How to find Sea Turtles in Oahu, Hawaii

Important: I wrote this post over a year ago now but things have changed!  Locals are telling me that there is a lot of disrespect for the turtles space and that the beaches are quite busy now.  I went back and forth about whether I should remove this post but ultimately decided to keep it as this is my role, showing my readers where the best spots are to go.  BUT and it is a huge but, we need to be respectful!  Please keep a reasonable distance, never follow them around, and never, ever touch.  Our bacteria can hurt them and theirs can hurt us not to mention how distressing it can be for the turtle.  Use common sense, if the beach is busy try to come back at a later time.  Respect the local community, beach, and wildlife at all times!  If you find a turtle in distress do not approach, like we mistakenly did, but rather call (808) 725-5730 and report it!


One of the things we enjoy immensely as we travel the world is interaction with local wildlife.  When we heard there was a beach here on Oahu that you were practically guaranteed to see sea turtles we decided to head out and explore it.


I looked on a map, brought the map, and had a GPS and I have to say it was nearly impossible to find on my own.  We stopped at about 15 different beach areas and drove back and forth around the area we knew it had to be in.  We crept down small alley paths, we had to endure fussing and general crabbiness after the first hour lapsed and we even stopped to ask directions at least 5 times to no avail.  Finally, we found the right woman to ask and 2 hours after leaving the house we stumbled onto the beach.

What we discovered when we finally arrived though was pure bliss.  A beautiful yet very small beach full of sea turtles.  One lazed on the beach while at least 4 others swam in the water just off shore coming in to ankle deep water to feed.  We sat on the beach about 20 feet away from this massive sea creature admiring its beauty. Then we waded in the ocean to discover many more turtles, beautiful fish, and we even spotted an eel.



We were inspecting the turtle as he had a hook in his mouth and we wanted to help.  I snapped a quick pic but it is definitely NOT Ok to get this close!  We called the authorities and they assured us it happens often and the hook will fall out on its own!

The beach it self is small but lovely with fluffy white sand and some great tide pools and rock ledges to explore.  The surf is a bit rough with a moderate undertow but nothing terribly dangerous. The mountains behind the beach gave a stunning backdrop and the lack of a substantial amount of people was refreshing after spending many days at Waikiki beach where every inch is spoken for.  Apparently the evenings and weekends get more busy as this is a real locals beach but even as the sun set there were maybe 2 other families there.


This little guy just kept following us around!  We never get this close unless they are approaching us!


I felt a bit nervous encroaching on the beach with so few people around and houses right there but they welcomed us. The parents inquired as to how we were enjoying Hawaii while the kids threw a football with my boys for hours.  One of the dads helped show us where the turtles were swimming and led Dylan around showing him some of the underwater world, it was wonderful.

At the end of the day we decided to stay and watch the sunset, which was spectacular from that vantage point on the island but perhaps the most amazing part of the day was just before we left. As I was looking out towards the horizon I spotted a very large humpback whale breaching the surface.  He continued to breach 5 more times.  Our excitement bubbled over and we yelled and pointed, crying out in total awe and happiness.  None of us had ever seen a whale in the wild and since whale season is Dec-April I had sort of written off seeing any while we were here for the summer!  It was breathtaking!  The few local people on the beach may have thought us a bit mad but what can you do, it was a huge whale and to us that needs a show of total excitement.



As we drove home, chatting and thinking about what an amazing day it turned into we realized 2 things.  One was that persistence pays off. Had we given up after the first hour then this amazing day would never have come to fruition.  The second was just how important wildlife is to us.  It awakens our spirits and has the ability to turn any energy to a positive and glowing light inside ourselves.  The kids and I all feel it and are starting to recognize that it is wildlife encounters that we most want to have in the world.  They are true gifts from nature and we never want to take it for granted.  We feel extraordinarily blessed today and hope to have a lot more days like it here in Hawaii!



How to get there
The beach is easy to access it is just a matter of knowing where to go.  The "turtle" beach has no signs and most people will tell you they have no idea where it is and try to direct you to Turtle Bay, which is no where near the same thing.  So with these directions you should be able to find it with no trouble at all.  Head West down the H1 highway where at the end it will turn into a smaller road, rte.93.  Follow this road down until you reach the large town of Wai'anae.  Once you pass out of town you will be heading towards Makaha.

