Snorkeling Lawai Beach – Swim With the Fishes

Kauai, Hawaii

Snorkeling Lawai Beach is popular and an easy spot to access. We have seen it busy with tour groups brought in by van; they are often using the snuba apparatus. And even though this spot can be crowded it has lots of fish to see. Because of the protecting reef off this beach it can be a good beginner spot as long as the south swell is not high. If big waves are crashing over the barrier reef, it is not the time to snorkel here.

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Snorkeling Lawai Beach

At low tide there is a decent sized beach on the left side; but at high tide it almost disappears. The shoreline next to the road is reinforced with lava boulders and there are small rocks everywhere on the beach. The farther you go to the right the beach becomes coral shelf.

Snorkeling Lawai Beach, showing right side with hard coral shelf.

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Lawai is also known as Beach House Beach, after the restaurant that sits on the left side of the beach overlooking the ocean. Around the restaurant is a raised park with grass and a walkway near the water’s edge, so this is a nice place to hang out if it is high tide and the beach is underwater.

The Lawa’i Beach Resort is across the street behind the beach.

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Beach House grassy area for lounging.

Water Entrance for Snorkeling Lawai Beach

Lined Butterflyfish at Lawai Beach.
Variety of colorful tropical fish at Lawai.

You can enter the water in bare feet, just watch for the rocks in the sand. Enter anywhere along the sand. Put on your fins once you can float.

Where to Snorkel

When snorkeling Lawai Beach you are in the little bay between the beach and the protective reef, which is about 500 feet from the beach. Like most places, the visibility gets better the farther out you swim, and the coral that is dead or non-existent closer starts to become a little more healthy as you swim out toward the protective reef.

The reason for snorkeling Lawai Beach is to see many fish in a lot of variety, and they are all through the bay. You might also be lucky enough to see a turtle. If you are interested in topography and reef, swim along the left side rocks below the restaurant and along the inner edge of the outer reef, but don’t expect too much. There are a few large coral heads, but not many are very healthy. As always, watch for currents at all times. The depths here range from 3 to 15 feet.

Foggy Masks, Fin Blisters and Angry Snorkels!

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What We Saw While Snorkeling Lawai Beach

There are many urchins in the dead reef here. It seems like the fish are being or have been fed here because they are not afraid. We saw quite a few and in good variety while snorkeling Lawai Beach. The corals get a little more healthy out away from the beach, but they are still not great.

Leopard Blenny at Lawai Beach
Surgeonfish at Lawai


  • Blenny, Leopard
  • Boxfish, Spotted
  • Butterflyfish: Fourspot, Lined, Raccoon, Threadfin
  • Chub
  • Coris: Yellowstripe, Yellowtail
  • Damselfish, Brighteye
  • Goatfish: Manybar, Yellowstripe
  • Gregory, Hawaiian
  • Grouper, Peacock
  • Hawkfish: Freckled, Stocky
  • Moorish Idol
  • Needlefish: Crocodile, Keeltail – many, schools
  • Parrotfish: Palenose, Redlip, Stareye
  • Sergeant: Blackspot – many, Hawaiian, Indo-Pacific
  • Surgeonfish: Orangeband, Ringtail, Whitebar
  • Tang: Achilles, Convict – school, Lavender, Yellow
  • Toby: Ambon, Hawaiian Whitespotted
  • Triggerfish: Black Durgon, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a
  • Unicornfish: Bluespine, Orangespine
  • Wrasse: Bird, Blacktail, Christmas, Hawaiian Cleaner, Pearl, Rockmover – many, Saddle
Yellowstripe Coris and a Saddle Wrasse at Lawai.
Coral head at Lawai Beach.


  • Blue Rice
  • Cauliflower
  • Lobe
  • Mound
  • Nodule
  • Rice
  • Sandpaper Rice
  • Thick Finger

Other Creatures:

  • Sea Cucumber: Plump, Whitespotted
  • Sea Urchin: Blue-Black, Pale Rock-Boring

Driving Directions

1. From Hwy 50 (Kaumuali’i Hwy) head south on Hwy 520 (Maluhia Road) follow this into Koloa.

2. Turn right on Koloa Road.

3. Turn left on Po’ipu Road.

4. Follow Po’ipu Road to the traffic circle where you will take your second right onto Lawa’i Road.

5. You will pass three roads on your left and just after the third is the Prince Kuhio Park on the right and the small PK’s beach on your left. Keep going and just past the Kuhio Shores Condos and Prince Kuhio condos is Lawa’i Beach, right in front of the Beach House Restaurant. The parking is on the right across the street from the beach.

Parking along the road at Lawai Beach.


There are restrooms, drinking water, showers, a shave ice and snack shack, a payphone, and some shade in the park by the restaurant.

Restrooms at Lawai Beach.

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