Snorkeling Fun on Kauai

Snorkeling is a fun activity that people of all ages can have fun doing. It does not take much skill to master and the best part of all is that it is free!

I know there are those who will be afraid to don a mask, but have no fear, they actually have little boogie boards with a viewing pane so you don‘t have to get your face wet!

The first thing to understand is that faces come in all shapes and so do masks. Unless you have snorkeled before with your own equipment I would suggest renting equipment when you get on island. If you do not have a proper fit you will have a miserable time snorkeling – guaranteed. There are many dive/surf shops island wide and at many of the resorts where you can rent equipment either by the day or week (weekly rates are discounted).

Before putting your mask on you should use a bit of mild soap to cover the lens (they sell defogging solutions) or I have always used my own saliva to coat a film on the mask – then rinse off in the ocean. Also remember when snorkeling if you get cold easy to wear a wetsuit top.

Once you have your equipment you are off on a journey to find the best location to snorkel, but before you go remember the main rules to heed by are:

  • When in Doubt - Don't Go Out: Check for weather conditions, lifeguards will not let you in if conditions aren‘t favorable, and remember that each day is different – the OCEAN changes moment to moment.
  • Bays, Reefs and Coves: Kauai offers many protected snorkeling areas for optimal snorkeling enjoyment. Reef areas offer the most abundant and diverse fish populations.
  • Timing is Everything: the water is generally calmer at low tide and in the morning (before the wind comes up)
  • Enter Safely: most reefs have sandy channels which allow for safe, easy entry into the water.

When you start snorkeling you want to try and relax and float naturally, try to swim easy with a gentle fin motion. If while in the water your mask starts to fill with water lift it up, empty out the water, fit the mask back around your face, put your face back in the water and blow out your nose while holding the mask around your face – this should reseal your mask. If you are in rougher water, or your snorkel gets some water in it, just blow hard and the water will fly out the top. It is important to respect the ocean and wildlife, so remember do NOT stand on the reef – it is a living creature and by standing on it you will cause great damage.

Some of my favorite snorkeling spots are:

Ke'e Beach Ke'e Beach

Ke‘e Beach – located at the end of the road on the north shore. This is the most idyllic setting on Kauai. The sandy cove is protected by an outer reef so it is perfect for little ones and the reef on the far left and far right side of the cove is literally right at the shoreline. The outer reef (during summer though early October) is fabulous for swimming with green sea turtles and larger fish, once beyond the outer reef the ocean drops to 40+ feet quickly. NOTE this area is known for swift currents so when you enter the cove if you feel pulling do not venture past the outer reef! (Lifeguard, and restrooms). This area is good for beginners and experts.

Tunnels Beach Tunnels Beach

Tunnels Beach – located on the north shore. Park at Haena State Park and walk back to “Tunnels” to snorkel (it is about a 5 minute walk along the beach). Here I have swam with monk seals and swam in humongous schools of fish that circled 8 feet high by 4 feet wide. If you get here on a clear day the snorkeling is amazing – there are shallow areas with little (canyons and tunnels) throughout the reef so if you float in just one spot you can see a diverse amount of sea life. Plus there is an outer reef for experts where you can see larger sea life. Once beyond the outer reef the ocean drops dramatically so stay close to the reef where all the fish will abound. (Restrooms and lifeguard at park only). This area is good for beginners and experts.

Pu'a Po'a Beach Pu'a Po'a Beach

Pu‘a Po‘a Beach – located on the north shore. This is the beach that the St. Regis and Hanalei Bay Resort have direct access to – this is the best snorkeling on Hanalei Bay. This beach is protected year round by the outer reef that during the winter months has 30+ foot high waves! Many of my friends will snorkel from here to Hideaways beach for their summer/fall workout as the reef is teaming with life. And when my children were young they could stand in 2 feet of water and see the fish scurry around their feet, plus because this reef is similar to Tunnels, except in more shallow water it doesn‘t feel as scary for those not all that familiar with the ocean. Note that this reef will be exposed when tides are extremely low, do NOT walk on the reef to access snorkeling, there is a large sandy outlet just to the left of the reef – enter the ocean through this access. (Restrooms near St. Regis pool). This area is good for beginners and experts (outer reef).

Hideaways Beach Hideaways Beach – located on the north shore. This beach is located just below Pu‘a Po‘a condos down a steep dirt path, which the surfers walk barefooted down! However, you can also access this beach by going through the Pali Ke Kua parking lot, down the paved, but very steep trail. This beach is good from June – October only as there is NO outer reef protecting the cove. Snorkeling here is just incredible – the water is about 1 ½ feet when enter so you don‘t have to find a way to enter as you do at Tunnels or Pu‘a Po‘a beaches. Great snorkeling and super easy access. This is a hidden gem which most people do not know about! Shush don‘t tell anyone! (NO facilities). This area is good for beginners and experts.

Anini Beach Anini Beach

Anini Beach – located on the north shore. This beach is protected by the largest reef in the Hawaiian Islands. It is good for swimming year round and is ideal for small children, plus the outer reef is good for experts as you will have to swim about 200 yards to get to it! It is here while swimming to the outer reef that I saw the largest fish ever!!! If you go down towards the end of the road, but well before the river (never snorkel at the mouth of a river!!!), there is good snorkeling for little ones close to shore and in shallow water. (Restrooms only). This area is good for beginners and experts (outer reef only).

Lydgate Beach Lydgate Beach

Lydgate Park – located on the east shore. This is the ONLY spot on the east shore where you can swim and snorkel in a protected area. The snorkeling is not as grand as other spots but because it is protected it is a great place for children. (There is a lifeguard, BBQ‘s, bathrooms, showers and picnic benches plus shade!) This area is good for beginners.

Lawai Beach Lawai Beach and rocky cove – located on the south shore. This is a great little beach that is protected year round by an outer reef. Easy access makes it perfect for beginners and children. For experts you will want to go to the rocky cove before Lawai beach since it is here you will find sea turtles and abundant marine life. (Across the street is restrooms and shower). Lawai beach is good for beginners. Rocky cove before Lawai beach is good for intermediate to experts.

Salt Pond Salt Pond Beach Park

Salt Pond Beach Park – located on the west shore. This is a fabulous “locals” beach where small children can swim in a protected cove. It is here that my kids have swam with monk seals and sea turtles – a memorable moment to say the least! Also, if you walk along the beach to the left, above the beach you can see where Hawaiians are following ancient tradition by making sea salt – the only place in Hawaii where this tradition is still taking place today! (Bathrooms, showers, BBQ‘s, picnic benches and covered patios). This area is good for beginners.

Joyce Craddock, Hawaii destination specialist