This hidden gem is located off Kamehemeha Highway, just north of Waimea Bay. A secluded beach cove, Pupukea Beach Park is calm and clear in the summertime, and one of the better snorkeling locations on Oahu.
It is not clearly marked with signage but is easy to locate, being just across the road from Foodland and a number of local food trucks.
There are two swimming access points, known as Shark’s Cove and Three Tables. Shark’s Cove derived its name due to the fact that the aerial view of a reef outside the cove apparently looks just like a shark. Entry into the water here is tricky, with sharp black lava rock surrounding this cove. There is a steep dirt path leading from the parking lot down to the rocks. If you decide to access the water from this area, tabis (water shoes) are recommended, to protect your feet. We recommend the felt sole variety NOT the rubber-soled reef walkers as these have little traction.
The easier access point is Three Tables - a white, sandy beach at the southern end of the park. There are still some rocks to navigate so caution is still required here. It is named Three Tables because of the flat coral reefs close to shore that resemble flat ‘tables’, and emerge during low tide. Beautiful tide pools form and the area becomes a snorkeler’s paradise. Close to shore, the water is usually calm and suitable for families and children, but further out, currents can be strong. It is recommended not to venture out unless you are a strong swimmer. There is excellent scuba-diving just outside of the cove, with beautiful rock formations and lava tubes, for those who are experienced.
The area is a marine life conservation zone, so no fishing is allowed. There are strict rules preventing the removal of rocks, shells or marine life from the area. While snorkeling on a clear day you will see many types of colorful fish and coral, and the place is at its best and less crowded in the early morning. There are some very unusual lava rock formations that make for some great photographs especially at sunset as the glow highlights red and ochre colors.
Please be aware that swimming at Pupukea during the winter months is unsafe and not recommended as the surf can be huge. There is no lifeguard here, but there is a restroom, showers and ample parking. Conveniently, a number of roadside food trucks as well as a surf hire shop and Foodland can be found just across the street.