Tunnels Beach in Kauai (Makua Beach):  Ultimate Guide to the Best Snorkeling Beach on Kauai

by | Jan 3, 2024

Welcome to Tunnels Beach in Kauai, also called Makua Beach, a famous spot for snorkeling on the North Shore of Kauai.

This Kauai beach is like a secret underwater park with clear water and tons of sea life, including turtles, fish, eels, octopuses, crabs, and even the special Hawaiian monk seal.

Tunnels Beach sits where latitude 22.224036 meets longitude -159.56055100000003. You can get there driving Highway 560 near Ha’ena Point, just past a sign marked with an eight-mile point between two paths that lead to this amazing place.

Once you are here, remember some tips: Stay safe because big waves come in winter, and there are no lifeguards; come early to find a parking spot; check out cool things close by, like Napali Coast State Wilderness Park.

You won’t want to miss out – so keep reading for everything you need to know before your visit!

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Location of Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach)

Tunnels Beach nestles on the north shore of Kauai, a gem waiting for you near Ha’ena Point. You can find this slice of paradise off Highway 560 close to the famous 8-mile marker.

Think about parking your car and strolling down to one of the two paths leading to Tunnels Beach: one is a short 0.4-mile walk from the mile marker, while another spot lies just a little further at 0.6 miles past it.

As you plan your day, picture yourself taking in the sights as you drive along Kuhio Highway with an audio tour towards Ke’e Beach and then stopping by Ha’ena State Park.

Tunnels Beach isn’t far from other stunning sites either—it’s roughly a quick 2-mile trip eastward from where hikers start their journey on the Kalalau Trail within Napali Coast State Wilderness Park.

Get ready to step onto golden sands with views that will take your breath away!

Key Takeaways of Tunnels Beach in Kauai

  • Tunnels Beach is a top snorkeling spot on Kauai’s north shore, famous for its clear waters and rich sea life.
  • Visitors can enjoy activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing at this scenic location.
  • For safety and best experience, come early to find parking and check ocean conditions.
  • The beach has two reefs: an inner reef for beginners and an outer reef for advanced snorkelers and divers.
  • Nearby attractions include the Napali Coast and Hanalei Valley Lookout.

What Makes Tunnels Beach Special

Enveloped by the majestic Napali Coast, Tunnels Beach captivates with its distinctive combination of natural beauty and underwater wonders.

Here, the azure waters are not just a gateway to relaxation but a portal to an aquatic paradise teeming with vibrant marine life—a true snorkeler’s dream on Kauai’s famed North Shore.

Unique Landscape

Tunnels Beach is a sight to see with its stunning views and natural wonders. Giant palm trees sway in the breeze, while lush, jagged peaks rise to the west.

The beach gets its name from the impressive lava tubes beneath the water’s surface that create tunnel-like formations.

These formations give snorkelers an exciting world to explore as they swim over colorful coral reefs.

The landscape at Tunnels Beach also features both an inner and outer reef. This creates different spaces for all kinds of sea life to live and for you to see them up close.

You can swim alongside graceful sea turtles, by keeping at least 10 feet from them, or spot tropical fish darting through the clear waters.

Don’t be surprised if you even glimpse a Hawaiian monk seal resting on shore! With such breathtaking scenery above and below water, it truly feels like a paradise.

Beyond underwater adventures, this stretch of golden sand meets blue waters offering more than just beautiful sights; it provides perfect spots for sunbathing or looking out at surfers riding waves further offshore near Mile Marker 8.

Come here to feel amazed by nature’s beauty on Kauai’s north shore—whether you’re exploring undersea caves or simply soaking up sunshine on Haena Beach Park’s adjacent sands.

Rich Marine Life

The unique landscape of Tunnels Beach sets the stage for its underwater world. Picture yourself swimming with colorful tropical fish, floating alongside sea turtles, and maybe even spotting a Hawaiian monk seal.

The clear waters here are like a window to an ocean full of life.

