The island of Kauai is blessed with a diverse coastline that changes with every curve of the road. For visitors interested in snorkeling, that beautiful coastline may make it difficult to know where the best snorkeling spots are just by looking!
Wondering where to find the best of all Kauai snorkeling tours? Look no further: Makana Charters is the premier outfitter on the island for your snorkeling adventure. Our native Hawaiian, family-owned business has three luxurious catamarans to take you out to sea; then, our experienced captains will guide you to prime snorkeling and wildlife viewing locations on the Na’Pali coast. When you choose to book with Makana Charters, you’ll not only get our expertise, we’ll also provide top-of-the-line snorkel gear and flotation devices for your adventure—and a delicious lunch for enjoying on the boat.
Want 10% off your next booking? Just fill out the form below and you’ll receive a 10% discount off your next group charter or family trip adventure with Makana Charters! Or, if you’d like to find out about some other excellent snorkeling locations, keep reading to learn about five of our favorite spots on the island.
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5 Best Snorkeling Spots On Kauai (With Map)
Snorkeling is one of the top activities on Kauai thanks to the fantastic reefs—close to shore and protected from the waves—all around the island. But some places are better than others (and some should be avoided altogether, either because there are better spots nearby or because of safety concerns!). Keep this list handy for the next time you want to enjoy a day of snorkeling on Kauai!
This beach sits at the end of the road on the North Shore. It is the starting point for hiking the Na’Pali Coast along the Kalalau Trail, which can be busy at peak times. The beach at the head of the trail has a fantastic large lagoon that protects it from incoming swell. The snorkeling options are excellent here—you can swim to the outer reefs, viewing sea life all along the way. But this beach can be dangerous in certain conditions, so check with the lifeguards on duty to see if it is safe to snorkel for the day.
Planning your trip to Kauai? The Local’s Guide to Kauai will help you plan an unforgettable itinerary along the Na’Pali Coast.
The offshore reef here creates a very large lagoon that is safe most of the year, so the options for snorkeling are very good. The beach has a campground and showers, making this location a great spot for families and large groups looking to make a day out of their Kauai snorkeling tour. Throughout the lagoon there are deeper channels worth exploring, or you can just enjoy the view from the surface. Either way, you’ll enjoy what you see.
On the far western edge of Kauai is the road to Polihale State Park. This road can be accessed only by 4×4 vehicles in the muddy winter months, but it is generally fine for driving in the summer months. When the highway becomes a dirt road, you will slowly trundle along for a bit before reaching the coast. When you get close to the beach you will see the option to turn left or to head right toward Polihale. Turning left takes you to Queen’s Pond, a protected lagoon that is popular for families with small children. It’s also a great snorkeling area that is protected by the reef when waves are big. When the water is calm, you can swim around the larger beach area. While the fish life isn’t as prolific here as other places, the water is so clear you can see hundreds of yards underwater in any direction. It’s certainly worth a look!
This beach on the South Shore can sometimes be busy, and it is easy to see why. The offshore snorkeling is second to none—a wide variety of fish and sea turtles can be seen right from the beach. Years of nonstop tourist activity means that these fish are not scared of humans, and they know that where there are humans, there is food, so they like to stay around snorkelers as opposed to swimming away. The best time to snorkel here is in the morning, before everyone else shows up.
What kind of sea life will I see on my Kauai snorkeling tour?
Kauai is brimming with sea creatures, including dolphins, green sea turtles, and a variety of reef fish. Butterflyfish, Tang, and Triggerfish are all commonly seen.
The Na’Pali Coast
The snorkeling options on the Na’Pali Coast are excellent. Because of the remote access, many of these snorkeling spots are left in their natural state, without the influence of human development scaring fish away or habituating them. As such you feel as though you are the visitor to their world. It also helps that you have the stunning scenery of the Na’Pali Coast above the water to provide the perfect backdrop for swimming. We would love to have the honor of showing you the amazing snorkeling options aboard our catamarans! A half-day tour allows us to spend an hour in the water and some additional time viewing the amazing landscapes of the unspoiled Na’Pali Coastline. Groups can also charter the boat and focus more on snorkeling and less on sightseeing, allowing you to get as much time in the water as you desire.
Use this map to make planning easier!
View Kauai’s Best Snorkeling Spots in a larger map.
Is this your first time snorkeling?
If it’s your first time, take a look at this handy “How To Snorkel” guide. It’s perfect for beginners, because compared to scuba diving it requires no license or special training. All you need is a mask and a snorkel. Fins are optional but highly recommended, as they allow you to swim with less effort. All of your gear should fit snugly.
Our Best Advice For Kauai Snorkeling Tours
Don’t leave your snorkeling adventure to chance—book with an outfitter who knows what they’re doing and has the reviews to prove it. Makana Charters offers island expertise, local guides, all the equipment you need, and incredible catamarans, making our snorkeling tours the best way to snorkel. Just click here to book your trip (and take 10% off!) We hope to see you soon!
Bonus: Here’s an infographic on the top snorkeling spots in Kauai—feel free to share it on Pinterest and Twitter!
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on Dec 17, 2016 and has been updated regularly since then for relevance and comprehensiveness.