Snorkeling Kauai’s North Shore

categories: pacific travel, USA Travel

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.

Seasonal Snorkeling

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 Beach

Ke’e: the End of the Road

Ke’e lagoon ( lies at the beginning of the Na Pali cliffs. To get there, you take highway 560 through Hanalei, crossing several one-lane bridges. Snorkeling Kauai’s North Shore #travel #kauai #hawaiiYou 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.

Tunnels Beach


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.

Lumahai Beach


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 (


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Carly Fierro

by Carly Fierro

This article was written by Carly, an aspiring writer. In her spare time she loves writing about anything and everything. She loves that blogging allows her to share her writing with people all over the world.

4 Responses to “Snorkeling Kauai’s North Shore”



Generally speaking, the calmest water and best snorkeling can be found on Kauai’s North Shore in summer and South Shore in winter. The East Side, known as the windward side, has year-round, prevalent northeast trade winds that make snorkeling unpredictable, although there are some good pockets. The best snorkeling on the West Side is accessible only by boat.



I’ve snorkeled Kauai’s north shore a couple times. Snorkeling is one of my favorite things to do but I haven’t been lucky enough to see any sharks yet.



Stunning picture from the top, but I suppose its not the Ke’e lagoon itself?



It looks like Ke’e beach to me.

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