Best Kauaʻi Snorkeling Locations
With the official start of summer right around the corner, people are gearing up for more beach-side barbeques, hang time with friends and family, and long days of fun in the sun! On Kauaʻi, summer signals the end of the rainy season, and the hot sun shines longer and brighter island-wide. The south shore swells pick up, and the north shore waters become gentle and tranquil, perfect for afternoons spent leisurely floating, sun-drenched swimming, and hours of epic snorkeling in the pristine Pacific waters.
Kauaʻi offers some of the best snorkeling on the planet, with vibrantly-alive coral reefs and extensive, diverse ocean life thriving underwater. Snorkeling allows us a glimpse into the awe-inspiring oceanic underworld, a bright tropical landscape teeming with an array of rainbow-colored coral, deep lava cliffs, schools of electric-hued fish, giant Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, and much, much more.
Whether you are an expert at snorkeling or a first-timer, we recommend you book Holo Holo Charters Niʻihau + Nāpali Super Tour (#1 below). We provide the group with basic snorkeling instructions and all the gear. This tour is hands down the best boat tour on Kauaʻi, and you will see some of the most exquisite underwater views imaginable. If you are ready to venture out on your own, there are plenty of places to rent and purchase equipment island-wide (mask/anti-fog for mask, snorkel, and fins). Local tip: You may want to rent the equipment for your entire stay on Kauaʻi and keep it in your car so you are ready to go when the surf, time, and conditions are right.
Before you head out to one of the awesome places listed below, please BE PONO and remember:
● The local surf and seasons change. Check the weather and surf report before snorkeling to be safe.
● When in doubt, don’t go out!
● It’s smart to snorkel with a friend. It’s even smarter to snorkel where lifeguards are stationed!
● Stay hydrated and apply Reef Safe Sunscreen generously and often.
● Never turn your back to the ocean and watch the water for several minutes before entering.
● Enter and exit the water in sand channels, and do not stand on the coral.
● Stay aware of where you are while snorkeling, and look to the beach for reference.
● Relax and swim parallel to the shore if caught in a rip tide.
● Please do not touch/feed/chase the wildlife. Give them space, and respect their ocean home and the surrounding beaches.
Now that you are dialed in, geared up, and ready to go, here are some of the best locations to snorkel on Kauaʻi:
1. Niʻihau + Nāpali Super Tour: Book the most exciting snorkeling and sightseeing tour on the island and experience a snorkel scene unlike any other. On this seven-hour excursion, you’ll venture down the majestic Nāpali Coastline and then veer west, traveling 17 miles across the Kaulakahi Channel to explore the Lehua Crater and snorkel the waters off Niʻihau Island. Click here for more info and to book your epic Tour today!
2. Keʻe Beach: Head as far north as the road will take you and arrive at the iconic Keʻe Beach, protected from high surf by a coral reef and home to some of the best snorkeling with dramatic mountain cliffs that cradle the water’s edge. Please note: permits are required for non-residents to park and swim/snorkel at the beach. Click here to make a reservation. Avoid snorkeling here in the winter months due to high surf.
3. Makua Beach (Tunnels): This golden sand beach is a snorkeler’s paradise, and the natural backdrop of mighty mountains, emerald-green trees, and dark, dense jungle make it one of the most jaw-dropping scenes you’ll find on Kauaʻi. The beach is excellent for snorkeling in the summer when the water is calm, like glass (please avoid snorkeling here in winter), and has incredible underwater lava tubes and a vast lava cliff that drops deep into the ocean. If you are a strong swimmer and the conditions are right, swim across the channel to the inner reef and get ready to be dazzled!
4. Kōloa Landing: This is a winter-friendly location not to be missed! Head to the southside to witness some of the brightest, largest schools of fish and one of the healthiest coral reefs surrounding the Garden Island. You will access this stunning underwater slice of heaven from an old boat ramp, no longer in use (except for outrigger canoes). Once in the water, explore the deep rock wall ledges on either side of the boat ramp. Please note: the water gets deep very quickly upon entering.
5. Lāwaʻi Beach: the small stretch of honey-colored sand directly in front of Lāwaʻi Beach Resort and the Beach House Restaurant in Poʻipū is home to Lāwaʻi Beach. This beach is a beginner-friendly spot with an easy, accessible, sandy entrance into and out of the water. Stay close to the beach and explore the rocks along the edge, or venture out a couple of hundred feet offshore to investigate the glory of the surrounding reef and its inhabitants. If you snorkel later in the day, stick around for one of the best sunsets Kauaʻi offers.
As you effortlessly transition into the long, hot summer days, head to one of these spectacular snorkeling locations to cool down in the clear, turquoise-blue waters off Kauaiʻs rugged shores. Summer days on Kauaʻi provide an excellent opportunity to experience unique snorkeling sights and unimaginable depths of remarkable ocean life while creating meaningful memories with family and friends that will last a lifetime.