Snorkeling Three Tables is great as long as you use some caution. It is a small but beautiful sandy beach with access to the best coral on the north shore. Like every spot on the north shore, this is best snorkeled in the summertime when the water is calm.
It is called Three Tables because of the flat table-like coral formations in the water in front the beach. The snorkeling is around these tables.
It is not a very protected little bay so stay out when there are waves and surge. Even on a calm day there can be surge and the left channel can have strong outgoing currents at any time, so be cautious.
Three Tables is part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District which does not permit fishing at this beach. This results in good fish populations to see when snorkeling.
You should be able to enter from the sandy beach area in bare feet. But the rocks start pretty close to shore, so watch for them and get your fins on soon.
When snorkeling Three Tables, swim near the tables themselves. If there isn't much surge or current, you can go outside of them. The problem is if there is any surge it makes it so that you get pushed into or dropped on top of the tables. So if there is any question, stay between them and the beach. You will still see plenty.
The topography is interesting and fun to explore ranging in depth from at the surface to about 10 feet. There is quite a bit of colorful coral, though mostly in small patches scattered around. And we have always seen good fish populations and variety. The visibility varies depending on the conditions, and can be low if there are any waves.
Our most exciting encounter snorkeling Three Tables was with a group of squid. We have only seen them one other time in Hawaii. In addition, there are urchins in the reef and we saw many sea cucumbers as well. You might get to see a turtle too. The list of fish we saw here is pretty impressive as well:
There is also a good variety of corals here, mostly small, but colorful:
Our Hawaii Snorkeling Guide eBook has information for all four main islands, including, for Oahu, more pictures, maps and rankings.
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. Three Tables is less than half a mile southwest of Shark’s Cove on Hwy 83 and a little more than half a mile northeast of Waimea Bay. Heading northeast, if you reach the Foodland grocery store on the right, you have just missed it. There are two parking areas on the water side of the road, one directly behind the beach and the other further northeast in front of the restroom and shower building. There is a short trail from the northern parking area to the beach.
There are some restrooms and water available north of the beach. There is also plenty of shade and some picnic tables available here.