Snorkeling Hau'ula - Oahu - A Little Known Gem
I'm just wrapping up a month long stay (July 2010) in a friend's house in the "rural" or "country" town of Hau'ula on Oahu. I'm just a block from the water and can see the surf from the back porch, so I've been snorkeling from the beach almost every day, in a variety of weather (which can and does change rapidly, often).
Mostly, I've been going to the area southeast of the actual Hau'ula Beach Park, where Hau'ula Homestead Road is (a road that loops with two connections the Kamehameha Highway). Just a small jag from the southeast most Homestead Road intersection is a tiny "Public Beach Access" walkway... between two houses. Easy to miss.
However, you can just go a bit further southeast on the highway and there's a turnout right above a beach, which is a fine entry point for snorkeling.
This area doesn't have the typical wide and deep expanses of sandy beach that are iconic of Hawaii. But how much sand do you really need or want for good snorkeling? In fact, immediately southeast of the entry point is a seawall, which has virtually no beach for a short stretch and then a small strip of beach resumes between the water and some foliage (good if you want some shade, too) right next to the highway.
And this is where some of the best snorkeling is to be had. Just this afternoon I spent about 45 minutes in the water with a lumbering green sea turtle. It appeared to be approaching the maximum known size for these creatures at almost four feet or so. I just happened upon it in the water about chin deep as it was lazily cruising. But then it began to feed on the bottom casually and I remained within, literally, touching distance of it and sometimes ventured a ways to some fairly large coral bulbs and structures, too.
There were many colorful and varying species of fish about, both in the open spaces and around the rocks and coral. As the turtle feeds on vegetation on the bottom, it churns things up and the fish like to come and gather and enjoy their own feeding of what's disturbed. So I was, literally, surrounded by half a dozen variety of prime, colorful tropical fish, wonderful coral reef structure and in good visibility water on a mostly sunny day.
On other outings I've watched a large eel, run across another 6-10 varieties of fish of all sizes, including a nice cowfish.
I've also ventured out pretty far from shore, since the reef extends perhaps a quarter mile or so, where the outside surf breaks. During most of that span you can find bottom or reef ledges or coral and rock structures. Continue farther and the coral reef gets increasingly compacted and contiguous until rather far out you're in water no more than waist deep.
Most days, I've either had these spots to myself, or just a couple or few other people around at all. There are some stronger currents in the more northwesterly areas, and a more considerable cross-current close to shore there. It's a delight to come back in to shore and feel the very warm currents too.
All in all a wonderful area and I'd rate it as a Don't Miss snorkeling outing (even though I notice a scarcity of other mentions of this wonderful place).