Laniakea is a long but rather small beach where turtles can frequently be seen. It’s just an hour drive from Honolulu to the north shore of Oahu depending on the traffic.
Laniakea Beach is famous for the Hawaiian Honu, the green sea turtle. It’s not guaranteed to spot basking turtles, but if they come ashore, it’s one of the most memorable experiences. There isn’t any specific time for the honu to haul up 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 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 basking honu stays past sunset. Overall you get a higher chance to spot turtles sunbathing during summer (May-September). Usually, they prefer a calmer sea and perfect conditions to come ashore.
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 only, and on the third day two turtles hauled up to the beach while others were feeding on seaweed on the limestone shelf. Walk along the huge limestone and look for “Keoki”. This turtle basks here exclusively. “Hiwahiwa”; the 5th most frequently spotted honu left the beach past sunset on our visit.
Snorkel with Green Sea Turtles
It’s fairly easy to spot the honu while snorkeling during summer due to a gentle surf. But be aware, strong currents and a hazardous surf occur here especially from October to April. Do not enter the water in rough conditions. Just look don't touch the honu. Leave enough space that the honu doesn't get scared.
Crowds and Traffic Jam
Tour buses circle the island and make a stop here so do the rental cars. It’s almost impossible to avoid the masses of tourists except when it’s raining.
You may get stuck in a traffic jam a couple of miles before the beach on the Kamehameha Hwy especially during midday and weekends. The flow of the traffic is impacted by many cars searching for a parking lot. It’s a nightmare for the residents. Only the morning and evening are less busy.
Limited parking on a gravel area on the opposite of the beach. It’s pretty busy and fills up around midday and during weekends. Don’t leave any valuables in the car. The road is heavy trafficked crossing it can be challenging especially with children.
- Stay here in the north of Oahu minimum two nights to higher the chance of a sighting. It was just a ten minutes drive for us, and we always had a quick look to check if turtles are 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 10 minutes 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 colorful fish.
- Bring enough water and a picnic. There isn’t any good shop nearby and finding a new parking lot is sometimes impossible.
If you enjoy snorkeling, the Big Island is one of the best. I'd recommend staying in Kona and check out some of the many snorkeling spots in the area.
Big Island is one of the best places for snorkeling. Although the conditions are good year-round, the perfect season with warmest and excellent water conditions is in the late summer and early fall (August until October).
One of the best spots for snorkeling is the Mount Cook Monument. If you like to hike to this coral reef start early or late. It's pretty busy with tour boats from approximately 10 am until early afternoon. Bring enough water for the hike. Scroll down for more information about the different snorkel spots south of Kona.
Hawaii is a sunny and warm paradise with very little temperature variation throughout the seasons: Big Island Weather Guide. There is even less rain in the drier season from May until October, which makes these months even better for snorkeling. However, it's a tropical climate and some rain can always occur in Hawaii. That's the reason why the islands have a lush and green vegetation. The north and east coast get more rain than south and west which is the leeward side. The area around Kona is often foggy in the summertime.
You'll find the warmest water in late summer / early fall from August through October around 80°F (27°) degrees. It tends to drop by 6-9 degrees during winter. In winter, it’s also a little chilly in the mornings, when it’s a good idea to wear a thin neoprene wet suit top. The winter months from December to March tend to have heavy surf at times.
Seasons - Avoiding the Crowds
Fewer visitors in spring and fall: mid-April to mid-June and September (after Labor Day) to November. However, it's busier during the "Golden Week" in Japan at the end of April until the beginning of May. It gets very crowded when the Ironman takes place in October. Busy and increasing rates in summer (mid-June through August), during Christmas, New Year's Eve (mid-December until mid-January) and on Independence Day.
Bottom Line and Personal Experience
Although some months might not be ideal, you can visit the Big Island year-round for amazing snorkeling tours. Almost perfect months with fewer visitors as well as excellent water conditions are usually September and October. My visit to Hawaii was in September 2011. Kona's weather is often described as "eternal spring". Not too hot, not too cold, with some late afternoon rain showers. If you're lucky, you might get to see a rainbow! Crowds in September were fine although probably a bit higher than normal because it was the week before the big Hawaii Ironman Triathlon event. There were lots of bikers on the road training.
This hiking trail in the north of Kauai is called to be the most beautiful trail of Hawaii. The trail is 15 km long in one direction.
Best time for hiking the Kalalau trail is the drier season between May and October however showers occur frequently. After Hanakāpīʻai Beach it is almost impossible to hike this trail in very wet conditions. It is very slippery and muddy on the narrow footpath. The only option is a pair of mini-crampons.
Update August 2019: There was a trail closure for 14 months due to immense flooding mid-April 2018. The highway and bridges to the Haena State Park got also flooded and destroyed. The Haena State Park and Kalalau trail got reopenend mid-June 2019. However, a permit is neccessary also for day visitors now. Apply online for a permit to hike until the Hanakāpīʻai Beach and Falls, same for the entire Kalalau Trail. Permits are limited. Overnight parking is not any longer allowed. A shuttle bus reservation is needed for the Kalalau Trail. Do you look for alternatives to explore the Napali Coast? Scroll down for more details.
