Best snorkeling beaches in Kauai North Shore

One of the best activities in the Hawaiian islands is snorkeling in Kauai. Need to know where to go? Read on for our top snorkeling beaches on Kauai’s North Shore, compiled after a week of sampling (I know, rough job, right?). Here’s what we found out:

best-snorkeling-kauai

Anini Beach:

This was the first beach we visited on Kauai, and it did not disappoint. Because it’s surrounded by reefs, Anini is very calm and great for young kids…which is why we list it in our best Kauai beaches for babies and toddlers. But it also has great snorkeling. In the first five minutes we were out in the water, we saw multiple sea turtles. Further exploration off the shore rewarded us with schools of fish and sea slugs.

We loved that the shallow water lets you explore further out while still being able to touch, and that the sea turtles came in close enough that even young kids could see them easily. When not in the water, Anini still wins because it has a fun creek running into the ocean, lots of trees to play on with big exposed roots, and usually, a North Shore General Store food truck in the parking lot. How to get there: Take the highway past Princeville (toward Lihue) to Anini Road. You’ll go past a residential area, then end at the beach parking lot.

anini-beach

Hidaways Beach:

Not so hidden anymore, Hideaways, actually called Kenomene Beach is located right in Princeville, by the St. Regis. Getting to the beach can be tough, but that just means fewer other people to contend with, right? Start by hiking down a steep and rocky path…use the hand rails and ropes, and consider wearing sturdy sandals instead of flip-flops.

The best snorkeling is around the rock outcropping that separates the beach areas. Snorkel when the tide is partway in, to avoid it being too shallow. Waves during our visit were existent, but not large. However, we heard they can be quite large depending on the tide. How to get there: It’s easiest to approach Hideaways by the Pali Ke Kua condos by Hanalei Bay Resort. Enter the resort and follow the footpath to the beach. If you want to take the shorter but steeper trail, that starts at the parking lot, which is small (about 10 cars fit). This is also located right at the entrance of the condos and St. Regis, in Princeville. Tip: Go early in the morning to get parking and the beach to yourself!

Ke’e Beach:

ke'e-beach

The last beach accessible by car before the Na Poli Coast, Ke’e Beach is another good one for young kids, because of the lack of surf. This also makes it great for snorkeling. Ke’e Beach gets crowded, so hit it early to enjoy the gentle lagoon all to yourselves. The Kalalau Trail (Na Poli Coast Trail) starts here, too.

The beach is teeming with fish, and perfect for a snorkeling day. Just stay clear of the current that flows from the lagoon to the sea. Swim just outside the inner reef for the best fish sightings. You can see from the photo below that it looks rough…actually the reef shields the snorkeling area beautifully.

best-snorkeling

How to get there: Take the road to the end! That’s it. The parking lot is small here, which is another incentive to get here early. If you must park on the road, you’ll likely get a ticket to the tune of $35 or so. Many people deem it worth it. Tip: you can start at Ke’e Beach and take a four mile round trip hike along the trail to Hanakapiai Beach as well.

Queen Emma’s Bath:

queen-emmas-bath

While not technically a snorkeling beach, Queen Emma’s Bath is not to be missed. Kids can snorkel here, seeing rock formations and exploring the pools, and you’ll likely see sea turtles in the surf off the coast. This special geological feature is located in Princeville (follow signs as you enter this golf-resort community near the St. Regis). Park at the top of a short, downhill hike to the rocky shore, where you can explore along the coastline in either direction. Directly in front of you, after you exit the trail, will be beautiful chasms in the rock that form rocky bays for water to flow in and out of. In some seasons, these are swimmable, but not in spring or winter. Check for sea turtles here, then walk left, where you’ll find fully enclosed pools in the rock near the point. Families can swim and jump here, and snorkel in the crystal clear water. Tip: get to the parking lot early; it fills up fast and there’s no other street parking immediately adjacent.

Note: Queen Emma’s Baths have taken many lives, as noted on a sign when you enter. Never visit during the winter season, and heed all signs and warnings. We recommend never swimming in the exposed inlets at all.

Need a sure bet on the south side of the island? The inlet by the Marriott Vacation Club at Poipu Beach has great snorkeling from shore.

Read more Kauai travel tips and reviews!

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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  1. The Adventure Ahead says:

    That turtle pic is amazing – snorkeling with turtles is certainly on our bucket list!

  2. Thanks! The turtles were everywhere! Definitely an awesome experience!

  3. This beach is really amazing to enjoy. Pictures are brilliant and that turtle pic is capture really stunning. I like your post. Keep on sharing such interesting post.

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