Laniakea Turtle Beach in Oahu - Hawaii - 5 Tips

Laniakea Turtle Beach in Oahu - Hawaii - 5 Tips

United States
United States

When Is the Best Time

Laniakea Beach is famous for the Hawaiian Honu, the endangered green sea turtle. They come ashore throughout the year, but more often in the summer. It’s not guaranteed to spot basking turtles, but if you do so it’s one of the most memorable experiences at the north shore of Oahu. 

The head of a green sea turtle
Picture was taken with a zoom camera.

There isn’t any specific time for the honu to crawl onto the beach to sunbathe and rest. Some come year-round, while others prefer the spring and summer. Several already appear in the morning; some prefer the afternoon sun like “Kekoa”, a 20-year-old male.

A green sea turtle is crawling to the Laniakea Beach for basking
They lay here for hours if they don't get disturbed.

A couple of them like to stay on the beach past sunset, like “Kuhili”, a 40 years old male. Also, Olivia Dawn, the 4th most frequently spotted basking honu, stays past sunset. Overall you have a higher chance to spot turtles sunbathing during summer (May-September). Usually, they prefer a calmer sea and perfect conditions to come ashore. 

Laniakea without any people
No turtles - no crowds

We came to the beach three times; on the first day, we didn’t spot any and watched the sunset. On the second day, we spotted a few in the sea while snorkelling, and on the third day, three turtles hauled up to the beach while others were feeding on seaweed on the limestone shelf.

A green sea turtles trying to haul up onto a limestone
This green sea turtle feeds on the seaweed.

Walk along the huge limestone rocks at the beach and look for “Keoki”. This turtle basks here exclusively. “HiwaHiwa”, the 5th most frequently spotted honu, left the beach past sunset on our visit.

Best Time and Season for Turtles

A honu is coming up to the beach while a man is taking pictures in the distance
A green sea turtle comes ashore.

The best time to see turtles on Laniakea Beach is from May to September. During the summer, the sea is calmer, and they come ashore for basking during the day.

Best Day Time to Spot Turtles

Loots of visitors at the far end of the beach
A turtle also arrived at the other side of the beach - less crowded in the distance.

This is what most people want to know. However, there isn't any specific time. They definitely don't come ashore before 10 am because the sun is not warm enough in the morning. Luck is needed, and I recommend staying nearby if you really want to see green sea turtles at Laniakea. If you just pass by on a trip around the island, it is safest to give it a try between 11 am and 4 pm when the sun is strong to warm them up.

Turtle feeding on seaweed on the huge limestone at Laniakea
Feeding is challenging with the powerful waves.

Why do I know the names of the different turtles? One volunteer is always patrolling the beach. If turtles come up, she is giving the others a call. Of course, everybody is curious about seeing these elusive animals close.

Migrating route of a turtle from Oahu to French Frigate Shoals
An example of a migrating route from HiwaHiwa a female turtle.

Several volunteers give you tons of information about the turtles and how to behave and also about their importance for the Hawaiian culture.

A volunteer marked the boundary with a red rope to protect the honu
They lay a red rope around the turtle, the "No-Go Zone" giving the turtles space.

They protect the turtles from disturbance by marking a boundary with red ropes.; the No-Go Zone.

When to Snorkel With Turtles

Watching a young sea turtle while snorkeling

It’s fairly easy to spot the honu while snorkelling during summer due to a gentle surf. But be aware, strong currents and hazardous surf occur here, especially from October to April.

Warning sign not to snorkel with turtles in the winter

Do not enter the water in rough conditions. Please, don't touch the turtles. Watch them from the recommended 10 feet distance that the green sea turtle in Hawaiian honu doesn't get disturbed.

Green sea turtle in the sea
I spotted this turtle while snorkelling. It looks close, but my waterproof camera has a zoom.

However, some turtles came up close to me. It was challenging keeping distance, but I never touched any.

How to Get to Laniakea Beach

Crowds on Laniakea Beach

It is a 30 miles drive north of Honolulu and takes less than three-quarters of an hour if there isn't much traffic. Usually, it may take more than an hour and if the turtles are present at least 1.5 hours. You may get stuck in a traffic jam a couple of miles before the beach on the Kamehameha Highway, especially during midday and weekends; too many cars searching for a parking lot. It’s a nightmare for the residents. 

Turtle coming up for air close to the shore
Even if turtles don't come out, you may see them breathing.

It is a popular beach because of the basking turtles and the passing daytrippers on their journey around Oahu. Tour buses circle the island and make a stop here so do the rental cars. The beach is overrun when the turtles come ashore; during other times, it is peaceful and quiet. Next to the beach is a residential area.

