Laniakea Beach: Home of Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle at Laniakea Beach
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Laniakea Beach: Home of Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles

We often head out to Oahu’s North Shore for scenic drives and beach hopping along the coast. But recently I went that way with only one destination: Laniakea Beach. 

We had visitors from the mainland who desperately wanted to see a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (called honu in Hawaiian). Laniakea Beach is a popular hangout for these intriguing creatures – so popular that its accepted nickname is Turtle Beach.

So we packed up and headed out toward Haleiwa, where a scenic shoreline and (hopefully) teems of sea turtles awaited. But there is more to do at this beach than admire the turtles – let’s learn all about this great spot and what to do when you visit Laniakea Beach on Oahu. 

Where to Find Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach is on Oahu’s north shore, right of Kamehameha Highway. It’s part of the 7-Mile Miracle, a stretch of beaches popular for big wave surfing in the wintertime. 

Look for Laniakea Beach a little east of Haleiwa Town – it’s about halfway between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay.

If you’re coming from Haleiwa, you’ll pass Papailoa Road on your left, and then Laniakea will be the next beach to your left. Parking is on the right. 

Getting a parking place may be tough during peak times, but we can typically score a spot in the morning or on weekdays. 

Note that you can only make a right turn into the parking lot, so if you’re coming from the other direction, you’ll need to turn around in Haleiwa and come back for a right-hand turn. 

To access the shoreline, cross the street at the correct spot, then look for the pathway in the trees. It’s a tricky walk through the tree roots and rocks, so just be prepared for that. 

Note: This is not the same place as “Turtle Bay.” Although they have similar nicknames, you want to visit Laniakea Beach – not Turtle Bay – to see green sea turtles. 

Seeing Turtles on Oahu

Like I mentioned, if you want to see turtles on Oahu, Laniakea Beach is probably your best bet. Turtles are likely drawn to the rocky shoreline and ample algae to feed on. 

Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see turtles at Laniakea Beach. They come and go as they please. But, if you’re up for a return visit, you can likely return in a day or two and discover that they’ve returned to their favorite resting spot. 

Once you’ve reached the beach, you’ll be ready to look for turtles. You likely won’t be the only visitor eager for a honu sighting. I recommend you head right, as the sea turtles often rest on the far end of the beach. 

If you see people standing around and some rope set up, you’ve likely found a turtle resting spot. 

Volunteers often post up with the sea turtles. They’re there to make sure nobody gets too close, but can also answer your most pressing turtle questions. 

Hawaiian sea turtle

Best Times to Spot Sea Turtles

It’s possible to spot honu at Laniakea beach year-round, but they don’t typically come to shore during big surf. That’s bad news if you hope to see both turtles and big-wave surfing in one trip. 

However, if you come to the beach to watch surfers, still keep your eyes peeled for turtles, as they could decide to swim around or come to shore, even when conditions aren’t perfect. 

The best time for seeing turtles is during the summer when the water is calm – so May through September would be ideal. 

I feel like I see most turtles early in the morning or at sunset, but they often come out throughout the day too. 

And if you don’t see any while you’re at the beach, try again another day (or even a little later the same day). 

Rules for Encountering Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

Hawaiian green sea turtles are an endangered species, so they’re carefully protected in the islands. Though there are often volunteers at Laniakea Beach who are dedicated to their protection, you may encounter sea turtles without a volunteer nearby. So it’s important to know the rules about viewing them.

Here are the rules and regulations for when you encounter a sea turtle in Hawaii:

  • You must remain at least 10 feet away from sea turtles, both on land and in the water
  • Do not touch, chase, or feed the turtles
  • Do not disturb them in any way
  • Limit viewing time to a few minutes

Basically, just respect their space and their peace. They’re at Laniakea Beach for a reason – to eat, rest, or possibly even lay eggs. They’re not there for your entertainment or to hang out with you. 

