The island of Kauai is blessed with a wide variety of coastline that can change with every curve of the road.
When visiting it can seem difficult to know the best snorkeling spots in Kauai. We at Makana Charters are a native Hawaiian family-owned business that would like our guests on the island to have the best possible experience while visiting, coming back again and again. So we developed The Local’s Guide to Kauai to help you plan out the best vacation possible.
This article focuses on the best snorkeling spots in Kauai. Snorkeling is one of the top activities on Kauai, and it is easy to see why – all around the island there are some fantastic reefs close to shore, protected from the waves, that allow you to view Kauai’s underwater world. But some places are better than others, and some should be avoided altogether – either because there are better spots nearby or because it isn’t safe. But this list will provide you with a good resource to get out and enjoy snorkeling all around Kauai!
Ke’e Beach – This beach sits at the end of the road on the north shore. It is the starting point for hiking the Napali Coast along the Kalalau Trail, which can be busy at peak times. But the beach at the head of the trail has a fantastic large lagoon that protects from incoming swell. The snorkeling options are excellent here as you can swim to the outer reefs, viewing sea life along the way. This beach can be dangerous in certain conditions, so be sure to check with the lifeguards on duty to see if it is safe for the day.
Anini – The offshore reef here creates a very large lagoon that is safe most of the year. As such, the options for good snorkeling are very good. There is also a campground and showers at the beach, making this location a great spot for families and large groups looking to make a whole day out of it. 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.
Queen’s Pond – On the far western edge of Kauai is the road to Polihale State Park. This road can be 4×4 only in the winter when conditions get muddy, but is generally ok 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 to take small children. It’s also a great snorkeling area that is protected by the reef when waves are big, or 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 that you can see hundreds of yards in any direction, which looks amazing underwater. It’s certanly worth a look!
Poipu – This beach on the South Shore can sometimes be busy, but it is easy to see why. The offshore snorkeling is second to none – A wide variety of fish and sea turtles can be found right from the beach. Years of non stop 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 stick around snorkelers as opposed to swimming away. The best time to go is in the morning before everyone else shows up.
The Napali Coast – The snorkeling options here 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 to swim next to. 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 while spending the other 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.
Here is a Map to make planning easier!
View Kauai’s Best Snorkeling Spots in a larger map
What Kind of Sealife Will I See? – Kauai is brimming with sea creatures, including dolphins, green sea turtles, and a variety of reef fish. Butteflyfish, Tang, and Triggerfish and common.
First Time? – 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! They will allow you to swim with less effort and see more. All of this gear should fit snuggly. If you’re not familiar with the area, you should consider taking a Kauai snorkeling tour, that includes all of the gear you need, a local guide, and more!
We hope to see you soon out on the water! Enjoy your visit to Kauai!