Snorkeling Sharks Cove – No Sharks, but Lots of Fish

Oahu, Hawaii

Snorkeling Sharks Cove, on the north shore, is good when the waves are calm. Huge waves break into this bay often in the winter, but during the summer this protected cove can be a delight. This is a well known destination for snorkeling with many fish and the cove also has interesting topography, but not much coral.

Snorkeling Sharks Cove
Whitebar and Whitespotted Surgeonfish spotted while snorkeling Sharks Cove.

In calm conditions, the view from the parking on the low cliff above entices you to get in the water. Plus, to the left of the cove there is an area that in the right conditions provides some excellent tide pool exploring.

Snorkeling Sharks Cove is very popular so the parking can fill up, but early arrival will get you a spot.

It is part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District which is why there are so many fish.

Snorkeling Sharks Cove Tip – Theft is an issue here, so don’t leave anything valuable in your car. We use a good quality waterproof box, and take our keys, money, and camera out on the water. No more worries.

Water Entrance for Snorkeling Sharks Cove

From where you parked, walk toward the left side of the cove and find your way down one of the slightly steep little trails that lead down to the water’s edge.

The water entrance for snorkeling Sharks Cove is not easy. It is mostly rocky, although you can pick your way through a little sandy trail. You might consider wearing some footwear as the rocks here are sharp and if there are any waves at all, you can easily lose your balance while weaving your way through the rocks. Keep your fins tucked under your arm until you are in deep enough water to slip them on and swim.

Water entrance for snorkeling Sharks Cove, with snorkelers in the water.

Got Hurt Snorkeling and Travel Insurance Won’t Cover It?

Yes, many travel insurance policies exclude snorkeling accidents, leaving you in the lurch. See our recommended travel insurance that does cover snorkeling.

Where to Snorkel

Kids enjoying snorkeling Sharks Cove

Once you start snorkeling Sharks Cove, you still must navigate around some rocks and through some more shallow areas. There can be a lot of fish through this area, so if the current and surge aren’t tossing you around too much, it can be a good place to spend some time.

After you swim through this shallow area, 2-4 feet deep, it begins to drop off to 6-20 feet in the rest of the cove. The entire cove is worth exploring with its large boulders creating some fun topography and great places for swimming with fish. The deepest area is at the center of the mouth of the cove with a sandy bottom. The visibility in the cove varies depending on the conditions.

It has been suggested to us that you can snorkel outside the cove, but we have never found it safe enough for us to do it. We have encountered strong currents when we swam outside the cove. We decided that we weren’t missing much because there is plenty to see inside.

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Suggestions and Questions From Other Snorkelers

What We Saw While Snorkeling Sharks Cove

There are urchins burrowing around in the reef. We have seen turtles on every visit to the cove and once we saw a small octopus. And we saw many fish in good variety while snorkeling Sharks Cove.

Grey Drummer in rare yellow coloring at Sharks Cove.


  • Boxfish, Spotted
  • Butterflyfish: Fourspot, Lined, Ornate
  • Drummer, Gray (Rudderfish) – one in the rare yellow color
  • Flagtail, Hawaiian – school
  • Humuhumunukunukuapua’a
  • Mullet, Sharpnose – school
  • Needlefish, Keeltail – school
  • Parrotfish, Spectacled
  • Sergeant, Blackspot
  • Surgeonfish: Goldring, Orangeband, Orangespine, Ringtail, Whitebar, Whitespotted
  • Tang: Achilles, Convict, Lavender
  • Trevally, Bluefin
  • Trumpetfish
  • Unicornfish, Bluespine
  • Wrasse: Christmas, Pearl, Saddle
Pair of Achilles Tang at Sharks Cove.


  • Blue Rice
  • Blue Soft
  • Cauliflower
  • Lobe

Other Creatures:

  • Octopus, Day
  • Sea Urchin: Collector, Pale Rock-Boring
  • Turtles

Snorkeling the Other Hawaiian Islands Too?

If you are visiting Maui, the Big Island, and/or Kauai along with Oahu, our Hawaii Snorkeling Guide eBook will get you to all the good locations.

Hawaii Snorkeling Guide eBook Cover

Driving Directions From Waikiki

1. You can choose to drive up the east side of the island or up the middle of the island to reach the north shore. To reach Hwy 83 on the east side heading north, you need to get on Hwy H-1 westbound then take one of the highways that crosses the Ko’olau Mountains, Hwy 61 (Pali Hwy), Hwy 63 (Likelike Hwy), or Hwy H-3. When you come to the intersection with Hwy 83 (Kahekili Hwy), turn left, heading north.

2. Alternately, to reach Hwy H-2 that leads to Hwy 99 up through the middle of the island, get on Hwy H-1 heading westbound until you reach the intersection with Hwy H-2 and head north. Hwy H-2 will turn into Hwy 99 that you follow until it comes to Hwy 83 again near Hale’iwa.

3. Sharks Cove is northeast of Waimea Bay on Hwy 83 about a mile. Heading northeast, there is a Foodland grocery store on the right just before you will see Sharks Cove on the left. Sharks Cove is a little over two miles southwest of Sunset Beach. The parking is on the water side of the road both north and south of the cove itself.

Parking along the street at Sharks Cove.


There are restrooms and showers south of the cove next to the southern parking area.

More Oahu Snorkeling Tips