Snorkeling Sharks Cove – Everything You Need To Know

Shark’s Cove on Oahu’s North Shore is one of the island’s most popular snorkel spots and is often listed as one of the best shore dives in the world!

Unlike the pristine white sand beaches usually associated with Hawaii, Shark’s cove is actually a lava rock beach.

With interesting underwater caves and a huge array of marine life, Shark’s Cove should be top of your list when it comes to snorkeling on the north shore.

Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to snorkeling Shark’s cove…

About Shark’s cove

snorkeling shark's cove

Shark’s Cove lies within the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District.

The marine life conservation districts, of which there are multiple in Hawaii, help to protect and maintain coral reefs and marine life, (which is why there are so many fish here!).

The area is named Shark’s Cove as the outline of the reef looks like a shark as seen from above, so don’t worry, it’s just a name and nothing sinister will be lurking in the waters here. Promise 🙂

As one of Oahu’s most popular snorkel locations Shark’s Cove can get quite busy, and it’s only really possible to snorkel at this location during the summer months when the water is calmer.

During the winter months Oahu’s North Shore is world famous for its humongous waves that are enjoyed by surfers from all over the world, making this an area that’s far too dangerous to snorkel.


Shark’s Cove perhaps isn’t the best ‘beach’ for families with younger children as the area mainly consists of sharp/slippery lava rock both in and out of the water.

Children will however enjoy exploring the tide pools that are located just to the left of Shark’s Cove, as there is still a decent amount of sea life that can be seen here.

The depth of the water in Shark’s Cove ranges from quite shallow (2-4 feet), to 6-20 feet in its deepest areas. 

This area can get busy and is very rocky so it is important to be aware of other swimmers and of your surroundings at all times. 


The entrance into the water can be difficult as it is not a soft sandy beach – It is sharp lava rock which can also be very slippery so exercise caution when entering the water. 

Carefully navigate your way through the water – It is possible to avoid the rocks and find nice sandy parts to stand on, but just be cautious, especially as waves possess the potential to knock you off balance.

Once you’re safely in deep enough water you can begin swimming the cove and exploring the interesting rock formations and the various marine life .

It would be extremely wise to bring a pair of water shoes with you so you don’t have to worry about slipping, or other potential foot injuries from the sharp rocks in this area. 

Your water shoes will also come in really handy for walking through the tide pools that are just to the left of sharks cove. This is a great area to wade through and explore.

The visibility in the water is often amazingly clear, but this can depend on the weather (it will be less clear during heavy rainfall), or if the currents are strong that day.

pupukea beach park snorkeling

Tips For Snorkeling Shark’s Cove

Here are some general tips and information to give you the best time snorkeling shark’s cove:

  • Bring water shoes! You will have a far better experience navigating the rocky beach and often slippery rocks if you have a good pair of water shoes on you.
  • Three Tables, another of Oahu’s best snorkel locations is less than just half a mile from Sharks Cove.
  • Shark’s Cove is also only 15 mins from Kuilima Cove so if the waves are too high at Sharks Cove, try Kuilima which is much more sheltered and less prone to waves/strong currents
  • There is parking available but as this is a popular location spaces can fill fast. Come early to avoid disappointment, or see if there is parking at Kuilima or Three Tables instead.
  • There is no lifeguard on duty at Shark’s Cove
  • There are small shops and food trucks nearby to buy food and drink, and restrooms/showers are available.
  • This is one of Oahu’s best spots to snorkel so it can get crowded at times, especially at weekends. Try and come during the week and earlier in the day to get the best experience.
  • The “beach” area is very small and there isn’t much in the way of shade here so bring plenty of reef safe sunscreen and cover up with a rash guard to avoid burning.
  • This can be a high theft area so avoid leaving any valuables on the beach or on display in your car.
  • Snorkel gear can be rented here, but for the best experience I always recommend purchasing your own!

marine life At Shark’s cove

The reason people love snorkeling at Sharks Cove is the amazingly high diversity of fish that can be seen here in droves.

Just some of the tropical fish that you can see here include;

Butterfly fish, boxfish, surgeonfish, wrasse, turtles, eels, parrotfish, tang, unicornfish, needlefish, mullet, trumpetfish, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a and more

You can also see octopus, sea urchins, moray eels, and maybe even green sea turtles. Harmless white tipped reef sharks have also been spotted lurking around the outside of the cove!


Sharks Cove is located on Oahu’s North Shore and is approximately 40 miles (around an hours drive) from Honolulu. 

The cove is located just after the Foodland grocery store, and you will find parking spaces for Sharks Cove located just before and after the cove.

As this is a very popular location and parking spaces are limited, it’s important to arrive at Sharks Cove early in order to ensure you get a parking space.


Around Sharks Cove there are plenty of food trucks for you to grab food and drinks.

Kuilima Cove is only a 15 minute drive so it’s easy to hit both of these snorkeling spots in a single day. [Check out my guide to snorkeling Kuilima Cove for further details].

Three Tables is also less than half a mile away. If you’re staying at Turtle Bay resort then you are in a prime location to access all three of these snorkel spots with ease.

Or if you are only visiting the North Shore of Oahu for the day – The close proximity of these beaches will allow you to easily visit all three in one day if you wish.

Gia Halliday

Gia Halliday

Hey, my names Gia! My biggest passions are food, travel and basically anything to do with being in the water. Combine all of that with an addiction for buying gear and you end up with with this website!