Beautiful Octopus underwater while snorkeling at Sharks Cove

Shark’s Cove: Everything You Need to Know About Snorkeling this Popular Cove

Shark’s Cove is one of the most beautiful snorkeling spots on Oahu!

It is also one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in Hawaii. With crystal clear water and an abundance of marine life, it’s easy to see why this spot is a favorite for visitors and locals alike.

You’ll have the opportunity to see colorful fish, coral reefs, and even sea turtles (if you’re lucky) in their natural habitat.

Turtle swimming in the water at Shark's Cove
Photo credit: Amanda @janzercise on Instagram

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How to Get to Shark’s Cove

The drive should take about an hour if you are coming from the Honolulu/Waikiki area.

Shark’s Cove is located on Oahu’s North Shore, and the best way to get there is by car. Sure, you can look into bus options, but that takes too long and we know most people have limited time when they are on vacation.

Use Google Maps or your preferred navigation system to get there.

Parking at Shark’s Cove

There is limited parking at Shark’s Cove, so make sure you get there early.

The parking areas fill up quickly since this is a snorkeling location. If you can get there around 8:30-9:00 am you shouldn’t have any issues finding a spot. After 10:00 am you may not be so lucky.

Cars packed at Shark's Cove
We parked here because this is where our GPS took us, but there’s actually closer parking if you go left out of this lot.

The map below shows where the Shark’s Cove snorkeling area is, where we parked, and the strip of additional roadside parking. The brown line is the route we walked from our parking spot, and the light blue line is where you’ll find the roadside parking.

On our first trip to Oahu, we got to Shark’s Cove around 2:00 pm and it was like the zoo. The parking lot was completely full and we, unfortunately, decided to skip snorkeling this time around.

We came back in February of 2022 and got there around 8:00 am, and parking was not a problem.

If you somehow get there in the afternoon and parking is full, you can try waiting for someone to leave or look for additional parking close by.

Difficulty Level

The difficulty level of snorkeling at Shark’s Cove will depend on the time of the year you decide to visit.

If you are a beginner snorkeler and not a strong swimmer, we recommend only swimming here in the summer months (May to October) when the waves are much calmer. The same applies to children as well.

Swimming here in the wintertime (November to April) is way too dangerous and should not be attempted.

Even if you are a strong swimmer, take precautions at all times and swim with a partner just in case.

While there are shallow parts, big wave breaks make this area a little more challenging and dangerous to swim in.

Make sure to check the tide report before heading out. Shark’s Cove will be inaccessible at high tide.

Best Time to Snorkel at Shark’s Cove

The best time to snorkel at Shark’s Cove is when the surf is low during the summer months.

The waves and strong currents in the wintertime make swimming/snorkeling here very dangerous, so you should not enter the water during this time.

Tidepool Area Nearby

It’s worth mentioning that just south of Shark’s Cove is a tide pool area that we snorkeled in as well. It has a protective reef barrier that creates a lagoon, making it more protected from the massive winter waves. This particular area is great for beginners to get their bearings and practice using their snorkeling equipment.

Cody entering the water at Shark's Cove
Cody pointing at a huge wave coming right after he entered the water at Sharks Cove
View of the rocky areas near Shark's Cove with people snorkeling in the water
A tide pool area next to Shark’s Cove

Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove

Shark’s Cove consists of a rocky shoreline, so water shoes come highly recommended to protect your feet.

Once you are in the water, swim around and explore the area. You might need to swim a little further to see more of the marine life, but keep in mind that the water gets deeper the further you go out. It can get up to 35 feet deep in some parts.

A Few Things to Note

Seeing wildlife, whether you’re at Shark’s Cove or anywhere else, depends on luck. There are days when people reported seeing vast amounts of marine life close to shore and others where people snorkeled all around and didn’t see much.

The moral of the story is always to have an open mind. Marine life is wildlife, and no one can predict nature.

You might be super lucky and see all kinds of creatures, or you might only see a few fish. Regardless, the experience was still amazing.

Shark’s Cove Marine Life

Some popular sea creatures you might encounter at Shark’s Cove are listed below.

A wide variety of fish such as:

Yellow tang, triggerfish, parrotfish, trumpetfish, butterflyfish, unicornfish, goatfish, damselfish, needlefish, etc.

Turtle swimming in the water at Shark's Cove
Photo credit: Amanda @janzercise on Instagram

You might also see eels, octopus, sea urchins, wrasse, jacks, morrish idol, and so much more.

Octopus swimming in the water seen by our friends while they snorkeled Shark's Cove
Photo credit: Amanda @janzercise on Instagram

Facilities at Shark’s Cove

-Free (limited parking on site)
-Bathrooms and showers
-No lifeguards on duty (swim at your own risk)
-shops and restaurants across the street.

