Sharks Cove Oahu

Sharks Cove Oahu

Sharks Cove is an AWESOME snorkeling spot on the North Shore of Oahu. Not only can you see a fabulous amount of sea life, it’s free, beginner friendly, and doesn’t have the registration hassles of Hanauma Bay.

Sharks Cove, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Sharks Cove on the North Shore of Oahu.

Are there shark’s in sharks Cove Oahu?

The Name Sharks Cove – First off, don’t let the name deceive you. While there are places you can actually swim with fearsome sharks, this isn’t likely to be one of them. If swimming in a cage with sharks sounds like your jam, then I highly recommend trying out this shark cage diving tour.

The name Sharks Cove comes from the shape of the surrounding lava rocks/cove, and not because the area is infiltrated by killer sharks. In fact, you are highly unlikely to see sharks while here.

Sharks Cove Oahu Location

Sharks Cove is located on the North Shore of Oahu. 

If you are staying in Waikiki, it is about an hour and 10 minute drive without traffic, but don’t be surprised if you run into traffic and have to add another 30 minutes.

Remember, there is only one main road to and along the North Shore. This means that it is really easy for the area to get bogged down in traffic.

The North Shore was previously known as a slower paces area with surfers and no high rise resorts. There are still no high rise resorts and tons of surfers in season, but it definitely gets packed, so plan accordingly!

Located within Pupukea Beach Park

Sharks Cove is located within Pupukea Beach Park. There are showers, restrooms, and my favorite food trucks that park directly across the street. This makes it a perfect spot to hang out for a full day.

Sharks Cove Oahu Facilities
Sharks Cove Oahu Facilities

Where to park

This is probably the worst thing when going to Sharks Cove North Shore. Even though Pupukea Beach Park has a good amount of spots, they are likely to fill up quickly.

You can also parallel park along the highway, but those spots tend to fill up quick as well.

Three Tables Oahu

The nearby Three Tables Beach Oahu offers is basically in the exact same location as Sharks Cove. Three Tables Oahu is just a couple hundred feet further southwest as you follow the shore. Basically, you can park at any of these areas. I advise jumping on the first available parking spot you see.

Three Tables snorkeling is also amazing, though the reefs aren’t as sheltered as they are at Sharks Cove.

Other Nearby Attractions

Sharks Cove is located right next to a few other North Shore attractions. The Waimea Valley, and my favorite, the Waimea Cliff Jump are just up the rode.

You are also close to the Haleiwa North Shore city center. Not that Haleiwa is in any way a big city, but this is where you will find the most restaurants and shops. 

What to expect from Sharks Cove Oahu Snorkeling 

The Sharks Cove Oahu snorkeling is not quite as good as Hanauma Bay, BUT don’t let this let you believe that it isn’t still awesome and worth your time.

Remember, Hanauma Bay requires a complicated registration process, restricts the time you can go, and is quite expensive. You can read about the Hanauma Bay process here. Not as good as Hanauma Bay, but once again, free, still beginner friendly, not assigned a time, all what happens at Hanauma Bay.

Snorkeling North Shore Oahu

When snorkeling North Shore Oahu you will still see reefs, fish, and my favorite sea turtles. This is especially true at Sharks Cove. It is an extremely contained environment that generally stays calm, even when the world famous North Shore surf waves are crashing all around. The cove usually protects snorkelers. 

Full disclosure, there are some days where the waves crash over the cove walls and make the water murky and wildlife difficult to see. Also, the reefs aren’t quite as vibrant and colorful as you will see at Hanauma Bay.

Also, the water is generally quite shallow, which is actually helpful if you have kids with you. Just make sure you tell them not to swim beyond the cove walls since the currents will pick up quickly.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a great snorkel spot on the North Shore that doesn’t require the hassle of registration and payment like Hanauma Bay, you should go to Sharks Cove.

Sharks Cove Positives

  • Amazing sea life and reefs right next to the shore (i.e. you don’t have to be a strong swimmer)
  • Cove protects you from big waves and strong currents (especially calm in the summer months)
  • Free, with no pre-registration required
  • Nearby food trucks
  • Shallow water allows kids to enjoy as well

Sharks Cove Negatives

  • Not as big as Hanauma Bay
  • Reefs not quite as vibrant as Hanauma Bay
  • Parking and traffic in the area can be a nightmare
  • Not a ton of beach to lounge on
  • Lava rocks can cut you up if you don’t wear shoes or accidentally touch
  • Not a lot of beach space to lounge on

What to pack for Oahu

  • Dresses for Hawaii – Packing a few good dresses is essential for Hawaii. Dresses have become my go to on trips to help quickly put an outfit together.
  • Sandals – LOVE these Birkenstocks. Shop cheaper but still cute Birkenstocks here.
  • Tennis Shoes – I guess you could wear sandals hiking this trail but I would recommend tennis shoes. It can get narrow and slippery in parts. I never go anywhere without my white Air force ones. They are the most versatile shoe I own.
  • Beach cover-up – Having at least one good cover-up is essential on any beach trip. Amazon actually has amazing ones at really affordable prices. If you aren’t a fan of buying clothes off Amazon I recommend ASOSNordstrom and Revolve as well.
  • Quick Dry Travel Towel – This quick dry towel is amazing to travel with. It really will come in handy when you need extra room in your suitcase.
  • Snorkeling gear – for obvious reasons.
  • Camera Gear – The iPhone 13 Pro is amazing and probably all that most people need. BUT, if you want something more I can’t recommend the Sony A7IV mirrorless camera enough. It is AMAZING. If you are more into video than taking photos I recommend the Sony A7SIII or the Canon R5 for you Canon lovers.
  • Travel tripod – This Peak Design travel tripod is the best I have ever used. It is so easy to carry around because it is literally the size of a water bottle. Fits perfectly in a backpack. I have never seen a tripod so compact. It’s life changing. You can check it out here if you’re interested. Note – It isn’t cheap, but that’s why I bought it from backcountry.com. They frequently have 15% off sales so I was luckily able to purchase during a sale.

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