After you pass a large beach park on the left you will see a lone sky rise called Makaha Beach Cabanas.  After passing the cabana hotel you want to take your 3rd left onto Upena Street.  You will quickly hit a T in the road where you want to take another left to stay on Upena.  On the second curve (as the road comes down on to the beach) is where you will find the beach access path.  It is diagonal and between 2 houses.  Park where you can and head down the path and there you are.  You will most likely see a turtle right away lazing in the sun.  Remember do not approach them.  Bring your zoom lens, keep at least a 20 foot distance, and enjoy!


There are other turtle beaches like Laniakea but they are more busy, more regulated, and seem to be less an authentic experience.  I highly recommend heading to the beach I give directions to here.  It is bound to be an real treat plus it is a less visited area of the island but a really lovely section!

Tips while you are there
  • All beaches in Hawaii are public property so do not worry about walking down the paths or that there are houses right there.  If the beach is really busy maybe consider coming back another time as you don't want to stress the environment, turtles, or homeowners, but technically it is public property.
  • Bring water, sunscreen , and any snacks you may need.  There are stores close by but nothing on the beach. 
  • Most beaches in Hawaii provide bathrooms and showers but this is such a small spot that they do not have those facilities.  Plan accordingly.
  • The water is quite rocky so be careful wading in or wear water shoes for some added protection.
  • If you have small children please be aware of the tides here, they are quite strong.  There are NO lifeguards or signs telling you what to look out for.  Common sense is expected.
  • If you swim out above the rocks you will see some beautiful fish so it is well worth doing.  You may also have a chance to swim with the turtles especially along the rock ledges of the bay.
  • Be careful of urchins, there are loads of them and a sting is no fun.  Once you head out to snorkel over the rocks keep your hands and feet up.  Keep white vinegar in your beach bag and apply if you do get stung, it eases the pain and neutralizes the toxins from the sting.
  • Do not touch the turtles.  They are quite docile but you do not want to interfere with them or transfer any germs to them that may cause harm.
  • If you see a turtle with a hook in its mouth do not try and remove it.  Unfortunately people fish in the same area these beautiful turtles congregate so it happens.  As long as the line is removed the hook itself will fall out over time due to the salt in the water.
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47 comments:

  1. Turtles are such amazing creatures! So glad you had this experience.

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    1. Thanks Talon, I totally agree. It was an amazing day!

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  2. WOW- very cool, Mary! Not only the turtles, but the whale breaching. Very cool, particularly as it was unexpected!

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    1. Thanks! It really was an exhilerating day. The whale breaching was so thrilling to us, I think the locals thought us insane:)

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  3. Amazing experiences! How wonderful for your family to be there together! Turtles are such wonderful creatures and I would love my kids to see them in the wild.

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    1. It really was amazing! There are 2 beaches here we have found already that seem to always have turtles lazing on them:) To think people pay a fortune to interact with them and here they are laying out for free:) Come to Hawaii if you can!

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  4. Sea turtles, I have seen those amazing animals only in pictures and TV programs. You are so lucky to have this wonderful experience.

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    1. Lucky indeed! Today I was thinking just how extraordiary this life is and how I often feel like the most free people on Earth!

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  5. Oh how cool! I just took my 3 year old through your post and showed her all the wonderful pictures. She is looking at them over and over again. We will have to get there and experience like you!

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    1. If there is a way you can try to do it for sure. If you head over here don't bother with all the expensive tours just head to this beach or the North Shore and you'll see plenty! Glad she is enjoying the pics:)

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  6. Replies
    1. It really was. I think we will head back over today and hang out for a bit:) Part of what is so nice staying sonlong, we can find what we like and keep visiting as well as explore for new spots!

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  7. Enjoy the nature but save the nature.. We have the fullest power to enjoy and touch those creatures but we do not have right to harm them. That’s my advice for the traveller. Anyway I have been to this place and it was one of the finest beaches.

