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Makua Beach, also known as Tunnels Beach, is located on the north coast of Kauai and is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. Even though the largest snorkeling area is now closed, the reef fringing the beach still allows you to encounter vibrant sea life. Here you will find a whole medley of fish, green turtles and, if you’re lucky, Hawaiian monk seals, which pay regular visits to the site.

Aerial view of Tunnels Beach snorkeling area, Kauai
Aerial view of Tunnels Beach snorkeling area.

How to get to the Tunnels Beach snorkeling spot

Makua Beach is about 1 mile (1.6km) before the end of the road at Haena State Park, along the northern coast of Kauai. To get there from Lihu’e first take route 56, then route 560 (Kuhio Highway) north. It takes a little over one hour to drive the 40-mile distance.

Finding the main beach access can be tricky (see on Google Maps). It can also be tricky to find a parking space nearby, because of the numerous no-parking areas near the path to the beach. The beach is just a 100 yard walk from the main road.

Tunnels Beach Kauai snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Tunnels Beach

Once you’ve reached the beach along the access path, walk towards the right for a few dozen yards to reach the recommended water entrance spots (see map above).

Tunnels Beach snorkeling tips and recommendations

The best area to explore includes the reef that runs parallel to the western part of the beach. It is on your left when you enter the water. The shallow lagoon around Haena Point is now closed to all water activities, including snorkeling. Use the aerial view above to locate the various places to explore and also the ones to steer clear of, since there are strong currents or closed areas.

Snorkeling with Hawaiian monk seal at Ke'e Beach, Kauai
Tunnels Beach is one of the best spots in Hawaii to swim with Hawaiian monk seals, which come to feed on the drop-off.

On the reef running along the beach, you will cross sand and coral areas (↕3-7ft/1-2m), until you reach a reef drop-off where the depth increases sharply (↕7-20ft/2-6m).

In the shallower areas, even though the seabed is quite poor (hardly any coral), you will still be able to see many of the archipelago’s most typical fish, such as the reef triggerfish, parrotfish, or shoals of tang busy grazing on the rocks. On the reef drop-off, shoals of jacks swim along the reef, while arc-eye hawkfish take up their positions on small coral and lie in wait for their prey.

Arc-eye hawkfish at Tunnels Beach
An arc-eye hawkfish posted on the coral.

This is the area in which you are most likely to encounter Hawaiian monk seals.  The seals are native to the islands and regularly visit the area. In between dives, the seals rest on the beach. Please respect the instructions for observing marine life both in and out of the water. Keep a distance between yourself and the wildlife, and don’t try to interact with them.

Blacktail snappers at Tunnels Beach
Small groups of blacktail snappers hide under the rocky outcrops.

This spot is impracticable to visit in the winter when impressive waves roll down the famous North Shore.

Restaurants & accommodation nearby

There aren’t any restaurants or accommodations 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.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersUsual precautions
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

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.