The 5 Best Snorkeling Spots on Kauaʻi

Our readers have voted on Kauaʻi’s best underwater views in our 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards.

Kauaʻi is home to lush greenery, pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, making the oldest Hawaiian island an ideal spot for snorkeling enthusiasts. These five snorkeling spots topped the list of our 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards.

1. Mākua Beach (aka Tunnels Beach)

Mākua Beach at sunset.
Photo: Getty Images

Rich in coral formations and underwater lava tubes, Mākua Beach on Kauaʻi’s North Shore is known as one of the best spots for snorkeling and diving in the state. Beginning snorkelers can safely explore caverns and tunnels near the inner reef, while more experienced snorkelers can swim to the outer reef during calm conditions to observe bountiful marine creatures and underwater formations. You’ll lose track of time as you sit in the shade of ironwood trees and enjoy the sunset on the secluded shore. Although there aren’t any restrooms or showers on the beach, you can take a 20-minute walk to Hāʻena State Park, where there are restrooms, showers and picnic tables available for use. Kūhiō Highway, Hanalei

2. Poʻipū Beach

Poʻipū Beach.
Photo: Getty Images

This popular family-friendly beach on Kauaʻi’s South Shore is an excellent surfing, bodyboarding and snorkeling spot, boasting showers, restrooms, picnic tables, a recently renovated outdoor playground and a lifeguard on duty seven days a week. Hawaiian monk seals are known to visit Poʻipū on occasion for a sleepy sunbathing session. From December through April, you may even catch a glimpse of humpback whales on the horizon. Hoone Road, Kōloa

3. ʻAnini Beach

ʻAnini Beach.
Photo: Getty Images

Legend has it that the beach’s official name was Wanini Beach until the “W” fell off the sign and was never replaced. Others believe that an angry resident didn’t like the name, got a shotgun and took matters into his own hands. Either way, the name ʻAnini stuck, and the North Shore beach continues to draw in locals and visitors alike. With the longest fringing reef in the Hawaiian Islands, ʻAnini’s waters are well protected, making it a popular spot among wind surfers, paddle boarders and snorkelers. You can even camp here with a permit. The western end of the beach has a sandbar where children can enjoy hunting for tiny seashells in the calm wading waters. ʻAnini Road, Kalihiwai

4. Kēʻē Beach

Kēʻē Beach.
Photo: Getty Images

Take a drive to the farthest point on the North Shore and you’ll find Kēʻē Beach, a beach with lifeguard supervision, restrooms and showers and reef-protected waters safe for snorkeling and swimming. Snorkeling is best in the summer months, when the water is calm and clear. Due to limited parking, we suggest getting to the beach before 9 a.m. to avoid the crowds. There’s no cell service at this beach due to its proximity to the Nāpali cliffs, but there is a payphone for your convenience. Kūhiō Highway, Hanalei

5. Lāwaʻi Beach

Lāwaʻi Beach.
Photo: Getty Images

This small strip of beach in front of the Lāwaʻi Beach Resort on the South Shore is said to be great for beginner snorkelers. You’ll see an abundance of tropical fish close to shore—and you may even catch the occasional honu, the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle. Lāwaʻi Road, Kōloa

Additional Information: 

For all the winners from our 2020 HAWAIʻI Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards, pick up a copy of our March/April 2020 issue by calling our Circulation Department at 800-788-4230, emailing help@hawaiimagazine.com or buy online now.