Snorkeling in Kauai

Which Side of Kauai is Best For Snorkeling (Complete Guide)

Kauai is a fantastic island in the Central Pacific and is Hawaii’s fourth-largest island. We call it the Green Isle because of its thick and luscious tropical rainforest.

This makes Kauai one of the most beautiful destinations for any vacation. You’re surrounded by nature all year round. However, the most exciting part of the island isn’t on the surface.

If you take a dive around the outskirts of the island, you’ll find a whole new world of tiny creatures. For this reason, many people flock to Kauai just to get a glance.

You may be wondering which side of Kauai is best for snorkeling. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at what side of Kauai is best for snorkeling and when you should visit.

The Best Side of Kauai for Snorkeling

The best spot for snorkeling in Kauai depends on the time of year you’re visiting. If you’re visiting in the winter, the prime location will be on the south shore of the island. However, if you’re visiting in the summer, then your best bet will be the north shore.

You’ll have access to many more snorkeling spots during the summer. The waves become unpredictable around the winter, so some areas may be off-limits.

Do You Need a Snorkeling Guide in Kauai?

Most people prefer to go snorkeling on their own. They like to float around in the water looking for fish. Still, this may not give you the best experience.

Finding someone to guide you through snorkeling can make your experience more enjoyable. They’ll show you all the best spots to find fish and tell you what the different species are.

However, if you still prefer to go on your own, make sure to be gentle with the environment. Don’t step on the coral or disturb the fish.

Snorkeling in Kauai

The Best Snorkeling Spots in Kauai

No matter what side of the island you’re on, you should be able to find many spots to go snorkeling. Let’s take a look at some of the best spots to go snorkeling in Kauai.

Haena Beach Park

  • Location: Northern Shore
  • Best time to visit: Spring and summer
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Marine life: Fish, eel, and coral reef
  • Amenities: Outdoor showers, restrooms, tables, and chairs

If you’re looking for a magical snorkeling experience, you may want to head out to Haena Beach Park. This place has a crystal clear stream with white sand going all the way around.

The stream pours into the sea, where many birds and fish like to play. Looking at the sea, you can find all the different species of fish dancing around just under the surface.

During the summer, the waters at Haena Beach are calm, and you can barely see any waves. This makes it the perfect place for a summer snorkel session.

Still, underwater isn’t the only exciting aspect of Haena. This beach has a lot more to offer than snorkeling.

If you look up from the water, you’ll notice that there are mountains surrounding the beach. The mountains bloom with deep green foliage, so they look like green giants touching the sky.

You can even decide to take a closer look at one mountain and explore its caves. There’s so much to see on this beach, and once you’re done, the following location on our list is only about a mile away.

Makua (Tunnel) Beach

  • Location: Northern Shore
  • Best time to visit: Spring and summer
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Marine life Turtles and tropical fish
  • Amenities: No beach services

Makua is one of the most beautiful beaches on Kauai. It lies on the north shore and offers snorkelers many spots to swim with the fish.

People refer to Makua as Tunnel beach because of the massive network of tunnels. These can be incredibly fun to explore if you remember to bring a flashlight.

However, Makua’s prime attraction isn’t the tunnels; it’s the turtles. If you take a dive in the pristine waters, you’ll likely find a turtle. You’ll see turtles swimming around and enjoying the warm water.

If you do meet a turtle, make sure to keep your distance. While they look adorable, they don’t like to share their personal space.

Even though this is one of the best spots for snorkeling, it’s also a lot of hard work. The area around Makua beach is mostly rocky. This makes it difficult to reach by car, and if you do take a car, there aren’t many parking spots.

So, you have to park about a mile away on Haena Beach and walk to the tunnels. In addition, there aren’t any amenities around the shore. So, if you’re traveling with small children, Makua isn’t ideal.

Ke’e Beach

  • Location: Northern Shore
  • Best time to visit: Summer
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Marine life: Unicorn fish, goatfish, needlefish, and coral reefs
  • Amenities: Outdoor showers, restrooms, tables, and chairs

Ke’e Beach is a bit of a long drive for most people, but it’s worth the ride. It’s at the very top of Kauai’s north shore. So, not only do you get to snorkel, but you also get a view of the entire island.

Summer is the perfect time to visit this spot. There’s a slight breeze, and the sun shines on the water, so you can see the fish without even taking a dip.

This beach boasts some of the most colorful fish on the island. These fish aren’t shy and won’t swim away as soon as you dive in.

The right way to see the most fish is to stay by the shore. Most species in that area like to swim around in the shallow waters. And, of course, the fish are much easier to see when they’re closer to the surface.

All that said, it’s best to stay away from Ke’e Beach unless it’s summer. Because of its location, Ke’e Beach can be hazardous in the winter.

The wind around the beach can get quite aggressive during winter, spring, and fall. This makes the ocean current unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

Snorkeling in Anini Beach

Anini Beach

  • Location: Northern Shore
  • Best time to visit: Spring and summer
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Marine life: Surgeonfish, eels, unicorn fish, Moorish idol, and turtles
  • Amenities: Outdoor showers, restrooms, tables, and chairs

If you’re going on a family snorkeling trip, you may want to stop by Anini Beach. This beach is the perfect location to enjoy a lovely picnic with your kids.

