Kauai is well-known as a stunning tourist attraction. The island boasts miles of pristine coastline and tropical rain forest, giving it the nickname of the Garden Isle. A vacation on the island of Kauai is destined to be laid back, adventurous, and one where memories are made. Snorkeling in Kauai, HI, is one of the main attractions and a great way to explore the island in more depth.
Snorkeling is a popular activity on Kauai. The majority of the vast coastline has easy access to the beach. There are snorkeling spots with varying levels of difficulty. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling with turtles and a host of tropical fish.
Kauai may be the perfect choice for you if you are looking for a scenic and adventurous vacation. The island is relatively small, so your stay is likely to be authentic, and you may find yourself adopting the nature-loving ethos of the island while there. One of the most exquisite activities on the island is snorkeling. As you plan your trip to Kauai, read on as we uncover all you need to know about snorkeling this scenic destination.
Is Kauai Good For Snorkeling?
Kauai has around 90 miles of coastline, and of those, about 50 miles are glorious white sand beaches. This makes Kauai a great place to snorkel, as most of the best spots are free and accessible from the beach.
The island has snorkeling spots that are great for beginners and those looking for a little more of a challenge. The North and East shores of the island are not as protected as the West, where we find the best snorkeling spots on Kauai. However, with a bit of care, you will have a great snorkeling experience that is also safe.
While snorkeling in Kauai, you may be lucky enough to experience the magic of swimming with sea turtles. You will probably see pods of dolphins too. Sharks inhabit the waters; however, there are between two and three attacks per year, and nearly all are non-fatal. The nature-rich surroundings of Kauai, with tall mountains, tropical rain forests, and pristine beaches, make it a great snorkeling destination. Enjoy the hikes to and from the beaches and take in all the natural splendor the island has to offer.
Where Are The Best Snorkeling Spots In Kauai?
As you dream of your trip to Kauai, you may wish to plan your snorkeling adventures ahead of time. Read on as we give you our top selection of snorkeling spots for beginner and advanced snorkelers. Each location we mention has information on what to expect, as well as the level of difficulty and what you might see there!
Please remember to consider safety first. If you have minimal experience with snorkeling, it is in your best interest to play it safe. There is so much to see in every one of these spots that you really can’t go wrong.
1. Anahola Beach
Anahola Beach is loved by locals and tourists alike. The beach has a gentle slope and sandy floor, making walking, paddling, and snorkeling easy and comfortable. Anahola Beach is easy to access with a car and is a family favorite on the weekends.
The main section is manned by lifeguards; however, the river mouth is not, so avoid going into the water at that point, especially since the currents can get pretty intense. The water ranges from 0 to 15 feet deep.
This is a good beach for beginners and more advanced snorkelers. Beginners can enjoy staying closer to the beach, and more advanced snorkelers can venture to the reef side.
What To Look Out For While Snorkeling Anahola Beach
While snorkeling at Anahola Beach, you can expect to see octopus, sergeant majors, pufferfish, convict tangs, zebra moray eels, goatfish, parrotfish, green sea turtles, the state fish of Hawaii (humuhumunukunukuapua’a), rock formations, and coral. Whether you stick to the spots more suited for beginners or venture out, you are bound to be treated to some incredible sights.
2. Lydgate State Park, Keiki Pond
This beach is on the East Coast and is an excellent destination for families and beginner snorkelers. It is staffed by lifeguards and is easily accessible. The park has two enclosed ponds or tidal pools walled off by rocks. (Keiki pond means child, or little one) Popular activities in this park include watching the sunrise, swimming, snorkeling, and picnicking. (Sounds like heaven, right?)
This is an excellent spot for beginners as a breakwater protects it, and there is much fish to view in the area. The protected pool allows beginner snorkelers to practice in still water while staying safe from free-flowing seawater.
Although the pool is protected, fish swim through the crevices, so you will be able to enjoy watching them.
What To Look Out For While Snorkeling Lydgate State Park
While you may not be treated to coral in Keiki Pond, you will be able to see small tropical fish. Pufferfish and yellowtail cori are among the most abundant.
3. Salt Pond
Salt Pond is part of a well-known cultural site in Kauai. It’s on the most South-Western point of the island. Salt Pond is a relatively quiet beach with a small bay and is calm with almost no current. The water is relatively shallow, resulting in some cloudy views while snorkeling. Still, if you keep close to the rocks, you will be able to see a fair number of fish and wildlife.