Avoiding Crowds on Laniakea

A green sea turtle is hauling up
This turtle is called HiwaHiwa "the precious one" with damage on her shell.

If you want to avoid crowds, traffic jams, and a full car park in the peak season, arrive either in the morning before 10 am or come after 4 pm. However, if you come late, you may miss the turtles. Nevertheless, usually, several turtles come to Laniakea Beach for basking. They are spread on the entire beach. It is never too crowded that you can't watch turtles sunbathing. The only issues are being there on the right day and getting a parking lot.

Parking at Laniakea Beach

Sign at the car park what is prohibited
Rules for the car park

Limited parking on a gravel area opposite the beach (Google Maps location) only. It’s pretty busy and fills up around midday and during weekends. Don’t leave any valuables in the car. The road is heavily trafficked; crossing can be challenging, especially with children. 

5 Tips for Laniakea Beach

  1. Watch the spectacular sunset at Laniakea Beach. One of the best spots in Oahu, just breathtaking.

    Sunset from Laniakea Beach
  2. Stay here in the north of Oahu at least for two nights to increase the chance of a sighting. It was just a ten-minute drive for us, and we always had a quick look to check if turtles were present. The other advantage; there is too much traffic roughly from 11 am onwards coming from Honolulu. Often the parking lot is full. Weekends are super crazy. We recommend the private Pipe Beach House, just a 10-minute drive north of Laniakea Beach. Another excellent choice on the north shore is the Turtle Bay Resort, in a spectacular location. Nearby is the famous snorkel spot Sharks Cove with lots of colourful fish.

    Sharks Cove Famous Snorkel Spot
    Sharks Cove is a famous spot for snorkelling and diving.
  3. Carry plenty of water and a picnic. There isn’t any shop or cafe nearby and finding a new parking lot is almost impossible. Keep in mind there isn't any restroom available, but you can take a bath.
  4. On calm days the beach is an excellent place for swimming in shallow water. It is a soft white sand beach. There are some bigger rocks on the seafloor, which are easy to identify. I saw sea urchins but only at the rocks at the end of the beach. However, supervise your kids; don't let them go alone.

    People watch a turtle close to the rocky shore
    The rocky shore at the end of Laniakea; only here I saw sea urchins
  5. The sun is intense during midday. If you seek shelter, there are palm trees and bushes almost at the end of the beach opposite the parking.

 

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Best Months to Visit

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Location and Tips

Hawaii, Oah'u
United States
United States

There are several places in Oahu to see green sea turtles but none of it is as fascinating as Laniakea. The turtle beach of Oahu is a long but rather small beach where turtles can frequently be seen. Laniakea is also a lovely beach for swimming and snorkeling in the summer.

A third turtle is getting to Laniakea Beach and many people are watching her.
Another turtle came out for basking while people swam or snorkeled.

The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle – Honu is endangered and protected under Hawaiian State Law. Each day volunteers are present at the beach to protect the turtles. If turtles haul up to the beach for basking, the volunteers rope up a “No Go Zone”. They usually identify the turtles, put up signs with information and the turtle's given names. They know about 30 turtles very well.

Several turtles came up close to the beach
All these spots in the water are turtles - not all of them came out.

One turtle was basking while another came out. This second turtle got blocked and disturbed by tourists. As a result, she went back to the sea. The volunteers try to do their best, but unfortunately, not all people are sensitive about this issue.

8 Green Sea Turtle Facts

Green sea turtle hauling to the beach

  1. These endangered resident turtles form an isolated population around the Hawaiian Islands with low genetic diversity.
  2. Less than 4.000 females migrate 1000 miles for mating and nesting in the French Frigate Shoals every 2 – 7+ years.
  3. They weigh on average 250 lbs / 113 kg but can grow up to more than 500 lbs / 227 kg.
  4. The green sea turtles mainly feed on algae and seaweed.
  5. They can get roughly 70 to 80 years old.
  6. A turtle can dive pretty deep, more than 560 feet / 170 meters.
  7. It is estimated that usually, only 1 of 5000 hatchlings reach adulthood.
  8. The population of the green sea turtle is declining around the world except in Hawaii.

Regulations to Protect the Honu - Green Sea Turtle

Rules for the protection of the green sea turtles

The green sea turtles are protected by federal and state law!

  • Keep distance while snorkelling or when they are basking; 6 feet minimum!
  • Please, don’t touch or feed these ancient creatures; it is high fined!
  • Volunteers watch the beach and alert you if they think you are getting too close.

I took all these pictures. I have the copyright for them. If you wish to use one of my photos get in contact with me!

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Micha Herber-Bleich
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