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    1. Thanks! It is a great beach. The funny thing is though that there are MANY beaches with turtles on it, the more we explore the more turtles we see:)

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  8. Interesting post!
    The post written very well with useful tips which show an amazing experience of your travel.

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  9. I'm not sure if you knew or not but also you shouldn't touch the turtles because its illegal in Hawaii! :)

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    1. Yes Jeska, I mention that at the end of my post! Not sure I realized it was actually illegal though, thanks!

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  10. Oahu is the best place to watch sea turtles. But we have to watch them carefully without harming to their natural behaviors.

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  11. Amazing moments captured lovely. Did not know that this place was famous for sea turtles.

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  12. Amazing post! My SO and I are so lucky to have stumbled on your blog. Very well written, entertaining and informative!

    One correction I would like to make is the freeway at the end.. it is the 93, not 83, on the Southwest end of Oahu.

    Thank you for leading us to this beautiful find.

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    1. Thanks so much and you are right about the highway number, thanks, I made the change!

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  13. ooo I wish I had known about this! We just got back and we did go to "turtle beach" but there were a lot of people there and we didn't get to see any turtles. Well we did see one in the water but not on the sand. I did get to swim with one in the ocean though when we went snorkeling

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    1. Yeah the traffic over at the other beach is brutal too! We just sort of stumbled on to this beach and visited many times. Each time there were turtles and hardly any people at all. Next time Angie:)

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  14. Thanks for the tip! We had a great sighting at this beach and it was very easy to find with your directions and photo.

    Trip report for anyone wanting an update:

    We went in late March. The beach was too full of people for the turtles to come up on shore, but we did see a couple in the water. One came up onto a rock ledge to feed, and we got a great look. This is really ideal turtle habitat, but if people aren't careful, the turtles will stop using this beach. We saw people swimming very near to them, and kids climb up on the rocks, stepping on the turtle's food, and then jumping into the water very near to them. This would be a great place to take a snorkel, but please, float and watch, don't chase. Also, for those unfamiliar with the ocean or geology, a steep shore like that is an indication of a strong tide. Watch your kids closely!

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  15. Thanks so much for the update although it makes me really sad! Was it a weekend? Mostly locals or are tourists finding there way there now? It is a great spot if the crowds are kept down. Turtles have a lot of sanctuary around these islands so if they are still there I am guessing they are still content, for the moment anyway!

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    1. At what time of year were you there? Are the turtles there year round? We will be visiting november 2014 and hope to see them but wondering whether it will be worthwhile at this time of year.

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  16. At what time of year were you there and took those amazing photos. Are the turtles there all year round? We are visting in November 2014 and are hoping to see them.

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    1. We lived on the island then and went often, all times of year. They were there every single time we went but if not the spot on the North shore I mentioned will have them as well. Really anytime you are at the each keep a good eye out! Almost every time we go to any beach in Hawaii we see turtles! Good luck!

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  17. This blog has destroyed the beach now all you see are people everywhere and they harass the turtles on a daily basis please take the directions down as it is a subdivision beach that is now being destroyed by this Blog because now what used to make it special is now public
    knowledge and its now overcrowded

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    1. I have edited the post to try and educate people about respecting the homeowners as well as the turtles. I feel educating would do more than just remving the post since it is clearly a ppular platform. I do apologize but alo feel its my job to help people find great spots. Any guide book does the same thing. I hope it helps!

