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Kauai is beautiful. Both on the land and underwater. But finding a great place to snorkel in Kauai isn’t as easy as just pulling over on the side of the road and jumping in the water. There are currents to contend with and rocky beaches, which can make entering and exiting the water a challenge.
To help you find the best places to snorkel on Kauai, we rounded up these five top spots.
Kauai Snorkeling FAQs:
Does Kauai have good snorkeling?
Kauai has great snorkeling and in a number of spots you’ll be able to see plenty of sea life without going too far from shore. While it’s not the best island for snorkeling, thanks to challenging ocean currents during the winter months, you can still find a number of great places to get in the water and enjoy the colorful fish.
Which Side of Kauai is best for snorkeling?
You can snorkel all over Kauai, but the best snorkeling spots are found on the north and south shore. Whether you’ll find better snorkeling on the north or south side of Kauai depends on the time of year. During the winter months, the best snorkeling on Kauai is on the south shore, where the most popular spots have calm water. During the summer months, the best snorkeling is found on Kauai’s north shore, when you’ll experience very few waves in the best snorkeling spots.
Can you swim with turtles on Kauai?
When you’re snorkeling on Kauai, you’ll likely see a turtle or two swimming along with you. If you want to increase your chances of seeing a sea turtle while you’re snorkeling, head to these spots:
- Koloa Landing: You won’t find super clear water here, but you’ll find a number of resident turtles that hang out near the boat launch area.
- Anini Beach: If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot turtles swimming close to shore here, even before you get into the water.
- Poipu Beach: Near the rocky area that separates Poipu from Brennecke’s Beach, you’ll often find turtles eating.
While it can be exciting to swim with turtles, remember that you will need to keep your distance. It’s recommended to stay at least 10 feet away from turtles in the water.
And since we’re talking about respecting the ocean life, you’ll definitely want to make sure you only use reef safe sunscreen before you jump in (it’s the law).
Best time of year to snorkel on Kauai?
While you can snorkel year-round on Kauai, the best time to snorkel is during the summer months. You’ll have access to the most snorkeling spots, including those on the north shore. Because currents and waves become very dangerous during the winter months on the north shore of Kauai, the best snorkeling spots there are only accessible during the summer.
Best Snorkeling on Kauai for beginners?
Though it looks easy when you’re watching from the beach, snorkeling is actually a difficult activity. Particularly, if you’re a beginner. You have ocean currents to contend with, waves, and breathing into a tube which can feel unnatural.
In our opinion, the best snorkeling spot on Kauai for beginners is the pond at Lydgate beach. The water is protected from most currents, the bottom is mostly sandy, and there is a lifeguard on duty.
Related read: get our full list of kid friendly beaches on Kauai, perfect for getting the entire family in the water.
5 Best Snorkeling Spots on Kauai
Related snorkeling articles:
1. Makua (Tunnels) Beach
Often cited as the best snorkeling spot on Kauai, Tunnels Beach offers summer snorkelers plenty of opportunities to swim among plenty of fish and other sea life. But, you have to work for it. First, parking is a challenge. The best place to find parking is at Haena Beach Park (not to be confused with Hā’ena State Park). You’ll need to arrive early or be prepared to wait for a parking spot to open up.
Once you’ve secured parking, you’re in for a bit of a walk. You’ll head to the right and then after a few hundred yards you’ll see the reef close to the shore. This is where you can head into the water to enjoy the different types of fish, and possibly a turtle or two. The outer reef is exposed to strong currents, so stay closer to shore for an easier snorkeling experience.
This is not a spot to snorkel during the winter, thanks to strong ocean currents and swells on the north shore of Kauai. So enjoy it during the summer and head south in the winter.
2. Ke’e Beach
You have to plan well in advance for this one, but it’s absolutely worth it. This is probably the most beautiful beach in Kauai (bold statement, but true) and it offers some amazing snorkeling with a reef very close to the shore. Beware that outside of the reef you will encounter strong currents and rip tides, so it’s important to not venture too far away. But you won’t need to as the fish and sea life near shore is plentiful. A bonus for snorkeling here is that as you’re heading back towards shore, you can look up and see the beautiful Napali Coast mountains. This stunning setting is worth a visit, even without snorkeling.
Ke’e Beach also made our list of the best beaches on Kauai for swimming.
A reservation to visit Haena State Park and Ke’e beach is required and must be booked well in advance (it sells out quickly!). Just like Tunnels Beach, snorkeling here in the winter can be dangerous, so keep this place on the top of your list for summer vacations only.
3. Anini Beach
We love to take our 3-year-old son to this beach because the shallow reef keeps waters calm. I’ve seen some sources note that Anini Beach is the longest and widest reef in Hawaii. But it’s not just the calm water that brings people to Anini — you can also enjoy some great snorkeling here. Without needing to go far from the shore, you can see plenty of sea life amongst the coral and you can often spot a turtle or two. The water at Anini beach is shallow, and snorkeling during low tide can often mean you’re navigating areas that are too shallow to easily swim in with visibility that isn’t as clear as you’d like to have when looking at the beautiful fish.
Anini beach is long and there are two main areas people visit. The first, Anini Beach Campground offers facilities like showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and a boat ramp. Continuing past that you’ll find a few places to park along the road and continue walking the long stretches of beach.
As this is a north shore beach, currents and waves can get very dangerous in the winter, making this a bad place to get into the water during those months. Make sure to always check Hawaii Beach Safety to see current conditions and learn ways to keep yourself safe in the water.
4. Lydgate Beach
If you’re looking for an easy place to snorkel practically year-round, the pond at Lydgate Beach is your answer. Built with a wall of rocks to enclose it, this pond protects swimmers and snorkelers from the powerful waves and currents that are just on the other side of the rocks. But those rocks don’t keep fish from entering the pond. We were able to see large surgeonfish swimming from side to side.
Lydgate Beach is also a beach park full of amenities including a lifeguard station, bathrooms, and a large playground.
5. Poipu Beach
Poipu Beach on the south shore of Kauai is not only one of the best beaches in Hawaii, but it is also an excellent place to snorkel. At Poipu Beach you’ll find plenty of marine life: turtles, a number of fish, and the occasional monk seal. And you don’t need to snorkel far from shore to see a wide array of sealife — the reef is a quick swim from shore.
At Poipu Beach, you’ll find two crescent-shaped beaches separated by a shallow sandbar. The area on the left is calmer and offers easy swimming. The area on the right has a few more waves but is a more popular snorkeling spot.
You also have a lifeguard here and plenty of parking, making this a fantastic place to head for snorkeling.
Remember, Hawaiian Monk Seals are endangered animals so if you do encounter them, stay away and give them their space.
Bonus: Best Boat Snorkeling Trip
While we love a good beach snorkel, there’s something special about a boat day out on the water. Especially in Kauai when you can take a snorkeling trip up the famous Napali coast. There are a number of tours you can choose from but this is the Napali Coast Snorkeling Tour we’ve had the best time on. It’s a long day, but so very worth it!
Plus you can’t go wrong with any one of the best snorkeling tours on Kauai.
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