One of the most famous snorkel and dive beaches on the North Shore
Sharks Cove has been rated by Scuba Diving Magazine as one of the “Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World”. Located on Oahu’s world famous North Shore, this small rocky bay forms part of Pupukea Beach Park and boasts blue water and an impressive amount of sea life. The bottom is made up of large smooth boulders and coral heads forming small caves and ledges for marine life to hide. The walls of the surrounding cliffs provide calmer water attracting schooling surface fish.
On the south side of Sharks Cove is the Pupukea tide pools; a great place to wade and explore.
Sharks Cove is one of Oahu’s best snorkeling and dive beaches so the shore can get a little crowded on occasion. I highly doubt you’ll notice when you’re in the water though.
Know the weather
Because Sharks Cove is located between the famed big wave surf spots of Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline, you’ll have to make sure there are no large swells that day. October through April is considered Hawaii’s surf season, with waves peaking between December and February, so the summer months are the best time to snorkel Sharks Cove.
If there are waves forecasted, the current could be strong, so please choose one of my other favorite Oahu snorkeling beaches to be safe. Kuilima Cove is only 15 minutes north from Sharks Cove and due to it’s protected shoreline would be an excellent choice.
Best for the intermediate snorkeler
I would not recommend taking small children to Sharks Cove unless it’s to wade in the tide pools. As you can see, Sharks Cove is not a sand beach and the entrance is rocky, so watch your step as you get in.
The inside of the bay is about 8 to 15 feet deep, progressively getting deeper as you head out.
By the way, if you would like to snorkel pristine reefs that are typically only seen by locals or just want to spend your vacation day being pampered instead of planning, I would advise taking a snorkel tour. Having ridden every oahu snorkel tour, I would recommend the Dolphin and Whale Snorkel Sail as my choice hands down choice. Their extensive knowledge and treat-you-like-family customer service make them my go to guys for snorkel tours on the island of Oahu.
Because of the popularity of Sharks Cove the small parking lot may fill quickly. Be sure to get there by at least 9 – 10am so you’ll have a place to park. The parking lot overlooks the beach.
Forgot your mask defog? Growing right next to the public showers is a plant called naupaka (see the picture below). Just mash up a couple of leaves in your hand and thoroughly rub them around on the inside of your mask making sure to completely coat the inside of the lens. When your ready to snorkel, very briefly swish your mask around in the water to remove the extra pieces of leaves and viola! No more fog. Works just as well as any store bought stuff.
Marine life at Shark’s Cove
Here are some of the marine life I have seen at Sharks Cove: Butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, tang, wrasse, big eye, perch, chub, trigger fish, goat fish, jacks, mullet, cornet fish, needle fish, eels, turtles, crustaceans, and invertebrates.
There are public restrooms and showers at the parking lot. No lifeguard on duty. Just across the street of the parking lot there are some small shops where you can buy food and drinks.
How do I get to Sharks Cove?
Driving time to Sharks Cove from Honolulu Airport is approximately 1 hour.