You will find toilets at the beach, shade covering, and a food truck at times. There are lifeguards on duty. The beach park forms part of a natural wetland, and the salt beds found here are for the sole use of native Kauaian people. The bay consists of three sections. The central bay is the deepest section and is excellent for swimming. The baby pond is on the right and is protected by the reef. The last section is the airport side, which is the best spot for snorkeling.
Beginners and advanced snorkelers will enjoy this beach. There are a few shallow pools for children and beginners to snorkel in, and the nearby reef means the water is pretty protected. Tide pools provide even more opportunities to see tropical fish in this spot.
What To Look Out For While Snorkeling Salt Pond
Because the waters are calm, you could be lucky enough to see a few monk seals. You may also be treated to moray eels, black sea cucumbers, Spanish dancer starfish, hermit crabs, and sea urchins, as well as a host of other tropical fish.
4. Ke’e Beach
Ke’e Beach is on the North shore close to the Na Pali coast, a tourist must-see.
Snorkeling is good at Ke’e Beach, especially in Summer when the water is calm. There are strong currents during the other seasons, which make snorkeling rather dangerous. Just beyond the sand on Ke’e Beach is a luscious forest that you can hike if you are so inclined.
Ke’e Beach has outdoor showers, lifeguards, public toilets, and picnic tables. It is considered a family-friendly beach, though strong currents and dangerous areas near the rocks can make it tricky in the water. For this reason, it is good to chat with the lifeguards about potential hazards before going in.
Ke’e Beach is a good spot for beginners and up, especially in Summer when the water is calm.
What To Look Out For While Snorkeling Ke’e Beach
This gorgeous Northern spot is home to a variety of sea wildlife. If you are lucky, you might spot a green sea turtle. You will most likely see goatfish, wrasses, unicornfish, needlefish, sea cucumbers, coronet fish, and butterflyfish. There are lava rocks with coral on top, making for beautiful viewing.
5. Makua (Tunnels) Beach
This spot has been described as the best snorkeling beach in Kauai, and for a good reason. The reef you will find at this North shore beach is so large it can be seen from space!
The water is calm and relatively safe during the summer months, and the beach is sandy.
Tunnels Beach gets its name from the sand channels running through the large reef. Enter the water by using the sand channels to avoid stepping on any coral. Once you are in the water, you should be surrounded by gorgeous sights. The floor here is made up of rocks and coral, so try to stay afloat rather than putting your feet down.
There are no public toilets at Tunnels; however, there are nearby, at Haena Beach Park. Parking can become a problem, so try to arrive before 9am, or you may find yourself walking quite a distance.
Beginners will enjoy a lot to see from around 10 feet in. More advanced snorkelers will enjoy venturing further, past the cove, to see the outer reefs.
What To Look Out For While Snorkeling Makua (Tunnels) Beach
Makua is known for its sea turtle population. In the water, other wildlife you might see include parrotfish, sergeant majors, Moorish idol, butterflyfish, coronet fish, and omilu, which flashes a neon color when the sun touches its fin. Of course, you are bound to see loads of beautiful coral.
There are so many gorgeous spots to snorkel in Kauai. We have provided only a few to get your search started, but it’s well worth it to research as much as possible before you go and ask your hotel staff for more information when you are on the island.
It is excellent to take advantage of the free and easily accessible snorkeling spots from the beach. If you would like to go a little further afield, boat tours are available on the island, and most will provide you with snorkel gear as part of the package. With so many stunning spots to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice as you take in the beauty on and off the coast of Kauai.
Can I Snorkel With Turtles In Kauai?
One of the most anticipated aspects of snorkeling in Kauai is the prospect of seeing turtles in the water. Green sea turtles, found in Kauai, are among the largest turtles in the world. They are considered precious and protected animals by the people of Kauai. They were once endangered, but now, through conservation programs, we are able to watch them, with all their splendor, in their natural habitat.
You are most likely to spot a sea turtle while snorkeling in shallow water, but all snorkelers and swimmers are asked to keep a distance of between 10 to 15 feet from them.
