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Need to know




The Kaneohe Sandbar is one of the most unique things you can experience in Hawaii. It’s incredible that it’s still pretty under the radar, considering how beautiful it is. It’s the largest saltwater sandbar in the world and at low tide, it’s almost like being on a beach in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by crystal clear, turquoise water. (During high tide, it’s like swimming in a 3-5 foot pool in the middle of the ocean — still spectacular.) 


This is one of the best places to swim and snorkel. A barrier reef protects the area from large waves and makes it a nice place for tropical fish, sea turtles, and rays. It can turn into a party spot at low tide, when locals set up with volleyball nets, bbqs, frisbees, coolers, and tents. If you plan to be there around high tide, bring a floatie so you can kick back in the water. 


It’s about a mile from shore, so you’ll need to boat or kayak to get there. (You can rent kayaks from Kailua Beach Adventures or catch a boat tour with Captain Bruce (which includes snorkel gear, standup paddle boards, floaties, snacks, and sodas). 


The views from the sandbar are breathtaking. The water around the sandbar is the most insane color of turquoise. It’s surrounded by the Koolau Mountains and you can spot Coconut Island and Chinaman’s Hat in the distance


This is one of the most beautiful places in Hawaii.


Kailua Beach Adventures if you want to rent a kayak to get to the island.


Captain Bruce offers boat tours to the sandbar at 9:30am or 1pm. They provide snorkel gear, standup paddleboards, snacks, sodas, and a community cooler. 



  • Boat tours: ~$130 / person

  • Kayak rentals: ~$70 - $100


  • Ahi Assassins — 6 min drive

  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden — 11 min drive

  • Byodo-In Temple — 13 min drive

  • Kualoa Ranch — 15 min drive

  • Kailua Beach — 20 min drive

  • Olive and Oliver boutiques — 20 min drive

  • Lanikai Beach — 27 min drive

One of the most beautiful places in Hawaii but still under the radar. It’s like a beach in the middle of the ocean. Magical place to swim and snorkel with turtles.

Kaneohe Sandbar


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Good to know





  • Reef safe sunscreen and a hat. You’ll be in direct sun without shade so plan to reapply sunscreen often. A rash guard is a good idea if you have one.

  • A waterproof dry bag to keep your stuff safe. 

  • A bag to carry out your trash. 

  • A floatie can come in handy.

  • If you’re planning to spend most of your day here, it’s great to bring a cooler, pop up shade, food, frisbee, beach chairs, etc. 

  • If you have water shoes, they can come in handy when you’re walking around on the sand for a long time. But not a necessity. 



  • There are no bathrooms or changing areas on the sandbar.



  • Boat tours by Captain Bruce. They’re 3 hrs long and you can choose from 9:30am or 1pm departures. They provide snorkel gear, standup paddleboards, floaties, snacks, sodas, and a cooler for your own drinks and food. By boat it takes about 10 minutes to get to the sandbar. 

  • Kailua Beach Adventures for kayak rentals. It takes about 45 to paddle out to the sandbar. They can outfit you with a roof rack to transport your kayak to Kaneohe Bay. (It’s free with your kayak rental.) They also offer 15% off rentals if you agree to do a 20 min beach cleanup before your rental (as of 11/29/21)

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  • Check the tides to see when low and high tide will be. At low tide, it’s like walking around on an island. At high tide, it’s like swimming in a 3-5 ft deep pool. Most of the time, it’s about ankle to knee deep. All are fun, but good to know what to expect. 

  • Boat vs Kayak. By boat, it takes about 10 min to get to the sandbar. Kayak takes about 45. 

  • If you kayak, check on your kayak often to make sure it hasn’t floated away. You can buy or rent an anchor at some places. 

  • You’ll be in direct sun with no shade. Reapply reef-safe sunscreen often and wear a hat. A rash guard is a good idea too.

  • Put your swimsuit on before you go to the sandbar. There are no bathrooms or changing rooms there. 

  • If you’re going at high tide, you may want to bring a floatie or life jacket so you can relax a bit.

  • There’s a turtle reef at the edge of the sandbar where you’ll find sea turtles most days. 

  • Touching a sea turtle is illegal. Give them space.

  • You can tell where the water starts to get deep by the color — the darker the blue, the deeper it is. At the edge of the sandbar is a steep dropoff, which can be great for more experienced snorkelers. 

  • If you’re thinking about going on a holiday or 3-day weekend (like Memorial Day or 4th of July) expect a big, crowded party with lots of people. 

  • Alcohol is not allowed on holiday or 3-day weekends at the sandbar. 

  • No drones, pets, or smoking allowed at the sandbar. 



  • Kaneohe Bay is a breeding ground for hammerhead sharks. They’re usually harmless to humans. There are occasional sightings, but haven’t been any recorded attacks.

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  • If going with young kids, going at low tide is ideal so the water is low enough for them to walk around on the sandbar. The water can rise to about 3-5 feet at high tide. 

  • Recommend life jackets for kids, regardless of tide levels. 

  • There are no restrooms when you get there, so come prepared with wipes, poop bags, hand sanitizer, etc. There are also no garbages, so bring a bag to take your garbage with you. 



  • The Kaneohe Sandbar is also known as “Ahu o Laka” (Altar of Laka). Chief Laka was born in Maui, but ruled over the windward district of Oahu. His son, Luanuu, was transporting his father’s bones back to a sacred burial site on Maui and they passed the Kaneohe Sandbar on their journey. Some say the sandbar was a stop along the way. Other stories say it’s where the chief took his last breath.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean 4 filmed scenes at Kaneohe Bay. 

  • The Kaneohe Sandbar may be the largest saltwater sandbar in the world. It’s  about 8 miles long and almost 3 miles wide. 

  • It’s a natural formation, not man made. 

  • In 2006, the sandbar was added as a State of Hawaii Historic Monument, meaning the Hawaii State Dept of Land and Natural Resources could set up rules to protect and maintain it. 

Last Updated 11 / 29 / 21

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