Heading to Santa Cruz and looking for info on Shark Fin Cove?! Welcome – you’ve come to the right place! I’m sharing everything you need to know about this secluded hidden beach in Northern California – one of the best spots on the PCH!
You’re driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, and BAM – you see a massive rock shaped just like a shark fin. Actually, that’s not how it goes at all, since Shark Fin Cove is actually hidden from the road, but you get the gist, haha.
This hidden gem along the coast is known for its distinctive rock formation that looks just like a shark fin – don’t you see it?! Kinda hard to miss! And the beach and bluffs at Shark Fin Cove are just gorgeous; easily one of the best beaches in all of California, and the most unique at that!
Although I wouldn’t really consider it “hidden” anymore (it’s got over 1500 reviews on Google Maps), but hey, I have a feeling most people driving the California coast have no idea it’s there! I sure didn’t my first few years living in NorCal!
I’ve visited Shark Fin Cove a bunch (usually on my way to/from Santa Cruz), and am amazed at the views each and every time. I typically admire the iconic shark fin rock from above on the bluffs or at the start of trail (what I consider the “viewpoint”), but on my last visit, I finally made my way down to the beach! Highly recommend you do if you’re able! It’s a steep and slippery climb, but more on that later.
Psst – Shark Fin Cove also goes by “Shark Tooth Beach” and “Davenport Cove”, so if you see those somewhere, just know they’re referring to the same spot (different than Davenport Beach, though).
So if you’re looking for some laid-back California vibes and stunning coastal views, add Shark Fin Cove to your PCH itinerary! Promise you won’t regret it! Also a great stop on any Northern California road trip if you find yourself on the coast.
Shark Fin Cove Logistics
Where is Shark Fin Cove Exactly
Shark Fin Cove is located in the small town of Davenport, California, just north of Santa Cruz along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). Its location between Santa Cruz and San Francisco make it a perfect day trip from either one, or as a stop on a much longer PCH road trip.
It’s relatively close to other major spots in Northern California, especially those on the coast.
Looking at a map you’ll notice it’s really far from Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego, so I recommend spending the night in either Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay if you’re looking to visit Shark Fin Cove. The perfect weekend trip from SoCal – plus, there’s loads more to do in the area to warrant the long(ish) drive!
- From Santa Cruz: 10 miles (15 minutes)
- From Half Moon Bay: 40 miles (45 minutes)
- From San Jose: 45 miles (50 minutes)
- From Monterey/Carmel: 55 miles (1 hour)
- From San Francisco: 65 miles (1 ½ hours)
- From Los Angeles: 350 miles (5 ½ hours)
- From San Diego: 475 miles (7+ hours)
How to Get to Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove is located on the California coast, right on Highway 1. With your own car it’s super easy to get here – just drive north on Highway 1 to get here from Santa Cruz, or south on Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay/Pescadero.
The only option to get here is to drive, as there isn’t any public transport that stops over here at the beach.
I guess you can always call an Uber from Santa Cruz (it’s only 15-20 minutes away or so), but you’ll likely have difficulty getting a ride back once you’re done at the beach. Plan to walk the 15 minutes into the tiny town of Davenport and take the local bus – Santa Cruz Metro (#42) back to downtown Santa Cruz. Find the bus schedule here.
Parking at Shark Fin Cove
Thankfully, there’s a small lot! A dirt pull-out parking lot along the PCH to be exact, but it’s something! And no it’s not paved, but it’s completely free! Input “Shark Fin Cove Parking Lot” into your GPS, and you’ll get right there.
There’s zero signs for Shark Fin Cove, so keep note of your location on Google Maps. You’ll see some cars in a pull out on the side of the road. While there’s plenty of space for cars on the dirt on the side of the road, be extra cautious. When leaving, be careful as the parking is right on the main road (Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway), and cars are literally zooming by.
