Best Snorkeling in Kauai: 9 Spots + Which to Choose

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From calm, family-friendly spots with natural coves to adventurous locations requiring a swim or hike, the best snorkeling in Kauai offers something for every type of water enthusiast. This guide covers some of the best snorkeling sites, plus tips to help you enjoy the experience!

Hōnaunau snorkeling Hawaii

Nicknamed the Garden Isle, lush Kauai has more than 50 miles of spectacular coastline, ranging from white sand beaches to black volcanic rock and lava tubes. 

Snorkeling is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Hawaii, and the best snorkeling in Kauai only adds to the island’s mystique, revealing a fascinating world underwater.

There’s certainly no shortage of ocean access, but Kauai is also notorious for large, unpredictable swells at certain times of year (one of the reasons it’s a world-renowned surfing destination!). So how do you know where – and when – to go snorkeling? 

Read on for where to find the best Kauai snorkeling spots, with options for everyone and all the details. 

Snorkeling in Kauai Guide

Psst! Check out our bucket list of things to do in Kauai before you leave!

Best spots to go snorkeling in Kauai

Map of Kauai’s best snorkel spots 

Map of best snorkeling in Kauaii Hawaii

Although Kauai isn’t nearly as large as some other Hawaiian islands, driving between different areas can take a long time. This map highlights where to find the best snorkeling in Kauai, so you can easily hit several spots on your trip! 

Planning a trip to Hawaii? We’ve gathered everything you need to know in our ultimate Hawaii Trip Planner.

1. Anini Beach

Anini Beach Kauai Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association
Image source: Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association Kauai

Just a 15-minute drive from Princeville, Anini Beach is one of the more easily accessible snorkeling sites on Kauai’s North Shore. 

With calm and shallow water, Anini Beach is a great choice for snorkeling in Kauai. There are often groups of sea turtles spotted here, making it one of the best spots on the island to witness these beautiful creatures.

This beach has picnic tables, grass, and plenty of shade, making it a nice spot to hang out for a while.

Anini Beach Overview 

  • Known for: clear, calm waters and sea turtles
  • Location: North Shore
  • Other attractions nearby: Kilauea Lighthouse 
  • Facilities: picnic tables, restrooms, showers
  • Parking: Decent sized parking lot, but it can fill up later in the day, especially on weekends
  • Google Maps location

2. Tunnels Beach (Makua)

Tunnels Beach Kauai Hawaii

Also known as Makua Beach, Tunnels Beach is one of the most popular destinations on the entire island. If it looks familiar, perhaps you recognize it from the movie South Pacific.

Tunnels Beach has some of the best scenery on the island, but what really make it special for snorkeling are the underwater lava tubes (the namesake “tunnels”)!

The beach here is a large crescent shape, so it’s easy to claim your own slice of paradise even on the busiest days. Plus, it’s adjacent to Haena Beach Park, offering easy access to classic park amenities

Tunnels Beach Overview 

  • Known for: Underwater lava tubes that create unique caves and tunnels for snorkeling
  • Location: North Shore
  • Tips for visiting: Stay closer to the shore, as the outer reef gets bashed with large swells
  • Facilities: Picnic tables and lifeguard (in the summer), plus access to facilities at neighboring Haena Beach Park 
  • Parking: Large lot available at Haena Beach Park, but you’ll need to walk 5-10 minutes to the beach
  • Google Maps location

3. Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach Kauai Hawaii

Another wildly popular Kauai beach, Poipu is also unique. The beach is technically a tombola, a sand spit formed where two crescent-shaped bays join together. So technically, Poipu Beach is two beaches in one!

While both bays are calm and gorgeous, the eastern side is a bit better for snorkeling because lava rocks create a barrier against the waves.  

Sea turtles make frequent appearances, as do endangered Hawaiian monk seals, who enjoy napping on the tombola. 

Poipu Beach Overview 

Monk seal Poipu Beach Kauai Hawaii
If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot monk seals napping on Poipu Beach! Remember to enjoy their company from a distance.
  • Known for: Two side-by-side bays, sea turtles, and occasional monk seals
  • Location: South Shore
  • Tips for visiting: Snorkeling is better in the eastern bay (right-hand if you’re standing on the beach facing the ocean)
  • Facilities: Restrooms with showers, picnic tables, lifeguard stations, playground, snorkel and surfboard rentals
  • Parking: Two large, free parking lots across from the beach, but arrive early — this is one of Kauai’s most popular beaches!
  • Google Maps location

4. Ke’e Beach

Ke'e Beach Kauai Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association
Image source: Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association Kauai

If you know anything about the renowned Nā Pali Coast, you’ll believe us when we say that Ke’e Beach is home to some of the best snorkeling in Kauai…it’s as close as you can get to the Nā Pali Coast by car!

Many locals say this is the island’s most beautiful beach. A large reef close to shore provides calm, shallow conditions ideal for snorkeling. Outside this area, strong rip tides are common, so stick close to shore.

Ke’e Beach is part of Hā’ena State Park (different from Haena Beach Park), and advance reservations are required. Tickets are released on a rolling 30-day basis, and sell out within minutes. 

