North Shore’s Best Snorkel Spots
& Reef Etiquette
The coral reefs that outline Kaua‘i’s coast are as magnificent in natural beauty as the towering mountains and pali (cliffs) above. Teeming with fish and marine creatures, the reefs and caverns under the North Shore’s waters provide
an explorative experience for any wishing to traverse through these
Snorkeling is a fun and exciting way to discover the “rainforest
of the sea.” Spanning across 15 miles of Kaua‘i’s northern region,
there are four distinct snorkeling locations that are all abundant and
vivacious with tropical marine life.
Beginning at the very end of Highway 56, Kë‘ë Beach (in Hä‘ena
State Park) is considered one of the best snorkeling destinations on
the island when conditions are right. The expansive offshore reef
protects a sandy interior cove, creating a perfect lagoon for snorkelers
during the calm seas of the summer months (beware of strong
currents and dangerous wave breaks). This particular reef is home to
many colorful fish, including the long nosed butterflyfish, blue stripe
snapper and Pacific green sea turtle or honu.
Traveling a short distance down the road, the next stop is 2-mile
long Mäkua Beach, also known as Tunnels. Located northeast of
Kë‘ë Beach off of Highway 56, turn onto either of the two dirt roads
near mile marker 8. Tunnels Beach is sandwiched between Hä‘ena
Beach Park on the north and the Hanalei Colony Resort to the south.
Mäkua Beach was given the nickname Tunnels due to its labyrinth
of underwater lava tubes, canyons and pathways. The initial shallow
reef, protected by a larger outer reef, creates a small open lagoon
where juvenile fish swim freely through a maze of coral and lava
formations that support a variety of other sea life as well.
For underwater explorers looking for an array of aquatic
inhabitants, the island’s largest coral reef, located at ‘Anini Beach
County Park, is the idyllic setting. The three-mile long beach is
located just past Kïlauea off Highway 56 (take the first Kalihiwai
Road on the left when coming from Kë‘ë and turn onto ‘Anini Road).
Once referred to as Wanini, this beach is one of the safest spots to
swim and snorkel, thanks to the shelter of the wide fringing reef that
runs the length of the beach. The water, only four to five feet deep,
slowly cascades over a 100-foot drop into a channel on the northwest
end. Considered one of the most picturesque locations, the blue
lagoon and long sandy shoreline of ‘Anini is framed by emerald North
Shore cliffs attracting not only divers, windsurfers and snorkelers, but
also beachcombers and sightseers alike.
PHOTO COUR TESY: AFEINPHOTO.COM
The last of the top four North Shore snorkeling destinations is
scattered along the half moon, 2-mile long postcard-perfect Hanalei
Bay, where there are many areas ideal for underwater exploration.
At both ends of this world-famous beach sit two reefs, including
Honoiki Reef, located right downhill of The St. Regis Princeville.
Just off shore from Honoiki Beach, this easily accessible and vibrant
reef is home to a wide variety of tropical coral and fish.
Due to frequent visitations at Honoiki, The St. Regis has set forth
an effort to continue their environmental protection initiatives by
posting Kaua‘i’s first ever, Reef Etiquette sign. Titled “Respecting
Coral Reefs,” the interpretive board is a part of a statewide “
Adopt-a-Sign” program designed by the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL). Liz
Foote, CORAL’s Hawai‘i Field Manager explains that the project
was planned as a means to educate both locals and tourists about