Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach)

Makua Beach, on the north coast of Kauai, is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. It includes shallow areas protected by a coral quarry and reefs open onto the ocean, and you can explore a range of environments and varied underwater life: a whole medley of fish, green turtles and, if you’re lucky, an encounter with a Hawaiian monk seal, all of which pay regular visits to the site.
How to get there?

Makua Beach is about 1 mile (1.6km) before the end of the road (Haena State Park) along the northern coast of Kauai. To get there from Lihu’e first take route 56, then 560 (Kuhio Highway) north. It takes a little over one hour to cover the 40-mile distance. A satnav device may come in handy since it can be hard to locate the access to the beach (see on google maps). It can also be tricky to find a place to park nearby, because of the many no-parking areas near the path to the beach. Once you’ve parked, walk about 100 yards to the beach.

Water entrance

Once you’ve reached the beach along the access path, walk towards the right for about 100 to 150 yards. You will arrive at a sandy area that is the ideal spot for getting into the water.

Aerial view


The area to explore includes the reef that runs parallel with the western part of the beach (to your left when you enter the water) and the spot inside the small lagoon of Haena Point (across from you). Use the aerial view above to locate the different places to explore and also the ones to steer clear of, since there are strong currents in the area.

In the reef running along the beach, you successively cross sand and coral areas (↕3-7ft/1-2m), until you reach a reef drop-off where the depth rises sharply (↕7-20ft/2-6m). In the shallower areas, even though the seabeds are poor in quality (hardly any coral), you will see many of the archipelago’s most typical fish, such as the Reef triggerfish, parrotfish or shoals of tang busy grazing on the coastal bench. On the reef drop-off, shoals of tireless jacks swim along the reef, while hawkfish take up position on small coral and lie in wait for their prey. But, above all, in this area you might come across Hawaiian monk seals, which are native to the islands, and which come to the area regularly. In between dives, the seals rest on the beach in the middle of the tourists. Respect the observation instructions both in and out of the water (keep a distance between yourself and the animals, don’t try to interact with them): federal and state laws are both extremely strict on this point.

Snorkeling Report Tunnels Makua Beach Kauai Hawaii
Aerial view of Tunnels Beach

The area inside the small lagoon (↕3-7ft/1-2m) has the same features, with seabeds poor in coral but rich in fish. This area’s suitability for beginners can vary, as it is relatively far from the beach and sometimes subject to strong currents. The spot is sometimes impracticable in winter, when impressive waves roll down on the famous North Shore.

Restaurants & accommodation

There aren’t any restaurants or accommodation close to the beach, which is in a residential area. Stock up on water and food in Hanalei, which you will pass through about 3 miles (5km) before arriving at the beach.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
    Intermediary level
  • Maximum depth
    20ft (6m)
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential Dangers
    Usual precautions
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos

Species you may spot while snorkeling Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach)

Common name Scientific name Abundance Fishbase Wikipedia
Lagoon triggerfish
Rhinecanthus aculeatus
Reef triggerfish
Rhinecanthus rectangulus
Bursa triggerfish
Sufflamen bursa
Arc-eye hawkfish
Paracirrhites arcatus
Convict surgeonfish
Acanthurus triostegus
Whitebar surgeonfish
Acanthurus leucopareius
Threadfin butterflyfish
Chaetodon auriga
Bluestripe butterflyfish
Chaetodon fremblii
Millet butterflyfish
Chaetodon miliaris
Moorish idol
Zanclus cornutus
Manybar goatfish
Parupeneus multifasciatus
Bluefin trevally
Caranx melampygus
Hawaiian cleaner wrasse
Labroides phthirophagus
Yellowfin goatfish
Mulloidichthys vanicolensis
Blacktail snapper
Lutjanus fulvus
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You encountered a specie at this spot that is not listed here?