Even though this beach is on the northern shore, the water is calm for most of the year. So, you don’t have to wait until the sun is scorching to enjoy the water. Still, it might be better to wait for spring or summer, or the water will be too cold for a swim.

Anini Beach is another spot where you can find turtles. Not only that, but if you’re lucky, you can see a giant manta ray or a slippery eel.

Unlike the other beaches, the fish in Anini prefer deep waters. So, to get the best view, you may need to swim for a while. Still, if you’re not the best swimmer, you can see some fish by the shore. Just stay as still as possible, look for fish around large rocks, and enjoy the gentle sway of the water.

Salt Pond Beach Park

  • Location: Western Shore
  • Best time to visit: Year-round
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Marine life: Moorish idols, goatfish, butterflyfish, and unicorn fish
  • Amenities: Lifeguard, outdoor showers, restrooms, tables, and chairs

This beach gets its name from all the salt ponds that the natives dig around the shore. However, salt isn’t the only thing you can see on this beach.

Salt Pond Beach is an amazing place to go snorkeling. Since it’s located on the western shores, the wind is calm almost all year. In addition, there’s a massive offshore reef that blocks any large waves from reaching the shore.

This makes it the ideal place for fish to swim around lazily while you enjoy the sight.

It’s also an excellent snorkeling spot for beginners. Because of the calm waters, you don’t need to be a pro swimmer to go snorkeling. Just let the water carry you while you look at the marine life.

That said, because the water is mostly still, algae cover most of the underwater surface. The algae make the water a little murky and the rocks and sand a little squishy. It shouldn’t affect how you swim around but walk around carefully to avoid slipping.

Prince Kuhio Beach

  • Location: Southern Shore
  • Best time to visit: Winter
  • Child-friendly: No
  • Marine life: Butterflyfish, coronet fish, needlefish, and rock mover wrasse
  • Amenities: Outdoor showers and restrooms

Kauai is beautiful in winter, with the chilly breeze and quiet nights by a campfire. One of the most spectacular places to visit during the winter is Prince Kuhio Beach.

Just like many other spots on the island, Prince Kuhio has many species of fish. These fish like to come out when the skies are clear, and the water is calm.

Unlike the other beaches on this list, this one doesn’t have much sand. Instead of the usual white sand going around the outskirts of the beach, Prince Kuhio has a shore of lava rock.

These rocks fit together to make an incredibly beautiful mosaic effect. While the lava rocks may be stunning, they can be a little dangerous because they’re sharp. So you have to watch your step as you approach the water.

This also means that this spot isn’t suitable for children. Without sand to play in, you’ll find that children get bored easily on this beach.

However, Prince Kuhio can be a romantic snorkeling spot if you wear the proper footwear.

Poipu Beach

  • Location: Southern Shore
  • Best time to visit: Winter
  • Child-friendly: Yes
  • Marine life: Butterflyfish, needlefish, and saddleback wrasse
  • Amenities: Lifeguard, outdoor showers, restrooms, tables, and chairs

The most popular snorkeling spot on the southern shore is Poipu Beach. Not only does it have a huge collection of sea creatures, but it also has many amenities.

Poipu Beach has showers, grills, picnic tables, and lifeguards. This makes it much more than a snorkeling spot. You can arrive with your family right after dawn and spend the whole day there. Moreover, with a lifeguard, you don’t have to worry about kids playing in the water.

This beach has a large group of marine life, including the Hawaii state fish and the reef triggerfish.

However, if you plan to spend the whole day at the beach, you may want to take an umbrella. The beach lies in a flat area, which means it gets plenty of sun. That’s why it’s a good idea to visit this beach in the winter.

You should also keep an eye out for sharp rocks on the shore. It’s not as bad as Prince Kuhio Beach, but be careful walking around.

Lydgate Beach Park

Most of the beaches on our list are child-friendly, but Lydgate Beach goes above and beyond. This is the ultimate location for anyone who wants to snorkel with young children.

Lydgate beach has many amenities that cater to children, including a vast playground. You’ll also find plenty of restrooms everywhere to make potty breaks much easier.

Another amazing aspect of Lydgate Beach is you can visit it at any time of the year. During the summer, there’s a shaded area where you can hide from the sun. For winter, there are bonfires to keep you warm.

The water is shallow and calms almost all the time, which is perfect for children. Even though the water is shallow, you still get to see plenty of fish swimming around.

Lydgate beach also has lifeguards. Still, the biggest security measure at this beach is a giant rock wall. The rock wall stops waves from reaching the beach and prevents kids from getting too far from the shore.

Lydgate Beach Park

Wrapping Up

Taking a trip to Kauai can be a life-changing experience. You’re surrounded by spectacular scenery, and there are many activities you can try out. One of these activities is snorkeling.

If you’re asking which side of Kauai is best for snorkeling, you’ve come to the right place. Depending on when you plan on visiting Kauai, the best location changes.

During the summer, the north shore is better, while in the winter, the south shore is the way to go.

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