Walking to the Overlook
You’ll notice when you park, there’s not much to see. That’s because you need to walk a short trail (about 10-15 minutes or so) to the Shark Fin Cove overlook. And it’s pretty cool as you’ll be walking over an old railroad track (don’t worry – it’s not in use anymore).
There’s no signs, but just keep walking a few minutes and you’ll know exactly when you get there, haha. It’s kinda hard to miss the views of the giant shark fin rock down below!
If you don’t wanna walk the trail down to the actual beach (I don’t blame you), you can get some great photos from up here.
The Short Hike Down to the Beach
If you wanna get to the sand at Shark Fin Cove, you’ll need to hike down a short trail. Despite being super short (about .3 miles), it’s rocky and steep (75 feet of elevation change) with lots of loose sand. Meaning, it’s super easy to slip and fall. The trail’s not maintained at all, so there’ll probably be some overgrown greenery and shrubs to walk through as well.
Anyone with any level of physical fitness can hike down, but just know it’s very slippery and steep, and hardly maintained. Take your time – there’s no rush!
My sister and I had such a hard time that we needed to literally hold on to her husband practically the entire walk down. It took us about 15-20 minutes or so, although it felt way longer considering we felt like we were going to fall the entire time!
Other people had an easier time, although mostly everyone agreed that it’s slippery. We’re not very good downhill hikers as you can see, haha. My brother-in-law even had to hold our bags for us so we could do the crab walk a few times! No shame; we made it down safely!
Going back up is much, much easier, and we got to the top in less than 5 minutes or so. We couldn’t believe just how fast we managed to climb up, considering we needed to keep stopping on the way down.
Things to Bring to Shark Fin Cove
Despite having zero facilities, you really don’t need too much at Shark Fin Cove. Yourself, some water, sunscreen, a snack, and maybe a towel will suffice.
Honestly, only bring what you need – you’ll be kicking yourself if you have to lug beach chairs and sand toys all the way down. Only carry what you can throw in a backpack. Nothing else.
When to Visit Shark Fin Cove
Crowds: I’m not too sure Shark Fin Cove ever gets ridiculously busy (unlike the beaches in Half Moon Bay and Pacifica). Probably because it’s still relatively unknown to visitors, and the fact that you need to hike down a steep trail.
Regardless of this, you probably won’t be alone – it’s spectacular for a reason! As with most other spots on the California coast, weekdays will be less busy, with weekends bringing locals and those in the know driving the PCH.
Weather: A clear, sunny day is best for admiring the views from both the bluffs and down below. Sure, Shark Fin Cove is still pretty impressive when it’s foggy, but it’s always a bit too cold for me when the sun isn’t shining.
Psst – low tide is absolutely essential if you wanna check out the sea cave.
Important Info about Shark Fin Cove
- Leave no trace, always! Like everywhere you visit/hike on the coast, do your best to leave no trace. This means packing out what you pack in, keeping music levels to a minimum, not taking fossilized items/artifacts/shells from the beach, and no graffiti. Unfortunately plenty of people have already graffitied the cave, and ugh what a shame! Not cool at all! Do your part and don’t be one of those losers.
- Wear proper footwear: Despite the end of the trail leading to a sandy beach, I highly encourage you to keep the sandals at home. The trail down is short but super steep – you’ll wanna wear shoes with a proper grip (we wore sneakers and were so glad we did).
- Not stroller or wheelchair-friendly: Unfortunately, Shark Fin Cove isn’t very accessible, as the bluffs are very rocky/sandy, and the hike down to the beach is super steep and slippery. You can probably make it to the overlook without too much hassle though!
- Expect zero facilities: This is a secluded beach on the Pacific Coast Highway, with little to no facilities. This means no bathroom, no food/drink, and definitely no beach chairs for rent (hah!). Bring what you need as you won’t be able to get anything here.
