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Regularly ranking top among the 10 best beaches in the US, Poipu Beach is the most popular beach on Kauai’s south shore. Its protected and shallow sea, its golden sand, and its beach park make it a favorite destination for a family beach day. Poipu also boasts some of the best snorkeling on the island: plenty of sea turtles, swarms of colored fish and (occasionally) monk seals await you in the crystal-clear waters of the bays.

Moorish Idol in Poipu Beach
The Moorish Idol is one of the most common fish in Poipu Beach.

How to go snorkeling Poipu Beach?

Poipu Beach is located near the southern tip of Kauai Island, a block south of Poipu Road. From Lihue Airport, the driving time is approximately 30 minutes (15 miles).

There is ample free parking near the beach. Bathrooms, showers, picnic tables and shelters, grassy areas, and lots of sand make it a favorite spot for families. There are lifeguards during the day, 7 days a week.

Poipu Beach Park snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Poipu Beach

The easiest spot to access the water is at the lifeguard station at the tombolo. There is a small sandy section to enter there to access either side. If you don’t have a problem walking on rocks you could access almost anywhere else. There is also beach sand access farther west by the Marriott hotel.

Poipu Beach snorkeling exploration tips

Poipu Beach is actually two crescent-shaped beaches, separated by a tombolo with snorkeling on either side of the spit from the beach to the island.

The sand bar from the beach to the tombolo has eroded and you can now swim from the east side to the west side during high tides. The east side of the spit is much more shallow and appears to overall have less fish.

Green sea turtle in Poipu Beach
Poipu Beach is a good spot to swim with green sea turtles, which frequently visit the bay and the beach.

Water depth ranges from the very shallow reef (less than a foot) to over 12 feet.

The west side of the spit has deeper sections, larger coral masses, and some sands sections. There is a slight to moderate rip current from the east to the west through the spit. This rip current is more severe during rough seas.

Snorkeling in Poipu Beach is among the best in Kauai, despite moderate healthy coral. A large diversity of fish can be seen in the bays, even in the shallows. Amongst the most common fish in the area are sergeant majors, saddle wrasse, yellowfin goatfish, and a few different species of surgeonfish.

In the rocks, you may find small moray eels, such as the zebra moray. In total, dozens of fish species live in the area.

School of surgeonfish
A school of surgeonfish spotted in the shallows.

Poipu Beach is a popular spot to swim with green sea turtles. You’ll easily encounter them both under and outside the water, napping on the beach.

The area is also renowned for occasional appearances of Hawaiian monk seals, an endangered species endemic to the archipelago. If you do spot one, please be mindful by staying at least 100 feet away.

Parrotfish in Poipu Beach, Hawaii
A parrotfish in Poipu Beach.

Do not enter the water if there is too much surf.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Poipu Beach is fronted by the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club. The Koʻa Kea Hotel & Resort, the Sheraton Kauai Resort, and the Kiahuna Plantation Resort Kauai are located in Kiahuna Beach, within walking distance from the spot. A restaurant, the Brennecke’s Beach Broiler, is found near the main parking lot (70m from the beach).


  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth12ft/4m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • LifeguardYes, 7 days a week
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.