6 Must-See Tide Pools on Oahu

Drone shot of tide pools at Shark's cove and waves crashing in the background

Tide pools are one of the finest places to explore on Oahu. There are many different tide pools to choose from, each with its own unique ecosystem. They are perfect for exploring, whether you’re looking for an excuse to go hiking or want to take some stunning photos of sunsets reflecting in calm waters. All the tide pools on this list are also easily accessible. Most can be reached within a 30-minute drive from Honolulu!

Be careful when exploring tide pools on Oahu

Before we show you the most stunning tide pools in Oahu, please beware of the risks that hiking to an intertidal pool or swimming in one brings. You can slip, or the ocean decides to act up. Not all tide pools are family-friendly, the tide pools at Sandy Beach, for example, are notorious for leading to broken bones and spinal injuries. Please take the following precautions:

  • Never go tidepooling barefoot – We wear these vibrams for maximum grip.
  • Kids should wear rash guards to avoid cutting themselves on the sharp tidal rocks.
  • Never hike to a tide pool without a mobile phone
  • Never swim in a tide pool alone without anyone watching over you
  • Don’t blindly stumble around barefoot in a tide pool (You could hurt yourself or other creatures)
  • Watch the waves, currents, and tides
  • Don’t take selfies too close to the water
  • If you get in trouble or spot a swimmer in distress, call the Fire Department at 911
  • Use reef-safe sunscreen to protect you and the ecosystem.

The tide around Oahu

The tide around the shores of Oahu can be dangerous. Do not turn your back on the ocean. Rogue waves have been known to come in and wash people away. There are also strong rip currents that are hard to notice and large waves that can easily sweep a person out to sea. 

Please always check the updated daily and monthly tide data. And ensure you check the 

1.Shark’s Cove at Pupukea Beach

  • Fantastic wildlife with endemic creatures all around
  • Photogenic setting
  • Less than 1 hour from Honolulu
  • Sharp rocks, but generally family-friendly

Shark’s Cove is home to the most popular tide pools on Oahu. It is located at Pupukea Beach on the north shore of the island, less than an hour’s drive away from Honolulu. This crystal clear beach has everything for a perfect family outing, from a deep cove and a tide pool to lava rocks and a Foodland across the street! It is an excellent place to swim, snorkel, meditate or relax under palm trees.

The cove is home to various tropical fish and other marine life. It is a shallow, no-waves pool that visitors of all ages can explore during low tide. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes as some rocks can have sharp edges. You can also wear a swimming shirt or rash guard to avoid getting scratches from the rocks. Follow by the signs posted around the cove. These signs are there to protect both the visitors and the marine life.

The best time to visit Shark’s Cove is during summer, when the water is calm and clear. During this time, you can see a variety of fish, including parrot fish, trigger fish, and angelfish. You may also see turtles, octopuses, and eels. If lucky, you may encounter damsel fish, which are native to Hawaii. Additionally, be careful when visiting during the winter months. The rocks can be pretty jagged, and the water is rough. The waves can hit you hard and toss you around.

If you plan to visit Shark’s Cove, don’t forget to bring your camera, as well as your GoPro! The views of the cove and the marine life are truly breathtaking. 

2.Makapu’u Beach

  • Watch surfers
  • Frequently visited by sea turtles
  • Not family-friendly
  • 30 to 60 minutes hike
  • Very photogenic with a lighthouse in the background

Makapu’u Beach Park is a secluded gem on the eastern point of Oahu. This beach is a hotspot to watch the sunrise and a big surfing spot. The rock formations here create a variety of small tide pools teeming with abundant marine life. As you walk along the rocks, you’ll see crabs, fish, and other creatures going about their daily business. You might even spot a sea turtle or two basking in the sun if you’re lucky.

The way to the tide pool can be dangerous for kids and is pretty much impossible for visitors with walking disabilities. The easiest way to get to the tide pools would be to scramble down the rocks from the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail. It’s going to be a 30-60 minutes walk. 

The best time to explore the tide pools at Makapu’u Beach is during summer, when the water is warm and clear. The lighthouse and islands in the distance also give a remarkable composition for photography. Just watch out for waves, as they can sweep you off your feet if you’re not careful. 

We also came back here a second time, where we booked a sunrise tour. The views from Makapuu lookout were epic and our guide shared so much insightful knowledge about the local customs and the geomorpholoy of the landscape. Our guide also happened to be a professional photographer 🙂

3.Paradise Cove Public Beach

  • Less than half an hour from Honolulu
  • Family-friendly
  • Sheltered from wind
  • A refreshing freshwater stream
  • Not too many tourists and spacious

Just like its name, Paradise Cove is a hidden gem in the midst of all the high-end and luxurious resorts nearby. This pristine-water beach is the perfect getaway, especially for families looking to spend some time away from the crowds while still having a safe space for the kids. It has everything you want for a beach, soft and powdery white sand, rocks with tide pools to explore,, various fish and other marine life to see, shallow calm water, a freshwater stream, and mountains that give the cove an ideal shelter from the wind.

