because Hanauma Bay is actually an extinct volcano that is now a federally protected wildlife preserve. That means no fishing is allowed so the fish are very used to humans. Rest assured, you will see alot of fish (over 450 species to be exact).
    • Because there are many shallow sandy areas so you can stand (and not have to swim) while you are getting accustomed to your mask and snorkel.

    Even if snorkeling sounds intimidating to you, give it a try. Most of the people I have taken there have never done it before, and they all did great and absolutely loved it. If you want, you can just stand there in waist high water and poke your head in to see all the underwater activity.

    Hanauma Bay on Oahu

    In the picture, you can see a blue-green area that is shaped like a key. That is known as "the keyhole", and that area is all sand bottom...The dark areas are reef.

    If you are just learning, I would suggest you start in the shallows of "the keyhole". Forget about the fins in the beginning...just get used to the mask and snorkel. As you get the hang of it, you can venture over the reef and into the deeper water with the fins.

    To prevent your mask from fogging up, just before entering the water, spit a mouthful of saliva on the inside of the glass. Rub it in with your fingers, rinse, and put on immediately. Repeat the process if your mask fogs up. If that sounds too gross to you...

    Hawaiian Naupaka Plant

    Grab a leaf from the Naupaka plant that can be found along many of Hawaii's shorelines. Crush the leaf into your mask and rub the glass with the leaf. Rinse and put on immediately...Or if you have a bottle of mask defogger, that works too. Cmon now, I'm trying to give you an authentic experience here...:)

    I've taken many visitors there, and still think it's cool after all these years. It is like entering another world as you dive under the water...so amazingly quiet and serene.

    I just love to see the look on peoples' faces when they emerge from their first view of that ocean world. So many people have told me they were nervous at first, but this became their favorite Oahu activity.

    My boys on the Hanauma Bay Trolley

    Cost--$5 for visitors 13 years old and over. Children under 13, Hawaii residents, and military stationed in Hawaii are free. Parking is $1. There is a trolley (that my boys decided they need to ride) available from the parking lot down to the beach for $1 per person one way.

    Hours--Generally open from 6:00 a.m. to sunset and later on certain Saturdays. Call (808) 396-4229 for current hours and conditions. CLOSED ON TUESDAYS


    • Go early if you drive because the parking lot can fill up.
    • Take a disposable underwater camera with you to record these great memories. Or if you are a gadget junkie like me, maybe you might "need" a waterproof digital camera.
    • Take only what you feel comfortable leaving unattended on the beach while you are in the water. Cash should be on you in a velcro secured pocket. (Who cares if it gets wet?)
    • Rentals for mask, snorkel, and fins are available down at the beach.

  • Oahu Snorkeling Cruise
  • Oahu Snorkel Cruise

    If you are a little more experienced at snorkeling, you would probably really enjoy taking an Oahu Snorkeling Cruise. You would be taken by boat (or catamaran) to other snorkeling spots on Oahu like Kaneohe Bay (pictured), the Leeward (west) coast, and the North Shore.

    However, even if you are not into snorkeling, you could find an Oahu activity that you enjoy on these cruises. How does volleyball on a sandbar sound? How about just relaxing on a catamaran while enjoying lunch and an ice-cold drink sound?

    There are many different Oahu Snorkeling Cruises to suit everyone.

Oahu Whale Watching & Dolphin Excursions

  • Oahu Whale Watching
  • Whale season in Hawaii runs from December to April. During this time, as many as 5,000 humpback whales come from Alaska to mate in the warm Hawaiian waters. Humpbacks are protected by federal law. This means you cannot approach within 100 yards of them.

    Oahu Whale Watching

    If you visit Hawaii during whale season, you must see these amazing creatures. Most tour operators offer a guarantee that you will see whales or you get a free ticket to ride again...so you WILL see whales. It is an experience you will never forget.

    Here is one I will never forget...I was surfing at Sandy Beach, and a group of 4-6 humpbacks swam playfully up and down within 50 yards of me. I just sat there in awe of these incredible animals. It was an amazing experience.

    Note--Whale-watching is best on Maui. If you are planning on visiting Maui, wait to do it there.

  • Oahu Dolphin Tours
  • Oahu Dolphin Excursions

    Oahu Dolphin Excursions are way cool too! It is amazing to see them cruise and jump effortlessly along the boat. It is even more amazing to swim near them in their natural habitat.

