Kauai, the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, offers vacationers a quieter getaway than you’ll find on Oahu or Maui. Kauai strikes a perfect balance between the isolation of Molokai and the hustle of Oahu. The north shore, in particular, offers two of the most picturesque snorkeling locations in the state: Ke’e Beach and Tunnels.
North shore snorkeling on Kauai is seasonal. Between May and September, north shore beaches are generally calm and offer clear water for snorkeling or scuba. In the “winter” months, approximately November to April, large ocean swells hit the north shore, turning snorkel spots into churning white water with dangerous undertows and rip currents. At any time of year, ask local lifeguards about water conditions before you enter.
Ke’e: the End of the Road
Ke’e lagoon (http://www.kauaivacationsecrets.com/kee-beach/) lies at the beginning of the Na Pali cliffs. To get there, you take highway 560 through Hanalei, crossing several one-lane bridges. You need to get to Ke’e early if you want to park. Not only is the lagoon popular, the parking lot is also the starting point for the beautiful but demanding Na Pali hiking trail. If you can get to Ke’e between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning, you should be able to find a parking spot. Otherwise, you’ll have to park in the overflow parking further back the road and hike in.
The lagoon itself is crystal clear and ideal for novice snorkelers. Snorkeling along the edge of the reef you’ll see plenty of wrasse, unicornfish, and butterflyfish. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a moray eel or a day octopus peeking out of its lair.
Across from the reef and along the hillside you can snorkel over a rocky slope. This side of the lagoon tends to be quieter, as most people are drawn to the coral. Floating over the rocks, however, rewards you with a wide range of sights, including elusive leaf scorpionfish, cornetfish, and cleaner shrimp hiding in the rocks.
While the lagoon itself is very calm, a strong rip current running close to the outside of the reef can drag unwary swimmers out into the Na Pali waters. Stay within the lagoon and heed the lifeguard’s warnings.
If you can’t find parking at Ke’e, double back to Haena State Park. Ask the lifeguard for directions to Tunnels, a reef a short walk down the east side of the beach. Tunnels, as the name suggests, is a reef formed on old volcano lava tubes. Scuba divers can explore the caves, while snorkelers can float over the reef.
Turtles are the big snorkeling draw at Tunnels, and most common on the western portion of the inner reef. Experienced snorkelers can cross the channel to the outer reef. If you find a turtle, give the animal its space. Turtles are a protected species and harassing, chasing, or touching them can result in a hefty fine.
An extremely lucky snorkeler might spot a small white-tipped reef shark. While generally sedate and not aggressive, give a shark the respect its due. You’ll also see parrotfish, surgeonfish, and large schools of convict tangs.
Pack a rash guard, mosquito killer, and sunblock for any trip to the north shore. On a hot day, the sand at Tunnels and Haena can get hot enough to blister toes, so footwear is advisable. Out in the water, always listen to the lifeguard and snorkel in pairs for safety.
One last word of caution. You’ll pass many inviting beaches on the way to Ke’e and Tunnels. Some of those beaches hide dangerous currents and unpredictable waves. Lumahai, especially, is known for rogue waves that can pull unwary beach walkers into the water. Pay heed to any warning signs, and stay out of the water unless you’re sure it’s safe.
This article was written by Carly for Mosquito Magnet, specialists in mosquito traps and mosquito killer (http://www.mosquitomagnet.com/customerservice/where-to-buy)