Tunnels Beach is one of the best places on Kauai to see this rich marine life. Near the shore, you’ll find inner reefs where smaller fish play hide and seek among the coral.

Venture out a little further to the outer reef, and you’re in for a bigger spectacle—schools of larger fish moving through deeper blue waters.

With every snorkel dip, there’s something amazing to discover!

Excellent Snorkeling Conditions

tunnels beach in kauai - snorkleing at makua beach

Tunnels Beach is a top spot for snorkeling on Kauai. You will find clear water and lots of fish, turtles, and sometimes monk seals. It’s great for beginners and experts because there are two reefs.

The inner reef is calm and safe for new snorkelers. More experienced adventurers can explore the outer reef with its bigger sea life.

Get ready to dive into fun at Tunnels Beach! After enjoying the underwater world, you might want to try other exciting things like scuba diving or surfing.

Fun Activities at Tunnels Beach

Dive into an underwater adventure or catch a wave above; Tunnels Beach invites thrill-seekers and ocean enthusiasts to explore a world of aquatic delights.

Snorkeling at Tunnels Beach

Snorkeling at Tunnels Beach in Kauai is like swimming in a giant fishbowl. The clear waters and lively underwater world make it the best snorkeling beach on the island.


  • Check the weather before you go. Calm, sunny days are perfect for seeing lots of fish.
  • Bring your gear or rent some nearby. You’ll need a mask, snorkel, and fins to swim with the fish.
  • Start early in the day to avoid crowds. More people come later, so get there when you can have more space.
  • Look out for sea turtles. They love this beach, and you might swim right by one!
  • Stay safe around the reef. It’s sharp and can hurt you or get damaged. Enjoy but don’t touch.
  • Watch where you stand. Always float to keep the coral safe and avoid cutting your feet.
  • Find monk seals resting on the sand. Just give them space; they’re wild animals.
  • Take breaks often and drink water. Snorkeling is fun but can tire you out quickly.
  • Use sunscreen that’s safe for reefs. This helps protect the fish and corals at Tunnels Beach.
  • Listen to lifeguards if they’re around. They know about high surf and strong currents.

Scuba Diving at Tunnels Beach

tunnels beach in kauai - scuba at makua beach
Tunnels Beach is not just for snorkelers, scuba diving lovers find their paradise here too. Explore hidden underwater worlds where adventure and beauty live side by side.
  • Dive into clear waters to see colorful fish and beautiful coral reefs.
  • Join guided tours with experts who know the best spots.
  • If you’re new to diving, take certification courses right at Tunnels Beach.
  • Encounter sea turtles and maybe even a Hawaiian monk seal!
  • Plan your dive during calm seas for the best experience.
  • Bring or rent high-quality gear from local shops nearby.
  • Check sea conditions before your dive; safety first!
  • Enjoy a unique view of Mount Makana from below the surface.
  • Make memories that will last as you discover Kauai’s amazing sea life.

Surfing at Tunnels Beach

tunnels beach in kauai - surfing at makua beach

Surfing at Tunnels Beach offers the thrill of riding waves in a scenic spot. Here on Kauai’s North Shore, the surf can range from gentle to wild.

  • Perfect Waves: Find two main breaks that are just right for surfing.
  • Offshore Challenge: There’s a third break farther out for those who are very skilled at surfing.
  • Winter Watch: The waves get really big and strong in winter; watch the ocean before you surf.
  • Local Advice: Ask people who live here about the safest spots and times to surf.
  • Gear Rentals: You can rent surfboards near Tunnels Beach if you don’t have one.
  • Surf Lessons: Some places offer lessons if you want to learn how to surf.
  • Respect Nature: Always take care of the beach and do not hurt the plants or animals.
  • Stay Safe: Listen to lifeguards and signs; don’t get into the water if it seems dangerous.

Tips for Visiting Tunnels Beach

Before diving into the vibrant underwater world of Tunnels Beach, keep these essential tips in mind to make your visit as enjoyable and safe as possible. These pointers will help you maximize your beach day experience on Kauai’s enchanted north shore.