Oahu Dinner Cruise

Navatek Oahu Dinner Cruise

I can't think of a more romantic way to end a day on Oahu than being on the ocean at sunset. This Oahu activity comes with a great meal, live entertainment, and most importantly...a beautiful Hawaiian sunset! What more could you ask for?

Oahu Submarine Tours

Atlantis Submarine on Oahu

How would you like an Oahu activity that would allow you to see the fish and underwater life of Hawaii in its natural habitat? You say you're not interested in going scuba diving or snorkeling?

Atlantis submarines may be your answer. They have state of the art subs with an air-conditioned cabin, and comfortable seats with large windows.

I have to admit...I was a little skeptical when I tried it, but was pleasantly surprised. We saw tons of fish along with turtles and other marine life. We were told white tip sharks are not uncommon, but we didn't see one.

Kayaking On Oahu

Kayaking on Oahu--A great Oahu activity!

Whether you are a kayak enthusiast or novice, Oahu offers many locations to enjoy this vigorous yet relaxing Oahu activity.

Kayaks on Laniaki Beach

The best place to kayak is along the windward (east) shore at beautiful Kailua Beach or Lanikai Beach. At Kailua Beach, they offer rentals right on the beach. There are two little islands offshore that you can paddle to, called the Mokulua islands.

Just head over to Kailua Beach, rent a kayak, and give it a shot.

Surfing on Oahu

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, so can you think of a more appropriate Oahu activity to do here?

If you are up for the challenge, I would highly recommend you try this Oahu activity. The first time you catch a wave and stand up is an amazing feeling that you will never forget.

Enjoy this short video on learning to surf...

Here are a few TIPS.

  • Take a lesson. The most commom mistake I see people make is renting a board and trying it themselves. Most places that offer lessons guarantee you will get up. Why not assure your success?
  • If you are going to attempt it without a lesson or if you've taken one already, at least get the right equipment. This is one Oahu activity where equipment does make a big difference... even for a novice.

    When you rent (or buy) a surfboard, get one that's big enough. The bigger the board, the more stable it is. The more stable it is, the easier this Oahu activity will be. Of course, there are limits to this as well...If you're 5'6", a 14' board is a little too big. Any rental place should be able to help you pick out the right board (like the one pictured below on Waikiki Beach).

  • Take surfing lessons in Hawaii--A fun Oahu acitivity!

  • Do it at a beach that has good waves for beginners. All of the places that offer lessons are good beginner beaches. Don't rent (or buy) a board and attempt to surf where the waves are more challenging. You will just be putting yourself and others in danger.
  • Buy and wear a lycra shirt when surfing or doing any other Oahu activity. These shirts serve many purposes.
    • My son Josh wearing a lycra vest

    • They will serve as a rash guard for your stomach area. Surfboards have wax on the deck for traction. This wax will irritate your skin from all the paddling you will be doing. A rash guard will prevent this.
    • They will serve as a sunblock. These shirts have UV protection so they will save you alot of sunscreen. Good sunscreen is not cheap. Remember to use the waterproof or sweatproof type when doing any ocean activity.
    • For women, they will give you assurance that you can wear that two piece without well... losing that top.

    You can buy these shirts at any surf shop such as Local Motion, Hawaiian Island Creations, or Town & Country. They also usually sell them at Costco. They run about $15-$20.

Parasailing on Oahu

Parasailing in Hawaii

This is an Oahu activity that involves being pulled by a speed boat with a parachute attached to you. Sound crazy? Rest assured...It is very safe.

It can even be done in tandem if that would make you feel better. In fact, sometimes they require riding tandem if it is windy...to give you more weight and stability.

I have only listed a few of my favorite things to do here. There are so many others like jet skiing, scuba diving, sport fishing, and even shark encounters! Click here to read about all these other Oahu activities.

The point is...There are so many options for enjoying Hawaii's beautiful ocean..you will surely find an Oahu activity to call your favorite!

Sidebar--If there is one thing you take from this site, I hope this is it. Please don't forget the most important Oahu activity...enjoy yourself. You are in paradise.

Take in the heavenly scenery, listen to the sound of the ocean, breathe in the refreshing tradewinds, smell the exotic flora.

Enjoy this magical time with your spouse, companion, or friend. Enjoy your children. After all, this is heaven on earth...:)

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