Best Places to Snorkel on Oahu, Hawaii: Shark's Cove

Updated on March 9, 2020
Natashalh profile image

Natasha is a writer, artisan, traveler, and recent graduate with a Master of the Arts in Teaching.

Shark's Cove, Oahu, Hawaii
Shark's Cove, Oahu, Hawaii | Source

Shark's Cove

Don't let the name scare you—Shark's Cove is one of the best snorkeling and scuba dive spots on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. With abundant marine life and a fun spot to jump off rocks straight into the ocean, Shark's Cove (also alternately called Shark Cove and Sharks Cove) is worth the trek to the North Shore.

While it does offer a better snorkeling experience than more readily-accessible Hanauma Bay, it is a little more difficult to get to the shore and into the water, so a little extra planning is necessary.

Sharks Cove:
59 Kamehameha Hwy, Pupukea, HI 96712, USA

get directions

The beach and cove entrance are rocky
The beach and cove entrance are rocky | Source

Dangers to Be Aware Of

In some ways, Shark's Cove is a little more dangerous than more developed sights, such as Hanauma Bay. No, sharks aren't a chief danger. The cove is named for the white tipped reef shark that are said to frequent the area. I haven't seen one personally while snorkeling the cove, but if you encounter one, just don't bother it. They are rarely aggressive towards humans and should not harm you.

The chief difficulty at Shark's Cove is entering the water safely. There isn't really a sandy beach. Instead, you have to basically climb down some rocks and enter the water over slippery boulders. The boulders are both slippery and sharp from a dangerous combination of algae and barnacles. Additionally, the water's motion can cause annoying currents between some of the larger boulders.

The rock formations that separate the cove from the ocean are great fun to climb up and jump off of, but they are very, very sharp. It is easy to cut yourself climbing out of the water or while walking across the rock formations.

Do not leave valuables in sight in your car or on the beach. Break-ins and thefts are too frequent in the area, so make sure to protect yourself by placing valuables in the trunk and keeping your car key with you at all times (you can use a waterproof bag/belt to protect your electronic car key while snorkeling). If you have an electronic or radio key, carry a valet key or the removable portion of the radio key. If you do not have a non-electronic option, use a locker at the nearby Shark's Cove Rentals or carry a waterproof pouch while snorkeling.

Lastly, Shark's Cove is really only safe during the 'summer' months. Located near famous wave spots, such as the Pipeline, the exterior rocks mostly shield the cove during calmer weather. Winter wind patterns or a rough sea state can make the cove very dangerous, though, so make sure to keep a weather eye to the sea if you snorkel this spot.

Don't venture beyond the cove's shelter
Don't venture beyond the cove's shelter | Source
Sharks Cove has very pointy rocks!
Sharks Cove has very pointy rocks! | Source

How to Stay Safe

First and foremost, never snorkel alone. You should always snorkel with a buddy and keep a visual on this person at all times. If you lose track of him or her, surface to relocate this individual. If you are traveling alone and really want to snorkel, talk to other snorkelers at the beach and team up with a group of other swimmers.

Bring water shoes, even if you have fins. If your fins are adjustable, they should fit on easily over fitted water shoes. Water shoes will help keep you safe as you enter the water by giving you better grip and protecting you from the sharp barnacles. If you decide to climb up the exterior rocks, wearing water shoes will protect you from the sharp rocks and old coral.

Do not jump into the water wearing your mask. If you elect to jump off the rocks (which I strongly recommend!), do not wear your snorkeling equipment for your jump. Snorkel masks are not designed to survive an impact and can shatter, which could severely injure you. Instead, have your snorkel buddy or a bystander throw you your gear. If you can't find anyone to help you out, throw your gear in the water and then jump. Snorkel gear will float, at least for long enough for you to jump in and retrieve it! When I went to jump, several other people offered to throw my gear in after me. Everyone I encountered while snorkeling was very nice, accommodating, and willing to offer advice on the best places to climb up on the rocks and where to jump off. Don't worry - the water is deep enough to jump safely! I didn't even come close to touching the bottom.

Don't swim beyond the cove. Even during calmer seas, venturing beyond the cove's rocky shelter is dangerous. The strong currents can easily pull you out to sea, even if you're a strong swimmer.

Always wear sunscreen. I know it seems obvious, but don't forget to use plenty of waterproof sunscreen. Your entire backside will be exposed to the sun while you snorkel, so make sure to use plenty of high SPF on your shoulders, back, and the backs of your arms and legs. The breezes can make Hawaii feel deceptively cool, but the direct tropical rays can quickly burn your skin, even if you don't feel warm.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
FishCoralFins and fishCatching a photo of fish is tricky!A great ledge people use to jump into the ocean
Fish | Source
Coral | Source
Fins and fish
Fins and fish | Source
Catching a photo of fish is tricky!
Catching a photo of fish is tricky! | Source
A great ledge people use to jump into the ocean
A great ledge people use to jump into the ocean | Source

Why Snorkel Here?

Don't let the list of potential dangers and safety hazards scare you - snorkeling at Shark's Cove is a fantastic experience. It is my favorite snorkeling spot I've ever visited. With water deep enough to swim safely without bumping against coral, beautiful water, schools of fish, live coral, and a really fun spot to jump from, Shark's Cove is a must-snorkel spot if you visit Oahu.

