For many Kauai visitors the highlight of their vacation is seeing the amazing marine life just beneath the surface, and the best snorkeling spots on Kauai just happen to be at some of the island’s nicest beaches.
In addition to many rare species of colorful tropical fish you might also see Hawaiian monk seals laying on the sand, and green sea turtles foraging for limu near shore. From squids and rays to crabs and lobsters, you never know what you might see on a Kauai snorkeling adventure.
A moray eel might poke its head out of a crevice, and octopi could be camouflaged on the reef. Spinner dolphins may be seen leaping up from the sea offshore doing flips and spins. The dolphins feed on squid and lanternfish in deeper waters at night and are often seen near some Kauai beaches resting in the early morning.
Lingering in tidal rock pools is the triggerfish that Hawaiians know as humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Another fish often seen in the shallow waters is the convict tang with its thin, oval-shaped body.
Brightly colored butterflyfish often travel in pairs near the reef, and the site of angelfish always provides a heavenly feeling. There are numerous species of the colorful parrotfish, and four species of the long and slender needlefish.
Other fish you might see when snorkeling on Kauai include the heavy-bodied, large-mouthed grouper (a very curious fish), the easy-to-recognize goatfish with barbels on its chin, and the brilliantly colored damselfish.
Kauai Snorkeling Tours
You can snorkel right from shore at a Kauai beach, though other great snorkeling locations scan be reached by taking a snorkeling boat tour.
A variety of Kauai snorkeling adventures are available from numerous different tour boat companies allowing you to visit some of the island’s premier snorkeling spots including the renowned Na Pali Coast.
Here are some of Kauai’s best snorkeling beaches:
At the end of the road on Kauai’s north shore there is great snorkeling at Ke’e Beach, an idyllic ocean lagoon protected by a fringing reef where plenty of fish and other marine life may be seen. Ask the lifeguards for some safety tips and avoid the channel that leads out to the open ocean.
Not far from Ke’e is Makua, or Tunnels Beach, considered to be one of the best snorkeling locations on Kauai due to the many undersea rock formations including a labyrinth of underwater lava tubes (don’t swim into them).
A very picturesque beach, Tunnels is well protected by a protecting coral reef with another reef farther out. Like other Kauai north shore beaches the currents can be strong during the winter months even when the waters appear safe. Tunnels has no facilities or lifeguard.
For beginners Anini Beach is a very good snorkeling beach with a large, shallow area that is sheltered by the protecting reef offshore.
Stay away from any openings in the reef where currents may be moving out to the open ocean, particularly during times of strong surf. Anini has a large public park area, and is also a great beach for hunting for unique shells along the shoreline.
On the east shore of Kauai between Wailua and Lihue is Lydgate Beach Park, one of the very best snorkeling spots for beginners and very young children. A man-made rock wall encloses a small lagoon where fish can be seen, and the park also has an amazing community-built playground with lots of activities for kids.
In sunny Poipu you can find good snorkeling at Poipu Beach Park where there is a protected, shallow area that is good for children. The best snorkeling is just to the right (west) of the tombolo, which is the narrow strip of sand that runs out to Nukumoi Point. The park also has a playground and showers.
Salt Pond Beach Park
On the west side of Kauai there is good snorkeling in the protected cove at Salt Pond Beach Park near Hanapepe. Plenty of marine life can be seen in the crescent-shaped cove.
Staying Safe While Snorkeling on Kauai
When snorkeling at Kauai beaches be aware of the high surf and strong currents common on the north shore during the winter months. Visit only lifeguarded beaches during this time and ask the lifeguard if there is a safe area for snorkeling.