Kauai is one of the most spectacular destinations in the world, offering top notch snorkeling to those loving to get up close and personal with a variety of fish and large sea turtles. One of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is a great snorkeling destination. What makes Kauai so great is that there is free access to almost every snorkeling hot spot right from the gorgeous beaches, as well as perfect snorkeling depths.
Best Spots for Snorkeling Kauai
The spots for snorkeling Kauai are divided by North Shore and South Shore locations. Whichever side of the island you chose to explore there are some fantastic options.
North Shore Locations
Tunnels, also referred to as Makua Beach, has a massive reef to explore that features giant coral heads. You need to be an experienced swimmer when venturing out into this reef, but you will certainly be rewarded with magnificent underwater life. Arrive early in the morning or you likely won’t get a parking spot, and enter the water from the right end of the sandy beach so that you can snorkel with the current instead of against it. Swim out towards the center of the horseshoe reef where it gets a bit shallower and here you will find massive coral heads and a variety of fish, such as butterflyfish, cornetfish, hogfish, hawkfish and many others.
Hideaways Beach is a secluded, smaller beach. There is limited parking here and you will need to arrive early to get a spot. You can enter the water from anywhere along the beach, but be aware of reef spurs and large-drop offs. Snorkel in the grooves that run perpendicular to the beach in depths that are around 10 feet, as the best marine life is closer to shore. Here you can see drummers, damselfish, barracudas, triggerfish, unicornfish and occasionally some turtles.
South Shore Locations
Koloa Landing is accessed from an older boat ramp that is no longer used as such. Here you can see massive, healthy coral heads which are not so easily spotted in the waters surrounding Kauai. When entering on the boat ramp, wear footwear because it is very slimy and slippery. Snorkel along one side out to the rocky point and then back in along the same side. This area is very large and you will have better luck seeing a variety of fish and turtles along the right side of the bay.
Lawai Beach is a very good spot for snorkeling Kauai and it is easily accessed. Even if the area is crowded, there is an abundance of fish to explore. Enter the water from anywhere along the beach, but keep your eyes open for rocks. The visibility gets better if you swim out further, as does the coral heads. Swimming along the left side of the reef you can see urchins, tang, parrotfish, coris, wrasse and many other species of tropical fish.
Prime Time for Snorkeling Kauai
Kauai is one of the rainiest locations on earth. This is the reason it is so lush and beautiful, but this also affects the quality of snorkeling. Due to the rain, it is best to visit Kauai during summer. Temperatures are a bit warmer during summer, between +29-32C (85-90F), but the snorkeling conditions are great with clear, calm and warm waters.
How to Get to Kauai
Flying directly into Kauai is the cheapest and most efficient way to reach the island. If you were to fly to another island first, Hawaiian Airlines is the only airline that offers inter-island flights and they can be a bit costly. If Kauai is your first and only destination, consider flying directly into Lihue Airport from your point of origin.
Whether you are planning a trip to Kauai specifically to snorkel, or just looking for a fun activity to do while vacationing there, you should certainly consider snorkeling Kauai.