The “Turtle Tour” Snorkeling Experience in Waikīkī

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a green sea turtle is about to break the surface of the water for a breath of air

Since we chose the afternoon tour, the sun is bright and hot, reflecting the midday sun’s light into our eyes. We’re running a bit late, so we speed walk along the Waikīkī beach walk to make sure we arrive in time to board the catamaran.

The waters of Waikīkī are calm and lully, there hasn’t been a typical South Shore summer swell for about a week now. We line up on the small pier and make our way onto the expansive catamaran, taking seats along the bow of the 38-foot boat. As the catamaran slowly breaks away from the dock, the wind picks up and we pick up speed.

Arriving at the Turtle Cleaning Station

Our guides tell us that this spot is known for being a turtle cleaning station. Turtles, with their large shells, require maintenance just like the rest of us. At certain sections of the reef like this one, schools of fish will swim around the turtles, cleaning off their shells. Hawaiian reef fish like angelfish, wrasse, and damselfish will get their lunch while the turtles get a free spa day.

Our guides instruct us to line up toward the back of the boat once we’re hooked up to the underwater buoy. The buoy allows multiple boats to anchor each day without repeatedly damaging the reef. One by one, we don our snorkel masks and fins, provided on the tour, and plop ourselves into the ocean.

an underwater photo of a green sea turtle in waikiki beach

At a depth of around 30-40 feet, the water is still warm, even when you swim down a bit. We swim to the cleaning station and spot 3 turtles suspended in the water, while fish swim about nibbling on their shells. We float about, watching the peaceful creatures in their underwater home. After about 20 or 30 minutes, your skin begins to chill, just from floating in water. Climbing back, we’re offered fresh cocktails made right in the boat’s bar, along with nonalcoholic drinks.

two sea turtles floating underwater

Heading out for a Sail

Once everyone is accounted for, the crew bustles about, readying the catamaran for a sail. One of the women uses her whole body to raise the gigantic mast. We catch the wind and coast along through the water until it’s time to turn around and head back home.

Who will Love the Turtle Snorkeling Tour

Anyone who loves being on a boat, in the ocean, and seeing sea creatures will love this tour. The pace is great, giving you plenty of time to spend in the water while still getting to feel what it’s like to sail on a catamaran. Although it’s not terribly challenging physically, an intermediate level of swimming ability will make this tour much more enjoyable.

Experience the Magic of Snorkeling with Turtles

Being underwater with these creatures really is like nothing else in the world. Everything quiets, and the smooth flowing rhythm of the sea swells is even more palpable farther out to sea. With a wonderful and expertly trained crew, the whole experience from start to finish is soothing, exciting, and unforgettable. Book your snorkeling adventure like the one in this post, or go for an extended snorkeling experience, which includes lunch as well. Be sure to read our Talking Story about Turtles post too, and wow the crew with your knowledge of sea turtles!