Best Snorkeling on Kauai’s South Shore

Best Snorkeling Kauai
Some of the best snorkeling on Kauai can be done from shore right next to the Beach House Restaurant in Poipu. The abundance and diversity of fish here is unsurpassed. Here a few guidelines to follow if you want to have the safest and most enjoyable experience at this location.

The winter months (October through April) are the best months for snorkeling at Lawai Beach. This is because southern facing beaches can experience strong surf during summer months. If you see a lot of surfers taking advantage of the waves here then it is probably a good day to find a calmer location. There is also no lifeguard posted here, so you might want to check in with lifeguards posted at nearby Poipu Beach if you are uncertain of the conditions. However, it is possible to take advantage of days when there are calmer conditions. The inside reef is fairly protected, so when surf is small, Lawai Beach is the best choice for snorkeling on the South Shore.

Entering and exiting the water here is easy if you look for the patch of sand in the center of the beach. On either side of the sandy area it is quite rocky, which makes entry not only difficult but unsafe as well. Take a moment to observe where others are entering the water and if they are doing so with ease. When you enter the water, notice where you are, so that when you return to shore, you know where to get out.

You will begin to see fish here as soon as you put your face in the water. Rainbow colored Wrasses, Butterfly fish, and Convict Tangs can be spotted immediately. Swim further from shore and you will begin to see some healthy patches of live coral. You may see some cleaning stations set up over the coral heads where fish come to have parasites removed by the vividly colored Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse. If you move slowly by simply floating, you are likely to see more of what is hidden on the reef. Devil Scorpion fish look just like the rocks and octopus are equally well hidden, but if they move, you are sure to be delighted. Remember, never touch or step on the coral in order to preserve it for the creatures that live there.

Devil Scorpionfish

Devil Scorpion fish

There is a strong current that runs east to west away from the Beach House Restaurant. The safest way to avoid this, is to look at the resort across the street and make note of the “Lawai Beach Resort” sign. This is an important landmark. Do not allow yourself to drift west beyond this sign, because this is where the current becomes extremely strong and dangerous. If you can stay on the eastern side of this landmark it can help keep you out of trouble.

There are plenty of fish to see at Lawai Beach, and many of them are very unique. Did you know that nearly a quarter of the fish found in Hawaii are found nowhere else in the world? Relax and enjoy the bright blue Parrot fish, the long-nosed Bird Wrasse, schools of Orange Band Surgeon fish and Convict Tang feeding on filamentous algae, the Rock Mover Wrasse digging through the rubble, Damsel fish defending their territory, and Butterlyfish as bright as the sun.

If you are lucky enough to spot a turtle, remember that they are protected by law and you must keep your distance. The best way to enjoy a turtle is to float motionless where you are and observe. Of course, you might want to have your camera ready.

Remember, always swim with a partner and don’t forget to check out our articles on snorkeling tips and reef etiquette. Enjoy your time in the water and follow the snorkelers motto, “take only pictures, leave only bubbles.” If you are traveling with your family and want to learn more about the fish that you see, be sure to pick up a copy of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book by local author Monika Mira.