Kauai is wetter than the other Hawaiian Islands, therefore, called "The Garden Island". The rainy season starts in November and lasts until April. The north and east coast gets more rain than south and west which is the leeward side. Mostly showers are short, often in the night, and the sun returns quickly.
The first part of the trail until the Hanakāpīʻai Beach is not any longer accessible without a permit. It'll be less busy in the future. The Kalalau Trail is almost always fully booked. You have to get your permit far in advance. Tuesdays are often not full due to Haena Park closure. Shoulder season in spring between mid-April to mid-June and in fall from September to October. Crowded during summer with hikers and kayaks, during Christmas, New Year's Eve, Independence Day and June 9th is a bank holiday.
Parking at the Kalalau Trail - Haena State Park
Limited parking at Haena State Park of around 100 parking lots, 30 are for local people. A reservation is essential. Don't leave any luggage in the car. It is not safe, and the car might be broken-up!!
Where to Stay
You can stay at Haena State Park and campground, but it is closed every Monday from 10 a.m. to Tuesday 12 p.m. for maintenance. The reason that the Kalalau trail is often not fully booked on Tuesdays. Be aware of leaving your valuables and bags in the car is not recommended. We, a part of the team, saw a couple of rental cars on Kauai which had a broken side window and glass on the ground respectively.
Close by is the town of Princeville; ideally located in the north to buy your groceries and to enjoy the Queen's Bath. Also not far away is the gorgeous Hanalei Beach Park. Have a closer look at the different private apartment rentals and hotels. Princeville Accommodations
The KA'ENA Point Trail is located on the north shore of O'ahu. Two trails are leading to the Ka'ena Point.
The breeding season is from November to July. Nesting time is the 'only' time they spend on land which is roughly 290 days each year. The hike is eroded. Be careful when hiking along the trail. Carry enough water; it's often pretty sunny and hot without any shelter.
The drier season is from May until October. The north and east coast get more rain than south and west which is the leeward side. Even in winter, in the 'rainy' season from November to March you don't have to worry: Mostly showers are short and the sun returns quickly to the western part.
Low season in spring between mid-April and mid-June as well as in fall from September to November. Busier during the "Golden Week" in Japan end of April until the beginning of May. Busy and increasing rates in summer, during Christmas, New Year's Eve and on Independence Day.
How do the manta rays get attracted?
This trip is offered year-round. Sometimes ocean conditions can spoil the trip, especially in the winter (November/December until March/April). It's a popular tour and likely to be sold out days before, particularly on weekends.
The popular manta tour is mostly sold out even in the shoulder season. Up to 150 people watch this awesome "dinner show" in the sea each evening. Therefore advanced booking is recommended. Book your Manta tour here. Shoulder seasons are: During spring between mid-April to mid-June and in fall from September to November. It's busier during the "Golden Week" in Japan end of April until the beginning of May. It gets very crowded when the Ironman takes place in October. Increasing rates in summer, during Christmas, New Year's Eve and on Independence Day.
Weather and Ocean Conditions
In summer the ocean is calmer which is better for snorkeling. In the winter the surf can be higher. The island is drier from May to October. Kona is often cloudy during the summer. Rain can always occur in Hawaii especially late afternoon and in the nights. The reason that the islands have a lush and green vegetation, especially in the east and north on Big Island. The north and east coast gets more rain than south and west which is the leeward side.
Diving in Winter
- Hammerhead Sharks can be spotted year-round most probable encounters are in January and February.
- Whale sharks are more likely to spot between mid-December to mid-January.
The lighthouse is located on the north shore of Kauai at Kilauea Point.
The National Wildlife Refuge which is the area around the Lighthouse is open from Tuesday until Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Sundays and Mondays and major official holidays. If you miss the opening hours, you can get a good but more distant view of the lighthouse from the parking in front of the Wildlife Refuge gate.
To avoid the crowds come late afternoon around 3 pm. This allows enough time to walk around, observe the seabirds flying around and get a closer look at the lighthouse. Pretty busy before midday and especially on Tuesdays. Cars are queuing and the gate will be closed if the two parking areas are full.
If you like to get a view inside the lighthouse, tours are offered only on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm every 30 minutes. If you like to take part come at 10 am and inscribe for the first tour. Places are limited. The guided tour is for free.
The humpbacks migrate to Hawaii and arrive in December, heading back late April. Best months to spot them are February and March just in front of the lighthouse.
The Laysan Albatross colony can be observed from November to July. You can use the provided monocular to see them closer. The nest in an area west to the lighthouse. The nesting birds and chicks can be seen only from the lighthouse area.
Where to stay in the north of Kauai
Princeville is a perfect location where the popular Queen's Bath is located. The St. Regis Princeville is one of the best-rated hotels with private beach access.