Ke’e Beach Overview 

  • Known for: Jaw-dropping Nā Pali Coast scenery
  • Location: North Shore
  • Tips for visiting: Tickets are released on gohaena.com daily at 12:01 am, and you’ll have a higher likelihood of getting one if you’re willing to take the North Shore Shuttle
  • Facilities: Bathrooms, picnic tables, lifeguard stations 
  • Parking: Limited to 100 spots, permits required; riding the North Shore Shuttle is highly recommended
  • Google Maps location

5. Lydgate

Lydgate Beach Kauai Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association
Image source: Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association Kauai

One of the few locations for the best snorkeling in Kauai that’s not on either the North or South Shore, Lydgate is fantastic for beginners and families

There’s a man made barrier reef of lava rocks here, forming a calm, well-sheltered lagoon just off the shore. Brightly-colored fish and other sea creatures love hanging out in the lagoon, so snorkeling newbies get the full experience without having to deal with any waves!

There’s even a playground and great picnic facilities at this beach, making the perfect family day out. 

Lydgate Beach Overview 

  • Known for: Its unique natural lagoon
  • Location: East Shore
  • Tips for visiting: The current outside the lagoon is volatile, so be sure to stay in the protected area
  • Facilities: Bathrooms with showers, manned lifeguard station, picnic tables, playground
  • Parking: Plenty of parking at Lydgate Beach Park, plus more along Haleilio Road within easy walking distance
  • Google Maps location

6. Hideaway Beach 

Hideaway Beach Kauiai Hawaii
Image source: Kasia Konopacki via AllTrails

As its name implies, Hideaway Beach is secluded. It’s a smaller beach that requires hiking a short but steep and somewhat challenging dirt trail with steps and rope railings. Therefore, it’s usually not as busy as other Kauai beaches. 

However, the unique reef and crystal-clear water are well worth the trek! The reef at Hideaway has tons of pockets and grooves (almost like small caves) that fish (and sea turtles!) love. 

Avoid snorkeling here in the winter, as swells at Hideaway are notoriously huge.  

Hideaway Beach Overview 

  • Known for: TONS of colorful fish that hang out in the small cave-like pockets in the reef
  • Location: North Shore (Princeville)
  • Tips for visiting: While tempting, don’t park at private vacation rentals. You WILL get towed!
  • Facilities: None
  • Parking: Small (9-10 cars) public parking lot near the St. Regis Hotel
  • Google Maps location

7. Koloa Landing

Koloa Landing Kauai whalers-cove-beach-access (Kauai.com)
Image source: Kauai.com

If you’re a strong swimmer or experienced snorkeler/diver, you’ll find that Koloa Landing has some of the best snorkeling in Kauai. 

You’ll have to work for it, though – getting to the area where there’s plentiful marine life and great snorkeling involves swimming across the horseshoe-shaped bay

The area is completely exposed to the open ocean and becomes very deep, very quickly, so it truly is for more advanced snorkeling. 

Koloa Beach Overview 

  • Known for: An extremely popular dive site, coveted for the abundance of intact, colorful coral heads
  • Location: South Shore
  • Tips for visiting: There is no beach entry for Koloa Landing, so you’ll enter from the boat ramp (no longer used for boats)
  • Facilities: Portable toilets in the parking lot
  • Parking: Small dirt parking lot at the boat ramp
  • Google Maps location

8. Prince Kuhio Beach

prince-kuhio-beach Kauai (Doug Porter - Summit Pacific)
Image source: Doug Porter via Summit Pacific

If swimming with sea turtles is on your bucket list, Prince Kuhio (PK’s) Beach should be at the top of your Kauai itinerary!

The reefs and fish here aren’t quite as impressive as some other spots around the island, but the abundance of green sea turtles can’t be beat. They seem to favor the warm, shallow reef here, and there are almost always at least a couple.

If you’re island hopping on your Hawaii trip and really love turtles, Maluaka Beach (aka “Turtle Town”) is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui, and yes, is known for an abundance of our favorite green sea creatures!

After snorkeling, grab a bite to eat at the Beach House restaurant next door! 

Prince Kuhio Beach is often (mistakenly!) referred to as Lawai Beach, but that’s actually in another part of Kauai. 

Prince Kuhio Beach Overview 

  • Known for: Hawaiian green sea turtles
  • Location: South Shore
  • Tips for visiting: The water entry here is made of lava rocks rather than sand, so it’s not the most beginner-friendly snorkeling spot and water shoes come in handy
  • Facilities: Bathrooms across the street
  • Parking: Limited street parking near the Beach House restaurant
  • Google Maps location

9. Salt Pond Beach Park

Salt Pond Beach Park (Kauai.com)
Image source: Kauai.com

An underwater coral reef here creates a calm cove that serves as a breakwater for waves. The main part of the bay gets somewhat deep, but both ends are shallow and offer some of the best snorkeling in Kauai for little ones. 

It’s tucked well away from other popular beaches, so it’s rarely crowded, and the water is shallow enough on one side that you can also explore tidepools at low tide!

