Honu is the Hawaiian word for turtle and you will likely see many honu as you snorkel in the waters around Kauai. If you see one, just relax and float rather than trying swim toward it. And remember to use sunscreen that does not harm coral reefs and marine life. If you can’t find it at home before you leave, Hawaii only sells environmentally-friendly sunscreen.
Here are our picks for the best snorkeling spots in Kauai.
Poipu Beach Park
If you spend your entire vacation at Poipu Beach, you will not be disappointed for this is truly one of the world’s best snorkeling destinations. The surf is calm, the water is crystal clear and the fish are everywhere. Parents will appreciate that lifeguards are on duty and a beach shop offers any necessities you may have forgotten.
Located on Kauai’s north shore, Anini Beach provides snorkelers with access to the Rhe Honoiki reef, the largest coral reef in Hawaii. The sea turtles tend to hang out close to the boat ramp, but the fish are everywhere. Take care to stay inside the reef’s protective barrier because the ocean current can become very strong here. There is no lifeguard on Anini Beach.
Lydgate Beach Park
With two protected coves on the east side of the island, Lydgate Beach is just a great place to spend the day. Picnic pavilions, a big playground, clean restrooms and lifeguards make this a popular place with locals and visitors. The fish here are small, but colorful and numerous.
This area is known as a great spot for spotting sea turtles. You’ll not find a great beach here, but there’s a boat ramp that allows you to easily wade into the water then put on your fins. Take care because the water gets deep fast. Because this is on the south side of the island, snorkeling is better here in the winter when ocean swells are mellow.
This south side beach is small, but has lots of street side parking. While the snorkeling is very good here, be alert to windy conditions that can whip up the sand and limit underwater visibility. This is not necessarily a spot for beginners to try snorkeling in Kauai.
Located on the north shore where the road ends and the Napali Coast begins, this beach is worth the drive. The view from the water looking up at the cliffs is as magical as the beautiful world underneath the water. The summer months are the best for calm, clear water. There’s no cell phone reception, but there are bathrooms, showers and a lifeguard.
Haena Beach Park
This north shore location provides a great view of Bali Hai, otherwise known as Mount Makana. Note that the beach is a little more gravely than sandy and once you walk into the water, the drop-off is steep. As with all north shore snorkeling spots in Kauai, the summer months are best. But come in the winter months and watch as surfers take on those big swells.
Remember that all beaches in Hawaii are open to the public, even this one that appears to be apart of the St. Regis Princeville Resort on the north shore. Follow a steep trail down to the water and that will be your biggest challenge. There’s no need to swim out very far here. Fish are everywhere!
It’s a small beach, but so secluded that you’ll likely have the water and snorkeling to yourself. Follow a dirt road past the horse stables at the Grand Hyatt all of the way to the ocean. After you’ve explored the underwater world here on the south shore, take a few minutes to explore the rocks and cliffs here. Others have found fossils and unusual formations hidden away here.
Nukoli Beach Park
This east side beach is nearly two miles long, which makes it a fabulous place for sunbathing, but the rocks near the shore limit swimming. However, for the patient snorkeler who put their fins on while on the beach and then duck walk backwards into water, you’ll be reward with schools of colorful tropical fish darting here and there around the rocks.