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Snorkel & Explore Sharks Cove

Sharks Cove is a popular Oahu attraction in the North Shore for its amazing Hawaii snorkeling experience.  Not far from Haleiwa Town, and around the corner from Waimea Bay is this unique reef protect Oahu beach cove that got its name from the outline shape of a shark.

The Cove

Sharks Cove North Shore

Not to worry, you are highly unlikely to see a shark at this Oahu beach.  You are more likely to see green sea turtles swimming about.

And there is a large array of fish that call Sharks Cove home.  The 80-acre marine life conservation park is largely made up reef and volcanic rock that expands about a football field across with many neat areas to explore.

There are lots of crevices, caves, tunnels, and places to hide that makes it so desirable for fish to swim about in this cove.

Sharks Cove Oahu

There are two sections to Sharks Cove.  The east side is shallower with lots of tide pools, and the west side is the deeper section and better for snorkeling.

Unlike Hanauma Bay that tends to get busy most days with up to 3000 visitors, Sharks Cove is a great alternative with far less crowds, clearer waters, an abundance of fish to see, and is also a free Oahu attraction.

Types of Fish

The porous reef creates protection and home to a large array of fish.  Definitely too many to name, but Triggerfish, Butterflyfish, Parrotfish, and Damselfish are in abundance.

It’s definitely a colorful mix, and they tend to swim in large schools.  You’ll find others hiding in the reef…and maybe even a moral eel or two.

Shark Cove Tide Pools

Only look with your eyes and do not attempt to reach towards them, or you might get bitten.

Also do not approach or harass Green Sea Turtles swimming about, or Monk Seals that approach the cove.  It is a federal crime to do so, and these sea animals have been known to defend themselves when approached.

Layout of Sharks Cove

While there isn’t much beach surrounding North Shore Cove, it neighbors Pupukea Beach Park that is beautiful, and a better choice to set up camp.  Three Tables on the other side also has a beautiful beach.

Show up during low tide and you’ll find lots of tide pools to explore, and a vast area to snorkel during high tide.

It’s typically only a few feet deep close to shore that progressively gets deeper as you swim out to the cove wall opening to the ocean.

It’s said to be around 20 feet deep at the mouth of the ocean, and up to 40 feet just outside the cove. 

Water Safety

It is not recommended to go outside the cove, especially if you are not a good swimmer or experienced snorkeler.

In fact it is not recommend to go into the water at all for these same reasons.

There is no life guard on duty at this Oahu beach location, and there are a lot of obstacles in the water that you will need to navigate around.

Shark Cove Exploring

For those that are determined to go beyond Sharks Cove reef wall should find larger fish lurking about in the deeper waters.

There are also larger caves and tunnels located on the west side of the reef wall going toward Three Tables Beach, which is another fantastic diving and snorkeling area in these waters.

As temping as it might be, I would not recommend swimming into these caves and tunnels where you could get stuck and or risk running out of air.

Sharks Cove Reef

Also do not enter the water in this area when waves are present.  Larger waves tend to smash into the outline barrier wall and cascades inside the cove.

Rip currents can form as you get closer to the opening to the ocean and can become very dangerous if sucked out.  The surf tends to get large during the winter months and flat during the summer months.

But once in a while a swell can emerge in the summer as well, so pay attention when you arrive.  You can also check the surf report before heading up to the North Shore…


Shark Cove Beach
  • Summer months – unlike winter months when waves are larger on the North Shore, the summer months tend to be flat and provide ideal snorkeling conditions.
  • Parking – there is lots of parking along the stretch of the cove, but does fill up quickly.  Be patient as visitors are always coming and going from this Oahu beach.  Make sure to take everything with you and don’t leave valuables in the car.  Thieves frequently hit up high tourist areas on the island, and steal what they can see lying around in vehicles.
  • Reef Shoes and Sun Screen – bring reef shoes to protect your feet if you plan on exploring the tide pools, and fins if you plan on snorkeling.  Also wear reef-safe sunscreen to not only protect the reef, but your back and body as well that might be exposed for long periods of time while exploring.  Better yet, where a water shirt that will give you better protection.
  • Little Shade – There are shady trees towards the top of the road and the park above the cove, but most of the cove and beach is exposed to the sun.  Consider bringing a beach umbrella.
  • Buddy System – you should always enter the water with a buddy, and watch out for each other when you can.  You’ll want someone nearby if you get into trouble and can seek help immediately.
  • Ocean Safety - Learn more Ocean Safety and Snorkeling Tips from Hawaii Ocean Safety.


  • Facilities
  • Bathroom
  • Parking
  • Grass Area
  • Food Trucks in the Area
  • No Lifeguard on Duty

Oahu Map

Aloha & Enjoy!!