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Best Snorkeling Locations on Kauai

Kauai snorkeling locations
The first thing we want to say about snorkeling on Kauai is this: please be cautious about it. Snorkeling fatalities on Kauai aren’t super common but they’re not super uncommon either and you can imagine how tragic it would be to leave Hawaii with one less person than you came with. It makes us shudder to think about and that’s why we encourage everyone to respect the snorkel!

Things to be mindful of are: the time of the year/ocean conditions, using proper snorkeling gear, and feeling confident and relaxed in the water.

If you’re visiting in the summertime, the north shore and south shore are both typically friendly. If you’re visiting in the winter, you’re much safer on the south shore. These are just basic rules of thumb though– it’s strongly advised to check current conditions before going out and to snorkel and swim at beaches with lifeguards.

When you arrive at the beach you’ve chosen to snorkel on Kauai, we recommend you take at least fifteen minutes to sit and observe the water before going in. This not only gives time to let your reef-safe sunscreen soak in, but lets you see where others are entering and exiting the water.

With all that said, let’s talk about four of our favorite snorkel spots on Kauai! We’ll start on the north shore and work clockwise around the island to the west.
  1. Tunnels Beach: The best coastal snorkeling Kauai has to offer is probably found at Tunnels—a large horseshoe-shaped reef on the north shore that’s home to many fish and coral species as well as monk seals. The inside of the horseshoe is suitable for beginners and the outer reef is suitable for strong swimmers and experienced snorkelers. The logical place to enter is on the right side of the horseshoe so that you can drift with the current to the left. Beware that parking at Tunnels is extremely limited so you’ll want to get there as early as possible.
  2. Lydgate Beach Park: For families and first-time snorkelers, Lydgate Beach Park on Kauai’s east side is a solid choice. There’s a walled-off section of the beach park that provides a safe, calm area for beginners to develop snorkeling skills in flat water. Note that there are fish to spot in this area, but no actual coral.
  3. Lawai Beach: Lawai Beach is a small section of beach in front of Lawai Beach Resort. For beginners, we recommend exploring the rocks to the left, towards the Beach House Restaurant. For moderates and stronger swimmers, go check out the reef which is a couple hundred feet offshore—but do watch for breaking waves. Lawai is a great place to see colorful fish as well as turtles, eels and needlefish.
  4. Kauai snorkeling tours with Holo Holo Charters: Call us biased but seriously, for the most satisfying snorkeling experience on Kauai, we recommend you take one of our snorkeling tours. Here’s why:
  • There are more than a dozen snorkeling locations that we frequent, depending on the ocean conditions of the day. Considering weather, current and wind direction, our captains use their expertise to choose the day’s optimal spot which means you won’t be driving all over the island only to be disappointed by breaking waves or cloudy water. We know all the good spots!
  • The best wildlife is offshore, in remote locations that can’t be reached by car. There are some epic spots on the Napali Coast and especially around Lehua Crater and Niihau Island. These places are considered some of the very best snorkeling locations in Hawaii because they’re largely uninhabited and undisturbed by commercial activity. Experienced and beginner snorkelers alike will love the crystal-clear waters that are absolutely teeming with fish, turtles, seals, coral, and volcanic formations.
  • We have all the equipment you need including masks, snorkels, fins and flotation devices; no need for you to spend valuable time and money renting and returning gear! We’ll give you a snorkeling 101 tutorial to start and we’ll help you along the way if needed. If your mask feels funny, we’ll help you adjust it. We got you.
  • Our captain and crew members are your lifeguards. Our crew members will be on SUP boards, in the water with you, diligently watching to identify anyone that’s struggling or drifting too far away. Your captain will stay on the boat, watching the whole scene from above and staying alert for changing currents and ocean conditions.
  • Snorkeling is just one part of the adventure. Storytelling, sightseeing, food and drinks. Forget the hassle of researching, renting, driving, parking, etc. Our entire purpose is to take you and your loved ones out for a day that’s safe, fun and unforgettable so please– be our guest!
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