Best Summer Snorkeling At Kauai’s Tunnels Beach

The summer months are almost gone, but lucky for you the big north swells have yet to arrive. There is still time to take advantage of the crystal clear, calm water at Kauai’s best North Shore snorkeling spots, like Tunnels Beach. So, grab your family and some snorkel gear and take a peak at what lies below.

Tunnels Beach offers a unique combination of interesting topography and diverse marine life. Parking is the hardest part of snorkeling here, but lucky for you, some of the local residents have opened up their yards for parking right across from this world-class snorkeling spot. For a $10 fee (and believe me, it’s worth it!), you can park across the street and walk. While it is wise to check in with the lifeguards at nearby Haena Beach Park, the beach in front of the lifeguard stand is not the best place for snorkeling. You must enter 1/4-1/2 mile to the right of the park when facing the beach.

There is a shallow reef at Tunnels with deeper fingers that run perpendicular to the beach, out to the edge of the reef before it drops into about 40 feet of water. Enter at a place where you can stand in the sand and there is a clear shot out to the channel. One such locations is right in front of an alley way that the local dive companies utilize for parking and set-up (you will probably walk down it to the beach if you have parked in one of the paid lots). Once you have made it to the edge of the reef, follow that outside ledge parallel to the beach, heading back toward the lifeguard stand at the beach park. Be careful not to get yourself into a spot that is too shallow. You will return the same way.

The inside reef offers plenty of interesting fish including several species of Hawkfish, which can be found perched upon the scattered heads of cauliflower coral. Schools of Whitebar Surgeon-fish are common here as well. If you are lucky (or early), you might be able to spot some Pacific Green Sea Turtles.

The outer reef offers the best snorkeling here, but this spot is not for beginners. You must know and understand the conditions. A strong current can pull to the left and if you forgot where you entered it is difficult to return. If there is any surf what-so-ever, it is wise to avoid this spot. However, if you consider yourself an expert, the conditions are calm and you have checked in with the lifeguards, then you can cross the channel until you get to the outer reef. Once you have made it out, you may be treated to turtle cleaning stations, larger schools of fish and more undisturbed corals.

No matter where you snorkel at Tunnels, you are sure to be treated to something extraordinary. Just remember, Hawaii’s Beaches can be unpredictable. If you have never snorkeled before you might want to start out at a spot like Lydgate Park, or Poipu Beach where a lifeguard is present. Try out your gear, get comfortable. Use a wetsuit for comfort or a floatation device if you need to. For more information, check out our page on snorkeling tips. Also, bear in mind that Kauai’s beaches are delicate and susceptible to environmental stress. Please avoid standing or stepping on the reef. View marine life from a distance, practice Reef Etiquette and enjoy a safe and memorable snorkeling experience on you Hawaiian vacation.

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