Electric Beach, located on Oahu’s southwest shores, is named for the Hawaii Electric power plant located directly across the street. A pipe from the plant extends into the ocean discharging warm water that attracts a diversity of marine life including a colorful variety of reef fish, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and sharks. Occasionally, visited by a pod of resident spinner dolphins.
Road noise and smoke billowing from the plant are at odds with the idyllic ocean scene just across the road. To punctuate the sentiment on our last visit, an oversized truck rattled by as two endangered Hawaiian monk seals chose that moment to haul out onto the empty beach.
Electric Beach or Kahe Point?
The area across from the power plant is often generally referred to as Electric Beach. However, it’s important to note that this area encompasses two distinct beaches. To the south, you’ll find the compact Kahe Point Beach Park, which boasts facilities such as showers and bathrooms. This beach is also home to the unique underwater pipe.
On the downside, Kahe Point Beach Park’s narrow shoreline is bordered by a combination of natural and man-made sea walls. These structures channel the waves into a cove, where they gain intensity. There’s no meandering into the ocean here. You have it to time your entry, avoid bodyboarders, and swim fast.
In contrast, the neighboring Electric Beach offers more space for beachgoers. While it lacks amenities, it provides a different beach experience. Although the shore break can still become rough, especially during the winter months, it’s generally less intense than at Kahe Point Beach Park.
What sets Electric Beach apart is the extensive reef that stretches along its length. To embark on your snorkeling adventure, look for a sandy pocket along the shore. This beach provides a unique opportunity to explore marine life in a more relaxed environment compared to its smaller counterpart to the south.
A Morning at Electric Beach
A windy, overcast summer morning in Kailua sent us on a search for sunshine. The west side of Oahu tends to be less windy and sunnier than the north and windward sides of the island. In summer, the waves are subdued making it prime snorkeling weather. The crowds and surf at Kahe Point Beach Park ed us to quieter, unassuming Electric Beach.
The waves breaking on the shore were an irresistible invitation for the kids, prompting them to grab an abandoned bodyboard and dive right in. As the sun intensified, we eagerly donned our snorkel gear, ready to plunge into the cool underwater world that beckoned. A toothy eel observed us with cautious curiosity before gracefully slipping out of sight. Our underwater adventure unveiled a stunning array of fish, including some elusive species like boxfish, lei and lagoon triggerfish, and more—rare sights in windward waters. The true enchantment, however, awaits those who venture further offshore. There, a bountiful coral garden teems with vibrant fish, creating a mesmerizing underwater tableau.
Preparing for a Visit to Electric Beach
Getting to Electric Beach
Electric Beach is located on the southwest coast of Oahu, about a 45 minute drive from Waikiki. After the turnoff for Koolina, look for signs for Kahe Beach Park. It’s safer to park there and follow the train tracks to Electric Beach. Leave no valuables in your car (or anything that looks like it might hold valuables).
When to visit
Winter months bring big swells to Hawaii transforming the unprotected leeward coastline from gentle to raging. Avoid snorkeling here when the surf is up and currents are strong. On weekends, local families flood the beach, but you can find solitude on a weekday morning.
If you’re new to snorkeling or have untested equipment, this isn’t a good beach to start. Opt for nearby Paradise Cove Beach or even the giant aquarium (aka Rainbow Reef) at Aulani.
Even if you are comfortable snorkeling, check conditions first and stay close to your snorkel buddy. Be particularly aware of strong currents and offshore winds which pull you offshore. Furthermore, check out this snorkel safety guide guide if you’re unsure.
What to pack for your snorkel adventure
Reef-safeSunscreen – Did you know that some sunscreen ingredients are highly damaging to coral reef ecosystems and exposure has been linked to coral bleaching and coral DNA damage? That’s why Hawaii banned the use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone and octocrylene in 2021. P.S., most of these chemicals are bad for humans as well and have been banned in other countries. What to do? Keep yourself covered with UV protective clothing and use reef safe sunscreen.
A trusty Dry Bag – Keep your valuables and electronics snug, dry, and sand-free at Electric Beach. A dry bag ensures peace of mind while you dive into the Cove’s beauty! The dry bags low key cousin – Ziploc bag – also does the same job. Either way, wrap valuables in a towel and tuck under a rock to keep gear out of the sun.
Water-resistant Smartphone Case – Capture your family’s aquatic adventures without worrying about the water gods claiming your phone. Bonus, you keep your phone safe while you capture happy ocean play memories. A GoPro is a fun alternative too!
Water and snacks. Bring more than you think you will need. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the bay without food or water.
Good snorkel equipment. This isn’t a good spot to try out new equipment. Make sure your mask fits well, your snorkel doesn’t take on water and your fins don’t give you blisters. Use a defogger before heading out.
Mellow Alternatives to Electric Beach
If the surf is up at Electric Beach, head to nearby Paradise Cove (or any of the Koolina lagoons) or Pokai Beach. Although if you’re up for a drive you might try one of the options below –