The 6 Best Beaches in Kauai for Snorkeling
Kauai lives up to its reputation of being one of the best island paradises of the world, and when you learn more about it, it’s no wonder why.
Kauai is the Hawaiian archipelago’s oldest island. At an estimated 5.1 million years old, there are some pretty spectacular geological landscapes of towering coastal cliffs and mountains, cascading waterfalls, and crystal clear bays with spectacular white sand beaches.
The island’s abundance of natural beauty makes it the perfect destination for a trip like no other. One of the most popular activities for visitors is snorkeling, which is one of the best ways to uncover the spectacular sea-dwelling creatures in Kauai’s waters.
Snorkeling in Kauai is the perfect vacation pastime, with around 50 miles of white-sand coastline around the island offering plenty of opportunities to dive in and explore. But which locations are the best for this thrilling underwater activity?
In this post, we round up the 6 best snorkeling beaches the island has to offer, leaving you spoilt for choice as to where you should head to first.
Which Side Of Kauai Is Best For Snorkeling?
Knowing where to snorkel in Kauai is dependent on what time of year you’re planning to visit but, undoubtedly, the North and South shores of the island offer the best places for snorkeling in Kauai.
If you’ll be making a trip in the summer months, the north shore of the island offers the best snorkeling in Kauai, with fewer waves making for a calmer snorkeling experience.
However, if you’re expecting to visit in the Winter months - despite difficult ocean currents, particularly on the north shore of the island - your best option is to head to the island’s south shore which, at this time of year, offers the best snorkeling beaches in Kauai making for a much easier and safer snorkeling experience.
Where to Snorkel in Kauai
Tunnels Beach - North Shore
Located in Haena on the island’s north shore, Tunnels Beach is one of the island’s most popular coastal locations and is often cited as one of the best parts of the coast. It is also known as Makua Beach and is an ideal snorkeling spot for first-timers if you’re wondering where may be best for you to snorkel in Kauai.
Offering a vast, curving stretch of coastline, you’ll be able to find a spot to set up camp for a day of snorkeling and other beach activities even in the peak tourist season, and with a phenomenal backdrop of rugged mountain tops and dense jungle, beach days don’t get much prettier than here!
When it comes to facilities on site, there are picnic tables for you to have a spot of lunch while admiring the scenery, but other facilities are best accessed at the neighboring Ha’ena State Park. The beach is also manned by a lifeguard in the summer.
Upon arrival, the best place to leave your car is nearby Haena Beach Park, which is only a short walk away from the sand. However, during peak times, parking may be limited, so visiting either in the early morning or late in the afternoon is the best time for you to be in with a chance of securing a spot.
The beach is best to visit in the summer months between June and August, as this period offers the best opportunities to discover the underwater world along this coastline. The water conditions are safest at this time of year, and we strongly advise against coming to this beach for snorkeling in the winter months given that, along the north shore, the currents pick up and are incredibly dangerous.
Hideaway Beach - North Shore
Pali Ke Kua, or Hideaway beach, located in Princeville on the island’s north shore, is up in the rankings as one of the best beaches in Kauai for snorkeling. It’s a serene and secluded spot (hence the name!) for those who prefer to snorkel in peace and enjoy the calming atmosphere that Kauai offers.
Access to Hideaway beach is found before the Princeville St Regis Hotel gatehouse and to reach the beach you must follow a dirt trail with carved steps bordered by rope. This can be a slightly treacherous journey, so caution is advised at all times on your descent.
Please take note that the beach is not lifeguarded, so we would encourage good judgment at all times when in the water, regardless of how experienced you may be.
We recommend visiting this beach in the summer, between June and August, as this is when the water is at its calmest and conditions are safe for swimming. It’s a much smaller beach than some of the others on this list, but its crystal clear waters and reef framing the shoreline make it an easily accessible and ideal snorkeling location.
Pure Kauai can arrange a half-day guided kayak and snorkel tour to Hideaway Beach for guests in our accommodations, which can be personally arranged by your host or concierge during your stay, alongside other exciting water activities.