However, you can definitely view them from an appropriate distance, get a few pictures, and enjoy your bragging rights for seeing such an amazing creature in the wild. 

Swimming with Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach

You’ll likely see Honu along the shoreline, resting in the sand. It’s common to see several on the sand all at once, and volunteers believe there are about 30 different turtles who frequent the area. 

You may also dream of swimming with sea turtles. This is somewhat possible at Laniakea Beach, but conditions have to be right, and you have to follow the rules. 

In the winter, the water at Laniakea Beach can get really rough. You may find a calm area early in the morning, but don’t count on swimming between November and April. 

In the summer, especially in the morning, you’ll likely find calm water that’s perfect for swimming. Bring along your snorkel gear to see what kind of marine life abounds in this area. It’s not the best place for spotting colorful reef fish, but you may notice a turtle swimming along. 

The water is typically clear here, so you can see the turtle from an appropriate distance as long as you have a good pair of goggles. 

Volunteers often protect sea turtles in the water by shouting at swimmers to keep their distance. This can be tough if both you and the turtle are swimming freely. So view them from much farther than the 10-foot rule. That way, there is a good amount of extra distance in case you both float toward each other. Also, try to stay where you can easily touch so you can back off if a sea turtle comes close to you. 

And, just like on shore, don’t touch, chase, or ride the turtles. Let them swim, maintain your distance, and enjoy. 

If you’d like to see sea turtles swimming but don’t care to get in the water yourself, look for them in the break of waves. Then follow them with your eyes, looking for them to dip their head up for air. 

One of my favorite things to do is watch the turtles come onto the shore or go back out into the sea, something you can easily do from a distance as you sunbathe on the sand. 

Other Things to Do at Laniakea Beach

Though Laniakea is known as Turtle Beach, there is more to do here than just admire marine life. 

During our recent trip, we spent just a few minutes watching turtles and then enjoyed a fun time on the rest of the beach. Ahead are some of the best things to do at Laniakea Beach. 

Take a Stroll

Laniakea is a beautiful, long beach with incredible scenery. It’s perfect for a morning or sunset stroll. 


When the water is calm, head toward the left side of the beach to Chun’s Reef, which is a great spot for snorkeling. There’s a lifeguard stand in this area as well, so check in with the lifeguards to get a full report and advice before hitting the water. 


Laniakea Beach isn’t the best place for swimming (it’s rocky and sometimes rough), but in the summer months, you can likely take a refreshing dip in the ocean. 

Rocky Shoreline at Laniakea Beach
Rocky Shoreline at Laniakea Beach

Watch Surfers

If you’re visiting the beach in the winter, you may see some surfers out in the water. This is a popular area for big-wave surfing, as waves reach at least 30 feet during the season’s biggest swells. This isn’t the time to try swimming or snorkeling, but it’s fun to sit safely on shore and watch the athletes take on massive waves. 

Facilities at Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach has a lifeguard tower toward the Chun’s Reef area. There is also a little bit of shade. 

There are no picnic tables, restrooms, or showers here, though. 

What to Do Nearby

Though you can spend several hours enjoying the sights at Laniakea Beach, you should definitely explore more of the North Shore while you’re in the area. Here are some of the best destinations and activities nearby:

  • Haleiwa Town is a fun place with local eateries, surf shops, and a vibrant and laid back vibe.
  • Drive along the highway to eat at one of the famous North Shore food trucks
  • Waimea Valley is just up the road from Laniakea Beach. A per-person fee grants you access to its paved hiking trail, waterfall swim, and cultural activities. There is also a luau on select afternoons and evenings. 
  • The seven-mile miracle is full of amazing beaches. Consider going beach hopping along the north shore to see famous spots like the Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay. 
North Shore Sunset

Seeing Turtle Beach And Other Great Oahu Activities

Want to make sure your Oahu vacation has the best sights and adventures, all while respecting the island’s unique environment and culture? Let our team of local Hawaii travel agents plan a one-of-a-kind itinerary for your vacation!