Kauai Water Sports
Snorkel, SUP, or Kayak
You’ve got to try at least one of these activities on your Kauai vacation!
Snorkeling in Kauai
Inside the protection of the coral reef that surrounds much of the island, you’ll find water that is clear, shallow, and calm. You’ll see firsthand some of our colorful tropical fish, honu (sea turtles), and farther out from the shore the dolphins at play. Here are some the best places to snorkel. Always remember that the ocean can be unpredictable and dangerous, and treat it with respect. Check conditions carefully before entering the water, and check kauaiexplorer.com daily for current ocean conditions report.
Ke’e Beach (at the end of the highway on the far north shore): Ke’e Beach remains closed due to heavy road damage sustained during unprecedented April 2018 rainfall. The road, and beach, are due to reopen in June of 2019. Always one of the best snorkeling spots on the island, over the past year with the dramatic reduction in traffic, sealife has come back in abundance. When the road re-opens, word is that visitors will be required to obtain a permit, in order to limit the amount of traffic on the road each day, or to ride out on one of the north shore shuttles. So you’ll want to plan your visit ahead of time to insure you have the necessary permit or shuttle ticket.
Haena Beach Park and Tunnels Beach (past Hanalei on the far north shore): Like Ke’e Beach above, Tunnels and Haena are scheduled to reopen in June of 2019 and visitors are expected to be required to obtain a permit, or take one of the north shore shuttles. Tunnels has a large protective reef, so snorkeling is normally safe year-round. This is a great spot to find sea turtles! Be sure to walk in along one of the sandy channels, don’t walk across the coral (which is easily damaged and hard on your feet). Restrooms and showers available at the lifeguarded beach park.
Anini Beach (on the north shore 5 minutes south of Princeville): Like Tunnels, Anini Beach has a long white sand beach and large protective reef, making the water safe nearly all year round. Plenty of fish and honu (sea turtles) here. The best place to get in the water is the shallow sandy area near the campground. Showers and restrooms available at this lifeguarded beach.
Lydgate Beach Park (East Shore): Family friendly! IN addition to showers and restrooms, the beach is lifeguarded, and there’s a huge playground for the little ones. Quite a variety of fish here. The snorkeling area is protected by a rock wall You’ll find the most fish among the rocks along the wall…but be careful because waves can come over the wall.
Salt Pond Beach Park (south shore): Best in winter, when the south shore surf is calmer. Quite an astonishing variety of fish, and the monk seals like to come ashore to sunbathe here. This lifeguarded beach has restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and barbecues…so when you’re done in the water, you can hang out and enjoy yourself for a while.
Kayaking in Kauai
Kauai offers an abundance of rivers, and nearly perfect weather year-round for enjoying all types of water sports. Whether your staying at one of Kauai vacation rentals on the north shore, the east shore, or the south shore, you’ll find you’re close to a lovely little spot for a paddle! Depending on your skill and comfort level, you can join a group excursion, or rent a kayak and head out on your own. There’s nothing quite like paddling serenely up the river, maybe pulling in to a secluded shore somewhere for a picnic lunch and a quick cooling dip in the water.
Places to Kayak on your own
- Hanalei River (North Shore): Normally gentle and calm, the Hanalei River is a peaceful and relaxing kayaking excursion. You can paddle all the way to the ocean and out into the bay where conditions are a little more challenging. Lots of places to rent kayaks in Hanalei, or to sign on for a guided excursion (see below).
- Wailua (East Shore): Wider and not as smooth as Hanalei, the Wailua River is Kauai’s only navigable river, and offers opportunities for quite lengthy paddling, if you’re up to it. You can head upriver to Wailua Falls for a picnic and a swim, or downriver towards the open ocean. Quite a number of rental outfitters along the river.
Kayak Equipment and Tours
This is just a small sampling of the numerous outfitters and tour operators offering kayak excursions. Check TripAdvisor for reviews, if you’re not sure which one to pick.
- Kayak Wailua (East Shore in Kapa’a): Easy to find, it’s just off the highway at Wailua opposite the Shell station. Right on the banks of the river, it’s easy to hit the water and go. Tours include a hike to Secret Falls for a swim and picnic. Good prices!
- Kayak Hanalei (North Shore in Hanalei): Their kayak tours start out along the Hanalei River before heading out in to Hanalei Bay. Snorkeling or beach-lounging time included. There’s also a surfing school, and stand-up paddle board lessons and rentals are available.
- Napali Kayak (North Shore in Hanalei): Paddle the entire 17 mile coastline of the Na Pali wilderness area. Overnight camping and kayaking excursions are available. You don’t need to have previous kayak experience, but should be in good physical condition, as it’s a long way! Pricey, but a really unique experience.
- Kayak Kauai Na Pali Outfitters (East Shore in Kapaa): Quite a variety of excursions. Depending how much time you want to spend, how much money you want to spend, and how much physical exertion you can take, you’re sure to find something to meet your needs. Sea kayaking, river kayaking, paddle-and-hike, kayak and camp, they’ve got it all.
- Outfitters Kauai (South Shore in Koloa and East Shore in Lihue): These guys are pretty much a one-stop-shop for outdoor island activities. They offer sea kayaking on the north shore during the summer months and the south shore during the winter months. Experience Wailua River waterfall excursions and Huleia River tours through the national wildlife refuge. You’ll also find they’ve got zipline adventures, downhill bike tours (AWESOME zoom down the mountain from Waimea Canyon), and stand-up paddle boarding.
- Princeville Ranch (North Shore): A real mixed back of outdoor fun! Start out hiking to a private mountain stream where you’ll embark in your kayaks on a pleasant shady paddle. Another little hike and you’re at a zipline for some fun and excitement. Then swim or tube at a private waterfall and swimming hole while your guides prepare a picnic lunch. Paddle back down stream to wind up your tour.
SUP – Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Kauai
The most fun you can have standing up! Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) can be enjoyed at any age and any skill level. From a relaxing, peaceful excursion up a smooth and gently flowing river, to a wild ride on the waves in open water, you can do it on a stand-up paddle board. Give it a try! You really don’t need any experience, just the ability to balance on your own two feet.
- Stand Up Paddle Kauai (East Shore in Kapaa) Offering lessons and rentals on the Wailua River.
- Kayak Hanalei (North Shore in Hanalei): Group and private lessons on the Hanalei River and Hanalei Bay. Also kayak tours and rentals, and surfing lessons.
- Hoku Water Sports (South Shore in Poipu): Group and private lessons as well as equipment rental. Also offering surfing lessons and board rentals, outrigger canoe tours, bike rentals, and basic beach gear rentals (chairs, umbrellas, etc).