Pukoo Beach

Pukoo Beach – Secluded Shores Perfect for Snorkeling and Swimming in Molokai
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Want to go swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing in utter solitude? Just jet on over to South Shore Molokai for a visit to Pukoo Beach. There are no lifeguards on duty, however, so if you enter the water, it’s at your own risk.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Whenever you’d like to enjoy the tropical shoreline in complete solitude, just set your sights on Pukoo Beach. Located in South Shore Molokai, this beach lets you get away from it all while enjoying the oceanside to the fullest. Swimming and snorkeling are both great here, but there are no lifeguards, so it’s always at your own risk. You won’t find any bathrooms, showers, or other facilities nearby either.

To find the beach, you must travel down Kamehameha V Highway, or Hawaii State Route 450, to the Pukoo Harbor at Mile Marker 16. At that point, turn off onto the dirt access road that goes down to a small parking area. Secure your vehicle before continuing on foot toward the ocean while following the path past the boulders. After that, you’ll see the public beach sitting just along the coastline outside the mouth of the inner clover-shaped harbor.

Pukoo Beach actually features two beaches separated by a rock wall. There’s another small area on the western side of the harbor, but it’s not accessible by the access road. Instead, you’d have to make your way there by swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking. If you decide to travel to the beaches by watercraft, there’s another spot for mooring on the main beach if you wish.

Whenever you travel through the water, keep in mind that the depth near the mouth of the harbor ranges from three to six meters. You also have to be very careful to avoid disturbing the barrier reef running along the shores. Just take it slow and watch the water ahead to continue on through the open waterways. Be ready to throw your vessel in reverse as needed to change direction and avoid damaging the local ecosystem or otherwise disrupting marine life.

Once you have your watercraft safely moored on either side, you can head back out into the water with your snorkel gear equipped. The reef always serves as a wonderful spot to catch sight of colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and so much more. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see dolphins flitting through the water in the distance. They travel in pods more often than not, so if you see one, you’re likely to see the whole crew.

If you’re not comfortable going all the way out to the reef, the swimming is fantastic right near the shores. The water stays crystal clear on the eastern side, so you can clearly see the sand underfoot while standing in knee-deep water. On the other side, the water gets a bit cloudy, although it’s still plenty clear enough for swimming.

Want to stick to the shores instead? Plan your visit for the sunset hour to get the most amazing views imaginable. Oftentimes, the volcanic haze takes the vivid sunset hues to the next level by lighting up the sky in rich red tones. If you bring all the picnic fixings, you can enjoy a nice meal on the beach before watching the show start in earnest. Just don’t forget to take advantage of the golden hour by snapping photo after photo.

If you decide to come to the beach early in the day instead, you can make your way to the eatery just across the highway: Manae Goods & Grindz. Their delicious homecooked Hawaiian food is stick to your ribs delicious, making it a great place to fuel up for more fun before jetting out. Or you can stop there on the way to the beach to get your fill of tasty food before enjoying all your oceanside adventures. Either way, it’s a great way to elevate your visit to this beautiful beach.

Insider Tips:
-The inner harbor only features private beaches. So, be sure to stay off of them to avoid trespassing.
-Never enter the water during rough conditions. Check the surf report and skip the beach trip if there’s any sign of high surf, bad weather, or other worrisome conditions.   
-Put your camera in a waterproof case, so you can snap pictures of the coral reef and all its marine life while snorkeling.