Oahu’s Top Five: Shark’s Cove & Three Tables

I’m tempted to just let everyone think that we swam in a cove surrounded by great white sharks. But I’ll come clean. The name comes from the reef just outside the cove thats supposed to look like the shape of a shark from above. I’m not sure I see it, but the name stuck.

Deep blue water in a tiny cove brings rushing waves in the winter and clear calm water

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in the summer. Rather than climbing over the lava rocks to enter the cove, we opted to swim out from an opening at an adjacent tide pool at high tide. Protected, shallow and popular the tide pool feels like a public pool on most days in the summer. Honestly, I can’t see how fish even survive in the overcrowded shallows. But they do. In abundance. Most summer days the visibility is nice, the water calm and the sun warm. But in the winter the view is vastly different. The swells can be treacherous and they’ve even closed the tide pool due to dangerous wave conditions. Entering requires foot protection as the lava is razor sharp at the entrance. I traded water socks for fins, adjusted my snorkel and mask and carefully eased into the water.

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As I paddled around the quiet lagoon it felt like traversing a watery maze. Right, left, right again to avoid mossy rocks breaking the water’s surface. All the while fish darted ahead and behind me. Brightly coloured triggerfish, a school of yellow and black stripped convict tang, a spotted moray eel slithered across the sand beneath me. There’s no shortage of marine life.

Eventually I came to a deeper area and could dive beneath the surface to get a closer look at coral and rock formations. Finally the water rushed out to join Shark’s Cove and the depth dropped immediately.

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Twenty feet at the mouth, the cove is more exposed, less crowded and the inhabitants are much larger. It’s a different world. From the golden glistening of the tide pool to the sapphire inlet, exploring the darker water’s lava formations and underwater caves was exciting and relaxing after the crowded confines of the shallows. We enjoyed diving and

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exploring the deeper waters. My son Joshua dove under a small underwater arch to come up into a tiny pool. With so much to see I was exhausted before I even began the trek back across the tide pool. And we weren’t done! It was off to Three Tables Beach for more.

Three Tables was unlike any snorkeling I’ve done on the island. The “tables” are flat reef formations that rise above the surface creating a trio of “tables” off the beach. Again, some days the waves surge and become

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more appropriate for surfing, but on this day it was calm. Entering the water here is much easier with a sandy slope. Just the variety marine life alone was astounding. I tend to enjoy the underwater scenery as much as the fish and the coral was more vibrant and varied than Shark’s Cove. What I took to be a leaf turned out to be a victoria’s sea slug undulating in the water. Don’t get the wrong idea, sea slugs are beautiful and come in all shapes and sizes.

A couple of sea turtles let us swim with them (at a distance) as they picked at the moss on

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the rocks and then surged to the surface for a breath of air. They are such docile creatures, usually content to sway in the current seemingly oblivious to anything around them. But in an instant they can dart away at surprising speed.

We weren’t content to paddle around close to shore and cruised beyond the “tables” to deeper waters and then on to the exterior of the Shark’s Cove tide pool. An octopus slid across the ocean bottom and quickly took on the form of the closest rock. If we hadn’t seen him sneak by we would have never seen past his camouflage. There was no amount of coaxing that would lure him out and his patience won out.

Finally, waterlogged and pruned we trudged up the shore and collapsed onto the warm sand. Just when I thought our day was finished a small pod of dolphins made their way about 100 yards off shore. Seriously, like our day hadn’t been enthralling enough, it was the bow to finish the package.

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Crowd-Reduced Enjoyment

  • While there is really no avoiding the people enjoying the tide pool, going at high tide at least gives a little more to swim in.
  • Three Tables Beach is small and popular. But between the beach at the tide pool and Shark’s Cove there are small flat patches scattered about the lava rock that allow for a couple of towels and maybe a chair or two. It’s a little haven that keeps the crowds at arms length.
  • Mornings at Three Tables is usually quiet. If the tides and surf are ideal, explore that first and then move to the tide pool.

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