Beach Safety

Staying safe at Tunnels Beach is very important. Big waves and strong currents can happen, especially in the winter.

  • Look out for lifeguards and ask them about the water conditions before you swim or snorkel. They’re there to help keep you safe.
  • Swim only in areas marked for swimming. Some spots might look calm, but they can be dangerous.
  • Kids should always have an adult with them in the water. Even if it seems shallow, currents can change fast.
  • Don’t touch the coral or sea life. It protects both you and the ocean creatures.
  • Watch the weather and ocean reports. If a big surf or bad weather is coming, it’s best not to go in the water.
  • Learn about riptides and how to escape from them just in case you get caught in one while swimming.
  • Wear water shoes or fins. The beach can have sharp rocks and coral that are hard on bare feet.
  • Have a buddy system – don’t swim alone. It’s safer to have someone with you who can help if needed.
  • If you hear a whistle or see a flag warning from lifeguards, get out of the water right away; they know when it’s not safe.
  • Arrive early at Tunnels Beach so you can park safely and close by. After 10 a.m., parking gets tough, so try to get there before then.

Best Times to Visit Tunnels Beach

You’ll want to plan your visit to Tunnels Beach for the morning if you’re driving. Try to get there before 10 a.m., as parking spaces fill up fast.

It’s part of Haena State Park, and the early birds catch not only worms but also some of the best spots on this golden sand beach! Keep in mind that summer brings calmer waters, perfect for snorkeling and seeing all the colorful fish by the reef.

Winter is beautiful too, but be careful – waves can get big, and currents are strong. Always watch out for your safety no matter when you come.

If you love water activities, aim for those sunny days when Tunnels Beach shows off why it’s a top beach on Kauai for snorkeling and swimming!

Nearby Attractions

Tunnels Beach in Kauai is a treasure, but there’s more to explore nearby. Discover other gems around Tunnels Beach that make this part of Hawaii truly special.

  • Napali Coast: This stunning coastline is famous for its towering sea cliffs. Take a boat tour or hike to see these amazing views.
  • Hanalei Valley Lookout: Stop here for breathtaking sights of green valleys and taro fields. It’s a perfect photo spot.
  • Limahuli Garden and Preserve: Explore this botanical garden with rare plants and ancient terraces.
  • Waioli Mission House Museum and Gardens: Learn about Hawaii’s history in this beautiful setting with old missionary homes and lovely gardens.
  • Napali Coast State Wilderness Park: Adventure seekers will love the hiking trails here. They offer some of the best views on the island.

Recommended Tours Nearby

FAQs for Tunnels Beach

1. What makes Tunnels Beach the best snorkeling beach on Kauai?

Tunnels Beach offers some of the best snorkeling with its clear waters, abundant marine life, and stunning reef break far offshore.

2. How do I get to Tunnels Beach?

To get to Tunnels Beach, you can drive north shore Kauai past Princeville and park at Haena Beach Park; from there, follow signs for beach access.

3. Can families enjoy Tunnels Beach in Kauai?

Yes! Tunnels beach is family-friendly with a beautiful stretch of sand and shallow areas protected by reefs, perfect for kids to swim and snorkel.

4. Are there vacation rentals near Tunnels Beach?

Kauai travel planners find that vacation rentals are available near the beach, especially around Bali Hai and adjacent Haena Beach Park areas.

5. What activities besides snorkeling can I do at Tunnels Beach?

Other popular activities at this part of Kauai include kayaking, kite surfing, exploring Maniniholo Dry Cave nearby also known as Bali Hai from the movie South Pacific.

6. Is it easy to find a spot at Tunnals Beech?

It may take effort as parking is limited; arrive early or consider options like kayaking from another location if you struggle to find a spot.

Exploring Makua “Tunnels” Beach Wrap-Up

Remember how special Tunnels Beach is for your next trip. You now know its stunning views and rich sea life make it a top spot for snorkeling. Think about trying surfing or scuba diving too.

Make sure you stay safe and pick the best time to visit. Get ready to enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai!

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Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.