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  18. It always takes someone like you to talk a big talk without knowing a thing about what you are talking about and speak out of ignorance. First of all there are mandatory laws concerning the sea turtles that are protected by state and federal laws. There is a distance you need to keep
    to NOT interfere with their resting and basking as they TRY to sleep and
    rejuvenate. You annoying people always harass them by standing tremendously too close disturbing them and causing the sea turtles to return to the ocean where they were just trying to get away from. Before you visit the Hawaiian Sea Turtles home you should educate yourself by reading the laws regarding respecting their habitat or at least read the 4 huge signs posted regarding, NOT to APPROACH or CROWD. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!! YOU and YOUR kids were much TOO CLOSE! DO NOT
    TOUCH OR FEED THE TURTLES! The turtles can get sick from crap on you carry on your hands as well as the turtle's shell contains salmonella and can make you and your kids SICK! How would YOU like to come home exhausted and as you are resting your weary body strangers come into YOUR bedroom and sit on your bed to take pictures with you? At night come into your bedroom and flash camera lights in your face? All those things that you raved about are miss leading especially the pictures of being right next to the turtles and right over them. That is called harassment of the turtles and you can be fined up to from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The reason you raved about this beach is because you can't get close to the turtles on the north shore and be disrespectful to their habitat the way you and your family were harassing the turtles at "Hale Nani O' Honu Olu." " The Beautiful Home of the Basking Turtles." Enjoy them from a distance, use your zoom lens. This is THEIR HOME SHOW SOME RESPECT! All day long these poor turtles put up with people like you. There used to be 5 to 7 turtle's basking during the day. Now due to you we are lucky to see 1 or 2 a week. Disrespecting of their home has caused them to bask elsewhere. Take your blog off because it is now attracting people that come at night and steal these turtles from their home on the beach where they are being slaughtered for their flesh and shells. Watching this circus of selfish, disrespectful, and harassing people march through here whenever the turtles trying to rest is painful to watch. Take your blog off you are attracting the wrong people to this beach. You speak about being close to nature. Be respect at the same time take your blog off.

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    1. I am so sorry that you feel that way and decided to blast me here without even knowing me . I edited the post and tried to clarify the reason we were close in that one shot. I agree that more needs to be done to educate poepl to show respect so I hope what I have done here will help that. The post is clearly a popular platform so I feel it will do more to help by educating rather than removing the post. I do feel badly that we approached too closely but we were only trying to help him as he had a hook in his mouth. I later realized it would be best to just call, I edited the post to reflect this. I do apologize if it is bothersome to you but as we all know all beaches are public access.

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    2. Yes, and all Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are protected by state and federal laws. So please respect the habitat of our turtles as you would want to be respected in your own home.
      1. DO NOT APPROACH OR CROWD THE TURTLES. KEEP 15 OR
      MORE FEET AWAY FROM THEM AND USE YOUR ZOOM LENS TO
      CAPTURE YOUR PICTURES.THEY WILL BE JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AND
      YOU WILL NOT HAVE DISTURBED THEM AS THEY REST.
      2. NEVER TOUCH THE TURTLES. TOUCHING THEM IS AS
      HARMFUL TO THEM AS WELL AS TO YOU.
      3. ALL DOGS MUST BE LEASHED AND HANDLED BY THEIR OWNERS.
      4. DO NOT CHASE THEM WHILE IN THE WATER. THE TURTLES
      HAVE BIT SWIMMERS AND WILL SOMETIMES SNAP AT YOUR HAIR
      THINKING IT'S SOMETHING TO EAT.
      5. NEVER PUT ANYTHING ON THE TURTLES, FOOD, SAND, WATER,
      SEAWEED ETC.
      I can't tell you how many times when the turtles are here and resting
      that these rules are NOT observed all day long. People have NO
      RESPECT for these beautiful creatures. They are caught up in their own selfishness of having to have a picture inches away from the resting turtles not caring whether they disturb them or not. After being rudely awakened by the camera hogs the turtles will try to get back into the ocean. The cameras will block the turtle's path to reentered the ocean clicking away. Imagine this happening EVERYTIME THEY LAY ON THE BEACH TO REST. This goes on all day, it is an extremely sad to watch. The most painful thing that is happening now is the poaching of our turtles. There was a broadcast on khon tv regarding poaching that has been happening on numerous beaches on the island. The turtles are now in real danger of surviving in their own habitat. I hope you can now understand the importance of following the laws and rules concerning our turtles. Please follow the laws because pictures are worth a thousand words and violators are being watched with consequences to follow.






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    3. Thanks for the information. As I said before though I have a great respect for the wildlife. I cannot control what others do and would appreciate not being slammed personally anymore.

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    4. anonymous. We all know you are better than the rest of us. Perhaps you might take a break from your pretentious perfection and give the rest of us a break. First of all you have no clue if this is the only place that people are getting information about this spot. NO CLUE WHATSOEVER. Secondly, your condescending attitude and attempt at educating the author about things he's clearly stated already makes you look not only petty but not very smart. I suggest you re-evaluate your self importance because I've got news for you.... You're not all that! It's a public place, is it not? Who are you to decide for others where they can and cannot go. Get over yourself.