Bathrooms at Sharks Cove
Shower at Shark's Cove

What to Bring When Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove

Here are a few things to consider bringing with you:

Towel– We usually take one from our hotel/Airbnb

Reef safe sunscreen or a snorkeling shirt/rashguard– this is very important; make sure to add these items to your Hawaii packing list.

Sunhat– The sun can get very hot in Hawaii. Make sure to wear a sunhat while taking breaks from snorkeling.

Water shoes and/or snorkeling fins– Shark’s Cove can be a little sharp; bring water shoes to protect your feet. Fins are also another good option as they help propel you through the water.

Waterproof camera– You’ll want to document all the beautiful fish and sea creatures you see. We use the DJI Osmo Action and it does a fantastic job. It’s not too pricey either!

Mask and Snorkel- Of course, you need these items to be able to snorkel in the first place. We have a snorkel set that we bought off Amazon and it works great. You can always rent them on the island too.

Our yellow snorkeling gear set we bought from Amazon

Water- Make sure to always stay hydrated, especially in the hot sun.

Snorkeling Shark’s Cove Tips & Additional Information

Check the surf report before you go to see if it’s a good day for snorkeling- this is very important, especially if you are going there around the winter months. As always, do not underestimate the power of the ocean.

Get there early- As mentioned multiple times in this post, parking tends to fill up quickly.

Do not leave valuables in your car- Shark’s Cove is a high-theft area. Make sure not to leave anything visible on your vehicle.

Be respectful of the environment- Take everything with you when you leave and don’t litter.

Bring Beach Chairs/Umbrella- These items are nice to have if you plan to lounge on the beach after your snorkeling adventure. Shade can be tough to find in this area.

Do not touch the marine life-  It’s tempting to want to touch the fish and coral but please don’t. The chemicals on our skin can harm them.

Do not stand on the coral- Not only is it disrespectful and damaging to the reef, but you might hurt yourself as well.

What’s in the Area?

Kuilima Cove is a great place to snorkel if Shark’s Cove is too crowded for you or if the tide is too high. Kuilima Cove is a better option to take your kids since it’s a protective cove and not as rocky as Shark’s Cove.

Three Tables- If you are snorkeling around the north shore of Oahu, make sure to stop by Three Tables.

Visit the North Shore’s food trucks make sure to try some of the best food trucks on the North Shore of Oahu.

Visit Haleiwa Town- This is a great place to buy souvenirs, eat some fantastic food, and see some cute shops.

Waimea Bay- This is one of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu. Also, if you are into cliff jumping, Waimea Bay’s “The Rock” is one of the best places to cliff jump on Oahu.

Watch the sunset at Sunset Beach Don’t forget to watch the sunset at one of the best places on the island to watch a spectacular sunset.

Visit Waimea Falls– This is a beautiful waterfall hike located on the north shore. Make sure to bring your swimsuit because you can swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls.

Visit Laniekea Beach this is a great place to see sea turtles!

Ehukai Pillbox Hike If you are looking for an excellent hike to do on the north shore, the Ehukai Pillbox Hike is a great option. It’s not too hard and it offers a fantastic view of the north shore.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there sharks at Shark’s Cove?

Yes, sharks have been spotted in the deeper waters of Shark’s Cove. Luckily, we only saw accounts of reef sharks swimming in the area. These types of sharks are not considered dangerous.

Why do they call it Shark’s Cove?

A popular story states that Shark’s Cove got its name from a reef formation that resembles a shark when viewed from above.

Is Shark’s Cove Safe to Snorkel?

In the summer months, Shark’s Cove is safe to snorkel. However, as with any body of water, there are certain dangers to be aware of. Strong currents and aggressive waves can be present, especially in the wintertime. The reef is also very sharp.

When is the best time to go snorkeling at Shark’s Cove?

The best time to go snorkeling at Shark’s Cove is during the summer months when the waves and currents are the calmest. The water is also warmer in the summertime.

The Wrap Up

If you’re looking for a breathtaking place to snorkel, Shark’s Cove is definitely worth a visit.

With crystal-clear water and an abundance of colorful fish, it’s easy to spend hours exploring the cove.

So put on your swimsuit and mask and get ready for some unforgettable underwater adventures!

Make sure to check the surf report before you go, get there early, and be respectful of the environment.

Mahalo for reading our post. Until next time, aloha, and happy snorkeling in Oahu!

See Also:

15 Best Beaches in Oahu You Should Visit

25 Best Beaches in Hawaii For A Spectacular Trip

71 Awesome Things to Do on Oahu With Your Family