If you visit Kauai between May and September, you could be lucky enough to sea turtle nests. Female turtles lay up to 1,400 eggs per season; however, only around a thousand will survive to adulthood. Sea turtles are considered good luck in Kauai, so if you are lucky enough to spot one while snorkeling, you will be able to carry the experience with you forever.
If seeing sea turtles is at the top of your list of Kauai adventures, you will want to visit the following beaches where they are often spotted:
- Whalers Cove
- Brennecke Beach
- Lawai Beach
- Tunnels Beach
- Queens Bath
Where Is The Water The Clearest In Kauai?
The clearest water in Kauai can be found on the North shore. Hanalei Bay Beach has been ranked in the top 10 beaches in Hawaii. The water here is a clear and fresh turquoise color, and the area boasts cool waterfalls with a beautiful mist.
In Kauai, another beach to note is Ke’e Beach Park. Here, you can find reef fish and sea turtles. Poipu Beach Park is also particularly family-friendly and safe for small children and is home to schools of tropical fish.
Are There Sharks In Kauai?
Kauai is home to a few species of sharks. There is, however, no need to fear snorkeling or enjoying the water. In the whole of the Hawaii area, there are only 3 or 4 shark bites a year. In Kauai, it is as low as 2 to 3. Of the attacks, very few are fatal.
Whitetip sharks are the most commonly found sharks in the area. They are typically scared of humans and will usually vacate the area when they sense people swimming and snorkeling nearby. Sharks are held in high regard in Hawaii. They are revered for their sensitivity and intelligence, and there are even shark gods in Hawaiian culture.
While there are wild sharks in the waters of Kauai, you will not find activities like shark cage diving on the island. The general ethos of the people of Kauai is to respect animals and enjoy observing them in their natural habitat, doing what they would naturally be doing.
What Should I Be Aware Of When Snorkeling in Kauai?
Snorkeling in Kauai is truly an experience that is unique and bound to go down as one of your best vacations. In order to have a safe and happy vacation on the island and get the most from your snorkeling adventures, it’s best to take a few points into account and keep these tips in mind.
Our Top 6 Tips To Keep In Mind When Snorkeling In Kauai
Snorkeling in Kauai is possibly at the top of your bucket list. While your excitement may be mounting at the thought of your vacation, there are a few items you should keep in mind. Our top tops will keep you, the animals, and the plants safe during your stay.
1. Strong Currents And Reef Cuts
Because most of the best snorkeling spots on Kauai are in the North and East of the island, it means that you may encounter strong currents. Most of the snorkeling spots on the main island are on the more protected western side, making it a little safer for beginners.
Shark attacks are minimal in the area; however, if you are snorkeling, you should consider that there are sharks in the water. With around three shark attacks per year, and almost none being fatal, this isn’t a huge concern; however, something you should be aware of.
3. Steep Hikes
One of the best aspects of snorkeling in Kauai is that most of the spots are accessible from the beach and are free to use. However, keep in mind that you will need to hike pretty steep mountains to gain access to some of the best snorkeling beaches. This means you will need to be physically fit enough to make the steep, sometimes slippery hike to the beach and back again after snorkeling.
4. The Coral Reef
The coral reef is undoubtedly a spectacle to be witnessed. Be aware that it consists of living organisms that can be hurt and killed, just like any other. Please avoid stepping on it or taking pieces away when snorkeling in Kauai. Apply a sunscreen that is safe for the coral reef to avoid damaging it in any way.
5. Rocks And Currents
The best advice we have heard for snorkeling in Kauai is to wait before going into the water to snorkel. The idea is to arrive at the beach, find a comfy spot, and watch the water for around half an hour. Keep your eye out for the current and for any rocks that could pose a threat to you as you snorkel. It’s also a good idea to chat with any lifeguards on duty about the conditions that day.
Once you feel confident that you know what to expect, go and have the time of your life… safely.
The people of Kauai care deeply for their island and all its inhabitants. Before embarking on a hike, swim, or snorkel, be sure to check with your hotel staff if there are any conservation rules you need to keep in mind.
Snorkeling in Kauai is a true bucket-list vacation. There is very little not to love with miles of pristine, white beach, glorious mountains, and tropical rain forest to explore. As you plan your snorkeling trip to the island, keep in mind your snorkeling abilities to ensure you stay safe at all times. Foster healthy respect for the island, its inhabitants, and its culture, and you will be set for a vacation of a lifetime.