- Be aware of the tide: If you wanna explore the cave at all, make sure to visit Shark Fin Cove at low tide. There’ll hardly be any beach left at high tide, and the cave is exceptionally dangerous then. And psst – the water will always be chilly, no matter the time of year. This is Northern California afterall!
- Be extra careful in the water: Like most beaches in Northern California, the water isn’t very calm. Expect lots of waves, and for the water to crash on the shore and rocks pretty forcefully. Shark Fin Cove is definitely not the place for young kids to wander around themselves.
- Watch out for poison oak: There’s sometimes poison oak on the trail leading down to the beach. Learn what it looks like in advance, and if you see any, stay away! Wear long pants to prevent any unwanted rashes.
Things to do At Shark Fin Cove
A visit to Shark Fin Cove can take 15 minutes, or a few hours! Totally up to you. But whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
Walk on Shark Fin Cove Beach
The beach is pretty tiny and you’ll need to hike down that steep path I was complaining about before, but yup, I highly recommend it!
The perspective of the rock is so much different from down below, and you’ll get a feeling for just how truly massive it is.
Once down you can explore the rock, the sea cave, and dip your toes in the water (although I don’t recommend going in any further as the water is cold and the tide is pretty rough).
Hang on the Rock Slab
There’s a large rock slab on the left side of the beach with great views of the shark fin. You can spread your towel here and sunbathe (you might get kinda wet…), but ONLY during extremely low or negative tide. It can be quite dangerous at high tide, with the water crashing along the rock slab.
Never turn your back towards the ocean, ever. Be careful when walking on the rock slab – it’s pretty slippery but definitely doable if you’re watching your footing.
Explore the Sea Cave
Once you make your way down, veer to the left on the sand and you’ll come across a sea cave! It’s actually an old mining tunnel. You can only walk into the sea cave when it’s low tide – don’t even attempt at high tide. It’s extremely dangerous and you can get swept out to sea. Be safe!
Admire Shark Fin Cove from Above
Don’t wanna make your way down to the beach? Don’t worry, you can totally see the massive shark fin-shaped rock from the overlook. And it only takes a few minutes to reach.
Wander along the bluffs (on the right) to capture different views and angles of the iconic shark fin rock. It doesn’t really resemble a shark fin from the side, but still cool to look at. Don’t forget your camera!
Things to Do Before/After Visiting Shark Fin Cove
This is the California coast baby! Of course there’s loads to do here! While you can see tons in Santa Cruz, Pescadero, and Half Moon Bay, these are a few of my favorites:
- Santa Cruz Boardwalk: Have you really been to Santa Cruz if you haven’t ridden the colorful Sky Glider and had a few carnival treats on the boardwalk?! There’s tons of rides (even a few roller coasters), carnival games, and even a spooky underground maze (so fun and unexpected). Kinda expensive but always so fun. Come during the week for less crowds (this place gets busy for a reason).
- Wilder Ranch State Park: Another one of my favorite spots on the California coast! The cliffs honestly look a tad like my favorite coastal hike in The Algarve in southern Portugal! I swear, I was smitten every step on the Old Cove Landing Trail – a must do. Absolutely gorgeous, just note there’s a $10 parking fee and no dogs are allowed.
- Swanton Berry Farms: Visiting in summer?! Make a stop at Swanton Berry Farms to go strawberry picking! The farm is organic and thankfully no chemicals are sprayed. The strawberries are ohhh so sweet, and there’s also strawberry jam, apple strawberry cider, and strawberry shortcake for sale!
- Pigeon Point Light Station: One of my favorite places on the PCH, and where I always take visitors! So much history here, and the coastal views are spectacular (look out for seals and whales, especially in winter). There’s even a hostel on property if you wanna wake up to ocean views without breaking the bank! While you’re over here in Pescadero, stop by Arcangeli Grocery Co. for some famous artichoke bread!
So there ya have it – everything you need to know about visiting Shark Fin Cove beach in Davenport (Santa Cruz)! Are you stopping here on your next PCH road trip?!