Anini Beach Park - North Shore
Anini beach is best described as a snorkelers paradise. Featuring the largest reef of all the Hawaiian islands and stretching 2.5 miles in length, it should be on the top of your list if you’re looking for the best snorkeling in Kauai.
Anini boasts calm and clear waters in the summer months that are perfect for snorkeling, and with much of its reef visible from the shore, you won’t have to venture out far to start exploring. But, be aware that, during low tide, the waters become shallow making it difficult to navigate and snorkel through. So, waiting for higher tides is advised to better admire the local marine landscape.
The beach has multiple facilities on site, including outdoor showers, picnic tables, and restrooms. A section of the beach is lifegaurded, but we advise being cautious at all times not matter where you're swimming and regardless of your experience when in the water.
Lydgate Beach Park - East Shore
Located on the iconic coconut coast on the east of the island - given its name for the coconut palm groves that you can find there - Lydgate Beach Park is a very popular spot for visitors and residents and is one of the best places to snorkel in Kauai.
The beach is protected by a lava-rock formation that separates a lagoon from the open ocean, leaving beautifully calm and closed-off waters for you to swim and snorkel close to shore. And with stunning tropical fish still being able to enter through the rock formation, this is ideal for beginner snorkelers or those who want an easy snorkeling experience without having to tackle any powerful waves.
Offering a number of convenient amenities, including toilet and shower facilities, a manned lifeguard station, picnic tables for a bite to eat, and even a playground nearby, Lydgate is a fantastic family beach destination on the island.
There is also a lot of free parking on offer at the Beach Park itself which, as expected, becomes very busy during summer, so getting there early or later in the afternoon is a must to be in with a chance of finding a space. Or, parking along Halelilo Road close to the park is still a great place to secure a spot only a few minutes walk away.
Poipu Beach - South Shore
One of Hawaii’s most popular beaches, Poipu Beach sits on the south shore of the island and boasts crystal blue waters perfect for snorkeling. Formed by two, crescent-shaped bays that are separated by a tombola - a small sand spit that extends out to sea - it’s a wonderful part of the coast for swimming.
However, if it’s snorkeling you’re going for, the right-hand bay is the best place to go and is a more popular spot amongst snorkelers. The marine life found in the reef, which is only a short swim out from the beach, includes a variety of tropical fish, turtles, and now and again if you’re lucky, a monk seal!
There’s also plenty of parking on offer at the beach. Directly opposite you will find two free parking lots, but if you are planning a visit in the summer, arriving early is a must. You’ll also find picnic areas, bathroom and shower facilities, and a small natural wading pool for young swimmers or beginner snorkelers.
The beach is also manned by a lifeguard seven days a week, so really, it has everything you’d want and need for a beach day in Kauai, especially as a snorkeler.
Lawai Beach - South Shore
A small strip of land on the south shore near the Lawai Beach Resort, Lawai Beach is a great - and lesser-known - snorkeling spot that offers the chance to view some beautiful marine species while in the water. Species include turtles and the rare Hawaiian monk seal, parrotfish, and tangs to name but a few!
The beach will often disappear during high tide, so if you’re wanting to set up for a day of snorkeling, going when the tide is low is advised. But when the tide is low you’ll find very few waves and clear waters, thanks to the beach’s fringing reef acting as a barrier, creating the ideal snorkeling conditions.
There are bathroom facilities and showers available near the beach, but take note that the shoreline is not manned by a lifeguard, so - regardless of your experience - we recommend remaining cautious when in the water.
When considering parking, you shouldn’t be short of places to park at this location. There is a lot of street parking nearby and also a small, free parking lot. At this location, you’ll also find the popular Beach House Restaurant nearby, where you can stop for a bite to eat after a long day of underwater exploration!
When considering the best beaches in Kauai for snorkeling, you’re not short of options. No matter the time of year you visit, you’ll be guaranteed a great snorkeling experience at any one of the above Kawaii beaches to see the best of the island’s varied marine life.
If you want to visit Kauai to indulge in the fantastic snorkeling opportunities that the island has on offer, Pure Kauai offers an impressive range of rental properties that will make your stay extra special. For more information, please contact us here.