While the wildlife is, well, wild and does what it wants, common animals include parrot fish, butterfly fish, trigger fish, jacks, cornet fish, mullet, millet seed fish, eels, turtles, and sea urchins. Who knows what you may see!

If the rocks and potential current worry you, visit the tidal pools next door. If you're standing at Shark's Cove looking towards the ocean, the tidal pools are located directly to the left. These tidal pools are perfect for children and less-confident swimmers.

It offers bathrooms and an outdoor shower facility, so don't worry about finding a spot to get changed or use the restroom. Free parking is also available, though you may have to circle around for a spot at the popular park.

School of Fish at Shark's Cove

The North Shore of Oahu isn't exactly metropolitan, so there aren't a lot of restaurants and stores, but right across from Shark's Cove is the Shark's Cove Grill. It's basically a stationary food truck with some picnic tables under an awning, but it's tasty. Choices include breakfast (before 11), smoothies, shrimp (and other) skewers, salads, and more. You might have to wait a minute for your food, but you can watch an assortment of wild chickens, and maybe even some chicks, hunt for food. If you are looking for other food, continue down Kamehameha Highway to explore for other food trucks serving up shrimp and Hawaiian BBQ.

Shark's Cove Rentals, located next door to Shark's Cove Grill, is an easy place to rent snorkel equipment, if you don't have any You can also rent a locker if you would prefer not to leave possessions on the 'beach.' It also offers rooms for rent, and snorkel rentals are free for guests.

Oahu's North Shore is a little it of a drive from popular tourist destinations, such as downtown Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, but it is well worth the drive. Beautiful water and amazing fish await you!

© 2012 Natasha


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Nice article...I loved the part about "how to stay safe" since safety is one of my main priorities when snorkeling. Sharks cove is awesome! I will say my favorite snorkeling experience is when I went out with Wild Side Specialty Tours....I saw the cutest green sea turtles!! Aloha to all my fellow snorkelers. :)

    • williamcaldwell1 profile image

      William Caldwell 

      7 years ago from Orem

      Good to know, thanks :)

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I really like how Shark Cove is deeper that Hanauma Bay! I hope you have the chance to check it out.

    • williamcaldwell1 profile image

      William Caldwell 

      7 years ago from Orem

      I will have to check that place out. Hanauma bay was my favorite place to snorkel. Except for the HUGE eels we ran into there, lol

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Oh, yeah! And it was worth it =)

      Thanks for stopping by teaches. And thanks for voting!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Wow, you braved the rocks and took risks with theft to snorkel such beautiful waters! I love how your advised people of the dangers, yet made it so enticing that the adventure was worth the trip. Lovely photos and glad you enjoyed your time. Voted up!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      I had no idea to expect chickens! It was kind of crazy. Thanks for stopping by!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Awesome article and I loved the pictures. I went to Hawaii years ago and I completely forgot that there were wild chickens everywhere. How fun!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! I imagine there's not too much snorkeling where you are!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting hub, Natasha. Snorkeling is a wonderful way to look at ocean life. Thank you for the very useful instructions about staying safe while snorkeling at Sharks Cove. I'd love to visit the area!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, mhatter99, for stopping by!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing you experience with us.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Sadly, the water in the Carolinas isn't exactly the best for snorkeling. Ok, so it's downright impossible! But I have tried.

      Thanks for stopping by, tammyswallow! I hope you get to snorkel someday (if you want to!) and am glad you enjoyed the photos.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow, that maybe my very first ever funny vote!

      I fell in love with snorkeling after a fifth grade field trip introduced me to it. It's so cool to catch a glimpse of a totally different world! Well, in truth, I was introduced to it at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and was so terrified that, after waiting all the way through line and getting in thr water, I freaked out and insisted on leaving the 'ride!' But I was even younger then.

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope you get to try snorkeling someday.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      8 years ago from North Carolina

      That is beautiful Natashalh! I have never been snorkeling. I hope to one day. Your photos are gorgeous!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania


      This looks so very interesting! I have never tried snorkeling but you have made it sound like so much fun! I enjoyed all the pictures! beautiful Natasha! Oh and I laughed when you said bring water shoes, even if you have fins! I knew what you meant but for some reason laughed! SO you get a funny vote as well! LOL Voted up across the board, and sharing!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      I love snorkeling! It's such an awesome experience. I've even been 'snorkeling' in very non-snorkel friendly conditions to see mundane fish because I love it so much.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      8 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I went snorkeling for the first and only time a few years ago on a Caribbean cruise and really enjoyed it. I envy anyone that can do it in Hawaii or on a regular basis.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      I understand that it can get busy, but it's nowhere near as busy as some of the other spots! I quickly realized that most everywhere you go will have at least some peopleso there's no use stressing over it.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      8 years ago from the beautiful south

      The water shoes were a great invention! I am sure this place of yours is worth it and being harder to get into makes it more private for you I imagine. Sounds wonderful. ^

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! If you enjoyed this keep an eye out for more snorkeling hubs in the future. I have a lot more photos and videos to share!

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 

      8 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      I love the ocean and anything about it. Weird, for someone who don't know how to swim.

      Anyway, I find it always interesting to read about life in and around the ocean, beach etc. And I find your hub to be a very interesting read on the subject.

      BTW, nice pics! Voted Up, Useful and Interesting.


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