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  19. Thank you for posting my comments. Maybe together we have educated the public regarding respectful behavior when visiting our turtles here at "Hale Nani O' Honu Olu" or at any turtle habitat in the islands. I know you have passion for these beautiful creatures and care for their safety and welfare. You also have the power to help or endanger these innocent, defenceless, and vulnerable creatures. You mentioned in your reply that you do not have control over what others do when they are here at the turtles home. You have driven the vehicle to the spot where they can come to do their damage. Please, if you truly, really care for these endangered animals, keep your post up without the directions to where our turtles will be violated, harassed, and worst of all slaughtered. Again I thank you for posting my comments and hope that we together will make a difference in the preservation and protection for beautiful Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

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    1. Thanks so much and you are very welcome. I do not like to censor anything so I am happy to have your comments here. I will continue to think about removing the directions but still feel, like a guide book, that I am helping people find the best spots so I do want to continue that. Its a tough position but lets see if the changes help. Please do keep me posted and take care!

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    2. Thank you. I will keep you posted. Can we agree on a 30 day trial period? I will send you pictures of what happens to our turtles. Thank you again for your consideration.

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    3. Sounds great although I think 2-3 months would be better. Please do send me photos through my contact form rather than here:) I really appreciate it!

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    4. I'm not sure how to do that. How about meeting in the middle at 2 months. The turtles haven't been here for 4 days compared to resting daily. Its really heart breaking. They are being driven from their home and coming less and less. Extremely sorrowful to watch.

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    5. Sounds good! That is such a shame but perhaps they have found a truly peaceful place. Thanks and keep me posted!

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  20. I will send you pictures however will warn you that you may lose sleep over what you see. I watch this everytime the turtles are here. They shouldn't have to find a safer place to go too. This is their home as your home is yours. If people were harassing you and your family would you
    just give up and move? How would you resolve that situation? You would
    be able to control the harassment through assistance from law
    enforcement, attorneys, and security protection. The turtles are
    defenseless, helpless and at the mercy of their predators (man and dogs.)
    Please study the pictures. You have no control over their behavior however providing a map for these outrageous violators to do their
    damage would make me lose sleep.

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    1. People always find a way! And then what about the lovely families just wanting to view from a distance? As I said I cannot control behaviors and I do not think all people are bad so for the moment I will leave it.

      Have you tried calling any officials? Are there ay clear signs on the beach? Maybe there could be a person stationed there like in the North shore?

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  21. Please take down the directions from your blog as is doing a tremendous amount of damage to the turtles and have gotten to the point where we are seeking legal action to have this removed. We do have copies of all of the illegal photos from this blog that were taken down after our first tries to have the directions removed. Leave the blog but please remove the directions and for those reading this please do not come as you are no longer welcome. I.m sure most do not want to participate in destroying the natural habitat as this blog is doing. We are now going to start towing cars parked on our properties and its a long walk to anywhere. so park carefully & please stay away.






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    1. Thank you for this information. As I have already explained I do not feel that I am responsible for the behavior of others and just like a travel guide or guide book these types of details are important to my readers. I have said that I will consider it over time. I have added a disclaimer at the top to try and educate people. If there are issues call the police, go out and tell the poeple they are acting inappropriately, there is a lot you can do. When I am threatened un necessarily I am less inclined to do what you are asking. I am sorry but this is my business and the post will remian as is for now. My blog is certainly not destroying anything and I have already mentioned the photos of us close were in an attempt to remove a hook which we were worried about. I removed some of the photos so as not to encourage people to get near. I feel I have done all that I should and will no longer post your threats. Good luck!

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  22. We went over the 2014 holidays and your directions were perfect. We were the only ones on the beach and there was one turtle. There are signs posted to inform everyone who visits about the rules on staying at least 15 feet from the turtles. I appreciate your post as this is not a place that you would find on your own.

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    1. Oh how wonderful! So happy you enjoyed it and so happy to hear that it was not over run with people harming the turtles as others would have me believe. Thanks!

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