It is hard to find a spot to rival Sharks Cove on the island of Oahu. Despite its name, there is little chance of coming across a shark. On the other hand, although coral is practically absent, this translucent cove has superb rock landscapes and abundant undersea life. Shoals of surgeonfish and striped red mullets can be found along the spectacular rocky outcrops, scarcely troubled by the moray eels that have found a home there.

How to get there?

Sharks Cove is on the northern coast of the island of Oahu, the famous “North Shore”, internationally famous as a surfing destination. From the international airport in Honolulu, it takes a little less than an hour (30mi/50km) to reach the spot, first by taking the H1 west, then the Kamehameha Highway, following the signs for Haleiwa/North Shore. After reaching the coast at Haleiwa, continue east as far as Pupukea. You will easily find the little rocky beach and its natural pools to your left, around 50 yards after the Foodland supermarket on the right. Get there early if you want to find a parking space in the car park across from the spot.

Snorkeling Sharks Cove, Oahu

Water entrance

Entering the water from the rocks is not very practical. You can get into the water in several places, but the easiest thing to do is to follow the little pathway going down toward the right of the bay when you are facing the ocean, which leads to a sheltered rocky area. From there, make your way between the pools of water and rocks (be careful, as they can be slippery and sharp in some places) to get to the water.

Sharks Cove Oahu snorkeling map

Exploration

Sharks Cove forms a little circular bay that you can explore in its entirety if the sea conditions permit.
Begin by exploring the spectacular rocky drop-offs surrounding the bay (↕6-14ft/2-4m), where large shoals of convict tang, whitecheek surgeonfish and goatfish find shelter. In the cavities dug out in the rocks, try to spot an unsuspecting moray eel, while couples of butterflyfish (several different species) and parrotfish will no doubt tag along as you explore.

Surgeonfish at Sharks Cove, Oahu

At the center of the bay, the water is deeper (↕14-20ft/4-6m). In this deep-blue mineral landscape, try to spot one of the green sea turtles that pay regular visits to the area. When the weather and the sea conditions permit, you can also go out of the bay and explore the waters around, particularly if you follow the shore to your right as you are facing the ocean. As in the bay, the seabed is rocky here too, but there are fewer fish.

Visibility is generally excellent, but can deteriorate when the ocean waves rise or after heavy rain.

Fourspot butterflyfish at Sharks Cove

Don’t forget that this is a coast that is famous for surfing, and so for its waves. In season – that is, from October to April (with a peak from December to February) – it can be dangerous to swim, as the bay is only partially sheltered. Be careful and postpone your swim if sea conditions are poor (there are no lifeguards). There are sometimes a lot of visitors to the spot, so watch out for other snorkelers and for people who have fun jumping into the water from the rocks above the bay.

Restaurants & accommodation

This part of the coast is popular with tourists, and there are many restaurants, snack bars and hotels along the main road. Opposite Sharks Cove, on the other side of the Kamehameha Highway, you will find, among others, a steakhouse and a supermarket.

Species you may spot while snorkeling Sharks Cove
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Achilles tang Acanthurus achilles  
Orange band surgeonfish Acanthurus olivaceus  
Whitebar surgeonfish Acanthurus leucopareius  
Whitespotted surgeonfish Acanthurus guttatus  
Convict surgeonfish Acanthurus triostegus  
Teardrop butterflyfish Chaetodon unimaculatus  
Fourspot butterflyfish Chaetodon quadrimaculatus  
Manybar goatfish Parupeneus multifasciatus  
Yellowfin goatfish Mulloidichthys vanicolensis  
  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaPupukea Beach Park
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceA little complicated, from rocks
  • Potential DangersUsual precautions
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes, inexpensive
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.