See tropical fish, turtles and eels amongst the colourful coral on this North Shore beach, one of the best snorkelling spots on the island.
Surrounded by surf beaches, Pūpūkea Beach is best known for its snorkelling. In summer the water recedes far back and tidal pools filled with marine life are exposed. Put on a mask and snorkel when the tide is high to explore the coral reef and swim with tropical fish.
Snorkel with caution to avoid stepping on sea urchins or scraping against the coral and wear a pair of water shoes. These can be bought from most surf shops but are a necessity, especially on Pūpūkea where the beach is coral and rock as opposed to sand.
The coral is brimming with marine animals. Look close enough and you’ll see hundreds of creatures, from tiny fish to eels. See a black-and-yellow trigger fish, called a humuhumunukunukuapua’a in Hawaiian. Spot turtles near their nests and on the beach.
Pūpūkea is divided into several sections, with a protected area to the north. Shark’s Cove is the best place to explore the rock pools at low tide. Then, put on a snorkel when the water rises and discover the fish and other animals that come out of the coral. The calm and shallow waters are good for beginner snorkellers and safe for children under supervision.
South of Shark’s Cove are three reef formations called the "Three Tables". Some swimmers climb onto the “tables” but this isn’t recommended; it’s easy to be knocked against or off the rocks by waves.
In winter the water turns choppy and the waves are huge. It’s not safe to snorkel here in the cooler months. Some professional surfers enjoy the challenge that Pūpūkea’s winter waves present and the beach is a great spot to sit and watch them.
Stop at Pūpūkea on O’ahu’s northern coast between Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline. It is roughly 10 kilometres (6 miles) north of Hale’iwa.
There are street parks between Three Tables and the grocery store. Buy food and drinks from the store to bring to the beach for the day.