Best Snorkeling in Kauai, Hawaii

Gorgeous Kauai, the Garden Isle, is known for its lush tropical jungles and many amazing waterfalls. Not as well known, however, is the fact that as breathtaking as Kauai's scenery is above water, it is equally as spectacular underwater. The vivid blue sea surrounding Kauai is positively teeming with colorful tropical fish and other marine life, such as monk seals and Hawaii's beloved sea turtles, and unusual fish such as the Hawaiian frog fish, which propels itself through the water by taking in large amounts of sea water and then forcing it through the gill slits that are set back on its body.

Kauai is located the farthest northwest of all the major Hawaiian islands (see map below), its snorkeling sites tend to be a little more exposed to stormy weathers and strong currents, so snorkelers should always check weather conditions before heading out for an underwater sightseeing swim. Also because of Kauai's positioning, the island's best snorkeling spots are mostly located on its north, south and east sides. So remember that safety is first, always wear a snorkeling vest, go with a buddy and leave directions with someone, where you are going.


Some of the best snorkeling in Kauai, Hawaii, can be found at the Tunnels which is located on the island's north end. This picturesque area, which is also known as Makua Beach at Ha'ena Point, was used as the setting for the movie, "South Pacific." Tunnels has reef areas that are suitable for snorkelers of all levels, and it is home to a large number of fish, including several varieties of Butterfly fish, tangs, parrot fish, and even the fierce-looking moray eel. While the outer reef provides the most interesting sea life encounters, including the occasional sea turtle or reef shark sighting, it is best left to strong, experienced snorkelers, as currents can be strong out here. Beginners need not fret, however, as the inner reef has plenty of marine life sightings for the inexperienced snorkeler and/or weaker swimmer to enjoy.


Another spot that offers great snorkeling is Anini Beach, which is also located on the island's north end. Because, this long three-mile-long beach is protected by Kauai's largest reef, its waters are fairly calm. Anini, which was once known as Wanini until the W fell of its sign, has a large shallow area inside of the reef that is perfect for beginner snorkelers. Swimmers, however, do need to pay attention to their location, as the outgoing tides can be strong at times and could pull an unsuspecting swimmer out to sea. Anini's reef is home to many tropical fish, including the unicorn fish and humuhumunukunukuapuaa, better known as the triggerfish.


Located near Princeville, is yet another good destination on Kauai's north shore for snorkeling. The reef at Pali Ke Kua, which is also known as Hideaways Beach, is teeming with colorful marine life, but it is less accessible than some other sites in Kauai, as visitors must make their way down a steep path to reach this destination.


Kauai's south shore is also home to several good snorkeling sites, including Lawa'i Beach, which is also known as Beach House Beach. Although this area does not have the best reef system, it is teeming with lively tropical fish and the waters are usually clear and calm, especially in the summer months. Sea turtles are also commonly spotted in this area.


The east side offers some of the best snorkeling and is also an excellent spot for beginners and kids to learn how to snorkel. A small lagoon has been sectioned off by a manmade rock wall and snorkelers are allowed to feed the many fish here. Children who aren't quite ready to snorkel yet can lie on a boogie board and study the fish, while their older siblings snorkel in Lydgate State Park's tranquil waters.


A popular tourist beach and snorkeling destination that is also located on the south shore which boasts a small island that is connected to the main beach by a spit of land, is another excellent spot for beginner snorkelers. In addition to a large variety of fish, snorkelers often spot turtles swimming in this bay.

By Roy Jamason

Updated December 22, 2014

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