Among the many attractions that Kauai has to offer (myself included), snorkeling is counted among the very best. As I tell my little baby seals, “A family that snorkels together, stays together!” They are confused by this notion, but nonetheless, you would be wise to follow such a mantra and encourage your own children to follow your lead in exploring the reefs just offshore. It is amazing what you will find.
Still, snorkeling with a family is different than snorkeling on your own. As a priority, you need two things: safe conditions and interesting surroundings. With these two things secured, you will be able to enjoy the adventure with a peace of mind that your children are safe and enjoying themselves. I have two beaches I’d like to recommend for embarking on such an endeavor.
#1: Ke’e Beach
Located at the end of the North Shore, Ke’e Beach is the last beach before you reach the Na Pali coast – the only part of Kauai coastline that remains traversable only by foot. Sounds pretty picturesque doesn’t it? The location of Ke’e allows for unique views of the Na Pali coastline and the lagoon packed with fish allows excellent snorkeling, sea fishing, and off-the-reef scuba diving. Even hikers love to visit the beach as it leads directly to the famed Kalalau Trail. You can see why Ke’e is one of Kauai’s most frequented beaches.
Still, a day at Ke’e Beach can either be completely enjoyable or a real stress depending on how you plan it. I’ve been around the block…ahem island…a time or two and, consequently, have a suggestion that will make your visit to Ke’e Beach one you’ll want to repeat.
Plan your excursion during summer months
If you plan your visit to Ke’e Beach during the summer, you will be avoiding the strong currents and dangerous snorkeling conditions. Though the beach is protected by a reef, the strong current has created a hazard for snorkelers and swimmers alike. Remember, waves and currents are incredibly powerful – leave the dangerous waters to me and my other seal friends. During the summer, the current is kinder and more manageable. However, you will want to pay close attention to warning signs.
Logistics: bathrooms, lifeguard, picnic facilities,
#2: Tunnels Beach
Located on the North Shore, Tunnels Beach (a.k.a. Makua Beach) gets its name from the caverns created by water flow that pocket the barrier reef just beyond the shore. It’s said that Tunnels Beach has the best snorkeling on the island (see this website to plan your trip around the best snorkeling days). Protected by this reef, Tunnels Beach provides calm and predictable conditions necessary for young families to enjoy the ocean, which means it is a perfect beach for the “in-between” family that has both older kids who want to experience sea life and underwater caverns and younger children who will be happier playing in the sand and shallow, docile waves. The water is crystal clear, so even the smaller ones can get a glimpse of underwater creatures without leaving the shore. Views from the beach are stunning – this beach was even featured on South Pacific! (side note: This is not a good beach for beginner surfers OR boogie boarding)
Tunnels is connected to the Haena Beach Park (best place for parking) which provides lifeguards who keep an eye out for strong currents moving through the reef’s “tunnels”. After a day at the beach, take the family on a stroll through the hiking trails further inland to get a better view of the waterfalls close by.
Logistics: parking, restrooms, and showers at Haena Beach Park, lifeguard present on beach.
Be sure to wave goodbye – I’ll be watching you from the ocean!
**Important note to any snorkeler swimming offshore of any beach: remember, snorkelers are encouraged to stay close to the portion of the reef closest to the shore. Outer reefs are unpredictable and dangerous.