Snorkeling Sea Lodge Beach - Kauai
by Tim M.
Adult Titan Scorpionfish - Snorkeling Sea Lodge Beach
You really should try snorkeling Sea Lodge Beach on Kauai. The site can only be attempted when the seas are dead flat. I mean, like glass calm. The tide on the day in which me and my girlfriend snorkeled it was low enough to expose the reef that protects the beach area. On the left side of the beach was a sandy channel where the water on the shore side of the reef was flowing out to sea, and though it was only 4 feet deep or so, it was the safest way out to the reef edge.
Once out there we experienced an extremely varied site with steep and deep drop-offs and shallow honeycombed channels between the reef structure. These channels were about 3 to 5 feet deep and maybe 6 ft. wide, and would wind around and split in different directions, occasionally opening up to large pools, all filled with fish and invertebrates, many juveniles, etc. If you lifted your head you would often encounter the ankles of the local fisherman who were reef walking and casting out over the drop off.
The highlight of this particular day in the catacombs was an adult Titan Scorpionfish, all but fished out on the major Hawaiian Islands, who sat only a few feet from me and let me get some pictures (above).
The drop off was also quite exciting. The area from Sea Lodge, north through Queens Bath, and just to the right side of Hideaways has maybe the best population of turtles in the islands. And they are bigger than any we've seen in the other islands. When we moved out to where the bottom dropped off we were greeted by an armada of turtles, perhaps as many as 30, like a squad of bombers in flight. They came towards us and broke formation, disappearing quick enough that by the time I had my 16mm wide angle lens on I could only get 2 or 3 at a time in the pictures.
We had just spent a week snorkeling the best site in Kona on the Big Island, and Sea Lodge on this day held it's own. If the seas lay down, don't miss it.
Access to Sea Lodge Beach
Access to the beach at Sea Lodge requires a mini hike. Oh, and maybe a little trespassing. Our reference guide was the excellent "Ultimate Kauai Guidebook", which for anyone who doesn't know, is THE guidebook for Kauai. It described 2 access points for the beach, but we didn't expend the energy to look for a second one once we found the actual Sea Lodge because we read that one access point was behind condo building A.
The NO TRESPASSING signs were clearly visible but I remember that there was really was no other parking other than that lot at the condo complex, so, that's where we parked. I think our logic was that we were residents of Princeville and it was not like we were driving in from Poipu or something. I concede this logic would have had no legal weight had we been towed.
My suggestion is to feel it out: the day we went the lot was largely empty and I could see no tags or the like in the vehicles already there to show they were legit and we were not. I don't remember if the spaces were numbered or marked for residents and visitors, but obviously I would have only parked where I wouldn't put out a resident. Maybe we got lucky, maybe the signs are more bark than bite. I can't say.
We looked around for building A, I don't remember if we found it, but the trail was at the back left of the property. The hike is maybe 10 to 15 minutes and the trail was in reasonable shape. I suspect that it could be slippery and require some concentration when wet. It drops down through the woods, down near the water, all the while turning left, and adds to the sense that you are about to have an adventure. There is some uphill grade to your return hike, not too bad, but save some energy.
One last note on access: during our visit to Kauai we had a condo at Pali Ke Kua, which is in Princeville only a few miles from Sea Lodge. Our neighbors that week were a Japanese couple that were very quiet. We caught a short glimpse of them maybe twice, and to us the only evidence of their existence was an ever-present, wet pair of reef walking shoes, a fishing pole at their front door, and the constant smell of cooking fish. Everyday it was the same.
On the day we snorkeled Sea Lodge, I was meandering through a cut in the reef when I saw a shadow next to, and above me. I raised my eyes above the waterline and recognized the reef shoes and their owner. This is where he went everyday and caught dinner. And lunch, it seemed. So access is available; I found it, my neighbor found it daily (he may have even done it legally). Point is, the site is worth a little effort.