The best time to explore the tide pools is during low tide, when the water is shallow enough to walk through. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, as some rocks can be sharp and slippery. Also, some of the creatures here can be venomous, so watch out.

4.Hanauma Bay

  • Only 25 minutes from Honolulu
  • Quite crowdy at times
  • Watch out for sea urchins (even if you wear shoes!)
  • Jaw-dropping sunsets

Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island of Oahu. The bay is surrounded by coral reefs, which are teeming with marine life. It is the perfect spot to swim, snorkel, relax and appreciate the natural world. 

There are a number of different creatures that call the tide pools at Hanauma Bay home. Among them are fish, sea urchins, crabs, shrimp, and sea turtles. Keep an eye out for these critters as you explore the area. Hanauma Bay is a popular spot for weddings. 

Wear swimming shoes when exploring the tide pools as the rocks can be slippery, and there are urchins in the water. The best time to visit the tide pools is during the summer months when the water is warm and clear. You can also visit during winter, just be sure to wear a wetsuit as the water can be quite cold. 

The sunsets here are absolutely breathtaking. There’s nothing like watching the sun dip below the horizon while surrounded by the beauty of nature and relaxing in a lukewarm tidal pool.

If you are looking for a place to take the kids on a day trip, Hanauma Bay is a great option. 

5.Ka’ena Point State Park

  • Easy hike
  • Great for bird watchers
  • Monk seals frequent the tide pools

Ka’ena Point is one of the best places on Oahu to tumble around tide pools. The coastline here is quite rugged, and the waves can be very strong. However, during low tide, the rocks become exposed and create a variety of small pools that are perfect for exploring.

The hike to get to the tide pools is a quite easy and moderately long hike. The trail is flat but can be a little steep in some areas, the rocks can also be a little slick when wet, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear. Bring water as it can get quite hot and humid. Along the way, you’ll see a breeding colony of Albatross. If lucky, you may encounter a Monk Seal sunning on the beach or swimming in the shallow tide pools.

6.Sandy Beach

  • Great for surfing
  • Not ideal for swimming
  • High risk of injury
  • Like many other tide pools on this list, the marine life is marvelous!

Sandy Beach is one of Oahu’s top spots for both locals and visitors alike. And it’s easy to see why – the beach is absolutely stunning, with its bright white sand and crystal-clear water. The surf here is considered to be some of the best in Oahu. The waves at Sandy Beach can be very strong and dangerous for swimming. Therefore, it is not suitable for kids. This beach has the highest incidence of spinal damage and broken necks of any beach anywhere in the world!

The tide pools at Sandy Beach are truly something to write home about! And what you’ll find inside these tide pools is truly a nature lover’s paradise. You’ll see all sorts of different sea creatures swimming around in the tide pools, including fish, crabs, and even turtles. Just be careful of the sharp lava rocks. 

The best time to visit the tide pools at Sandy Beach is during the summer months. This is when the water is warmest, and the waves are usually calm. During the winter months, the waves can be very large and dangerous, so it is not recommended to visit the tide pools during this time.

Visiting other Hawaiian islands?

We also have guides to the tidal pools of Kauai.

Did you discover other tidal pools on Oahu? Please let us know in the comments, and we’ll add them to our list!

Tried-and-tested Gadgets for Shoreline Shenanigans!

The following gear has shaped all our tide pool adventures.
We consider many of these gadgets “buy it for life” and all of them are a worthwhile investment to have a fun and safe tidepooling experience.

Stay Dry!

Vibrams provide the durability and grip required to conquer craggy, slippery rocks. Warning: Once you go Five Fingers, you’ll likely never go back!

Ever since a rogue wave caught me off guard and corroded my phone, we have used these cases whenever we go tidepooling. They work for most phones.

This dry bag is from the same brand. It’s a lot more durable than other dry bags and even has a 1-year warranty. You likely won’t need the 5-liter size.

Safe fun for kids!

It is easy to catch a bruise when tidepooling. This rash guard protects your kids if they want to sit down to take a rest. You will also need less sunscreen 😀

Vibrams are too expensive as they will grow out of them fairly quickly. Saguaros are much cheaper and come in tons of colors.

This life vest is much more stylish than those ugly orange ones your hotel lends out. The size recommendation is based on the child’s weight, which we found very precise.

To complete your Pokédex!

Cheap snorkeling masks are dangerous as they trap CO². So invested in these . Still look as good as new after ~80 snorkel trips, as they are easy to clean.

We like making memories, but aren’t avid videographers. So we didn’t splurge on a GoPro, but bought this one instead. The best: it works using voice commands!

This book offers detailed sketches and actionable advice that will elevate your tide pooling experience! It will make kids feel like biologists and biologists feel like kids again!

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