The tropical sunshine and bright blue waters are calling, and after a few days of swimming in the resort pool and venturing out for a few short hikes, your family is ready to explore beneath the waves.
“I want to see sea turtles!” says your little one, while your preteen has the idea to count exactly how many fish he can spot in an hour. As for you, your plans include floating blissfully above colorful coral reefs in the warm tropical waters. Lucky for the whole gang, the south side of Kauai has some of the best snorkeling beaches in the Hawaiian islands for you to explore. So what are you waiting for? Grab some gear and head out to discover your family’s new favorite snorkel spots.
Read on to learn more about snorkeling on Kauai’s south shore.
Where and when you choose to snorkel has a lot to do with how experienced you are at both swimming and snorkeling. Experienced snorkelers might want to head out to deeper waters, but even absolute beginners can learn to snorkel in the protected lagoons of Kauai’s South Shore. Floatation devices help nonswimmers get out into the water, so everyone in your family can take part.
Whether your family is made up of first-time snorkelers or has years of underwater experience, snorkeling on Kauai’s South Shore is a not-to-be-missed adventure when you’re staying at Koloa Landing Resort.
Finding the Best Kauai Snorkeling Locations
Kauai’s South Shore is a snorkeler’s paradise, and there are plenty of options for scoping out the local marine life. In fact, during the winter, it’s often the only place to safely snorkel. In the winter months, Kauai’s North Shore gets hit by ocean swells that make snorkeling difficult, but the South Shore is protected by the bulk of the island so it’s completely safe to snorkel there in winter. Of course, snorkeling conditions here are also great during the summer months, making underwater exploration a fun family activity any time of year.
No matter what time of year you’re visiting, here are some of the best snorkeling spots in the area:
Poipu Beach Park
Some of the best snorkeling on the south shore of Kauai can be found at Poipu Beach Park. Divided into two parts, this park is the ideal snorkeling spot for absolute beginners. The sandy bottom makes it easy to maneuver around without accidentally stepping on delicate coral, and Hawaiian monk seals occasionally visit the beach for an added thrill.
Marine life is most abundant on the west side of the sandy strip that juts off the beach, so that’s where you want to go to spot colorful tropical fish and sea turtles. Some of the species of fish you might see at Poipu Beach include butterflyfish, needlefish, saddleback wrasse and the state fish of Hawaii, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Your kids might have as much fun trying to say its name as spotting it.
Poipu Beach Park can get busy, so you might want to arrive early if you want to experience some solitude while snorkeling on Kauai. If you go in the afternoon, pick up some to-go poke bowls and settle in at one of the picnic tables for lunch before entering the water for some fish viewing.
Prince Kuhio Beach
Hawaiian green sea turtles are abundant in the shallow reef off Prince Kuhio Beach, so if you haven’t been able to spot them elsewhere, this is the location to try. The entry points are made of lava rock, not sand, so getting into the water is trickier than at a sandier area. Prince Kuhio Beach is best for families who’ve been snorkeling for a while and are ready to check off more sea life on their list of “want to see” marine creatures. The Beach House Restaurant is just next to the snorkeling area to satisfy young snorkelers who’ve worked up an appetite
Salt Pond Park
Surrounded by protective rocks and an offshore coral reef, Salt Pond Park is one of the best spots to snorkel on the south side of Kauai. The calm waters off this small beach are home to plenty of colorful fish, and sea life tends to stick to the shallower sides of the small cove, so that’s where you’ll want to concentrate your attention. Look for rainbow colored wrasses, baby parrotfish and sea cucumbers while you swim and snorkel just off this calm Kauai beach.
Intermediate to advanced snorkelers might want to try the snorkeling area at Koloa Landing, a horseshoe-shaped reef just past the edge of the old boat ramp. There’s no sandy beach here, so you need to enter from the boat ramp itself, and the ocean conditions can get rough in the deeper waters here. This area is also popular with scuba divers, so you might want to return if you decide to trade your snorkeling gear for scuba equipment.
Getting Into the Water
If snorkeling Kauai’s South Shore is on your agenda, you’re going to need snorkel equipment before you head out. You can rent snorkel gear, including fins and masks, at the Activity Hut on the grounds of Koloa Landing Resort, making it simple to get suited up for your snorkel adventure. The resort concierge can also help you decide where to go for your first snorkeling adventure and can book lessons or offshore excursions if you’d prefer a more guided experience.
For now, though, you’re headed out to one of the sandy beaches where local fish and turtles seem to welcome first-time snorkelers into their midst. As you’re gathering your gear, your spouse reminds you to put on some reef-safe sunscreen — local sea life can be damaged by chemicals in standard sunscreens, and you’ll want to protect the natural habitat as best you can.
Talk to your kids about snorkeling safety before they venture off the beaches and into the open ocean, or take a short class to get snorkeling tips for beginners. The safest snorkel spots are within protected lagoons surrounded by a rock wall or coral reef that prevents large waves and strong currents from making it hard to swim.
Safety isn’t just for human families, either. You’ll want to keep the fish and other animals you see safe while you snorkel, too. Hawaiian sea turtles are a protected species. As your kids will instruct you in very serious tones after researching all the creatures they want to see in the shallow reef: “The rule is Look, Don’t Touch.”
Expanding Your Snorkeling Options
If your family includes snorkeling experts, or once you’ve searched for fish at some of the easier snorkel spots and honed your skills in calmer waters, you might think about heading up to Kauai’s north shore to explore the snorkeling options on that end of the island. Popular snorkeling spots on the north shore of Kauai include Ke’e Beach, Haena Beach Park and Anini Beach.
South Shore Snorkeling Excursions
After a few snorkeling trips close to shore, your spouse muses about what snorkeling might be like even further offshore in deeper waters. The kids jump in to speculate on the possibilities as well. Would they see more fish? Sea urchins? Coral reefs? Slithering eels?
You look into the possibilities and decide to surprise your family with a snorkel tour on a catamaran or zodiac boat out to the more hidden snorkel spots on Kauai. The blown-out lava tube at Sheraton Caverns is a popular destination for divers, but snorkeling tours head out to that area as well. You’ll swim along the surface gazing down at huge lava formations, and you’re likely to see larger marine life than you spotted closer to shore. During your boat ride out to the site, you might even see a whale or two skirting along the Kauai coast.
For a tranquil deep water snorkel experience on the south side of Kauai, consider a trip to the private reef Kipu Kai, which is only accessible via boat. You’ll get to snorkel away from the crowds, and the abundance of fish in the crystal clear waters makes it well worth the trip. Once you’re in the water, it feels like you and the fish are the only ones around for miles. Lunch is provided on the boat, so all you need to do is show up and get ready to explore some of the best snorkeling locations on Kauai. North shore snorkeling trips on the Na Pali coast are also available, although ocean conditions sometimes limit access to that part of the Kauai coastline.
Wherever you decide to dip your fins into the water in search of tropical fish and other marine life, Koloa Landing Resort makes the perfect base for any Kauai snorkeling adventures. Call 808-240-6600 to book your private villa today.