As a major bonus, the shallow, warm waters near Salt Pond Beach attract migrating humpback whales between December and April! 

Salt Pond Park Overview 

  • Known for: Shallow pools ideal for families with young kids, and whale-watching in the winter
  • Location: Southwest Shore (Hanapepe)
  • Tips for visiting: This is one of very few places you can camp on Kauai, and it costs just $3 per adult, per night. Get Kauai County camping permits here
  • Facilities: Restrooms, picnic tables, BBQ grills, lifeguard station, campsites, occasional food trucks
  • Parking: Ample parking
  • Google Maps location

Snorkeling in Kauai FAQs


Now that you know where to find the best snorkeling in Kauai, it’s time to “dive” into some of the other specifics!

What is the best time of year to go snorkeling in Kauai?

April through October is the best time for snorkeling in Kauai, when water conditions are generally calm and ocean temps hover around 70 degrees. 

If you’re visiting between November and March and have your heart set on snorkeling, stick to one of the “beginner” beaches, like Anini or Salt Pond.

Psst! We we have a whole guide covering the best times to visit Hawaii and what to expect during each season.

What part of Kauai has the best snorkeling?

The island’s North and South Shores offer the best snorkeling in Kauai overall. However, when you’re visiting plays a role, too.

Winter currents on the North Shore are incredibly strong, creating less-than-ideal snorkeling conditions. Head to the South Shore in the winter months, but in the summer, you can’t beat snorkeling on the North Shore. 

What type of sea creatures will I see?

Hawaiian green sea turtle
Green sea turtle. Image source: Hawai’i Wildlife Fund

One of the great things about snorkeling is that every experience will likely be totally different! In Kauai, you have an excellent chance of seeing all types of colorful fish, manta rays, moray eels, sea turtles, and even monk seals.

Can you rent snorkeling gear in Hawaii?

YES! Plenty of dive and surf shops rent snorkel gear. Also, check with your accommodation – traditional hotels often rent or even loan out snorkel equipment, and your Airbnb host may have some you’re welcome to use!

Snorkeling tours in Kauai

Makana Charters
Image source: Makana Charters

Makana Charters: Our Top Pick

For over 20 years, this native Hawaiian-owned company has been taking guests to explore sea caves, spot dolphins and whales, and experience the best snorkeling in Kauai in small groups. 

Captain Andy’s

This reputable company has been in operation since 1980, offering a variety of snorkeling tours (and other excursions!) ranging from small groups on rafts to luxury yachts with dinner. 

7 Tips for snorkeling in Kauai


Before you get into the water, here are some tips to ensure that you get the most out of your Kauai snorkeling experience. 

1. Wear reef safe sunscreen

Reef safe sunscreen

Chemicals in regular sunscreen are harmful to fragile reefs, and they accumulate in the water as people snorkel and swim. Reef-safe sunscreen has less harmful ingredients and won’t cause coral bleaching and other permanent damage. We recommend this brand.

2. Never touch any sea life

Hawaiian monk seal Poipu Beach Kauai

Aside from it not being good for them, touching marine life in Hawaii can cost you – sea turtles and monk seals are federally protected, and just touching one could result in a fine up to $10,000! 

3. Don’t feed sea creatures

There are many reasons not to feed sea creatures. It could cause them to get sick or condition them to depend on humans for food. Plus, it can make them so full that they don’t eat algae and other plants that rely on the process. Imagine what a field would look like if cows stopped eating! 

4. Dispose of your trash properly (or take it with you) 

Responsible Travel Tip: Go a step beyond and pick up 3 pieces of rubbish so you can make the beach more beautiful than before you came.

5. Know the water conditions and use caution

Hapuna Beach Hawai'i Island

Always check current conditions before heading out, and watch the water’s behavior for 15-20 minutes from the beach before going in — even if you’ve been to a particular spot dozens of times. 

6. Wear a rash guard

Rash guards provide protection from the sun, as well as a barrier against nicks and scrapes. It’s easy to bump into coral or something else sharp underwater and not even realize it until later! 

7. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight

Snorkeling and swimming are popular activities in Kauai, and unfortunately, criminals take advantage of it. Try to leave valuables at your accommodation when you head out, but if you can’t, hide them as best you can, whether it’s in your vehicle or in a bag or cooler on the beach. 

What to wear and pack for snorkeling


Snorkeling seems super simple and straightforward, but there are some items that can make your experience even better! 

Be sure to download our complete packing list for Hawaii! It’s packed with good suggestions and insider tips to help plan your Italy trip. And it’s completely FREE, so why not!?

Are you planning a trip to Hawaii?

We have lots of resources on travel in Hawaii and destinations around the islands. Check out our Hawaii Homepage for everything you need to know, or start by reading some of our favorite Hawaii travel articles to help you plan your dream vacation to the Aloha State:

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We want to hear from you!

Is snorkeling in Kauai on your bucket list? Which of these snorkeling sites sounds most appealing to you? Tell us everything in the comments and we’ll do our best to get back to you!

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