Snorkeling Tunnels, also known as Makua Beach, used to be some of the best in Kauai, especially for seeing big coral formations. But snorkeling is now prohibited in the large inner reef area known as the Makua Lagoon. The Makua Pu’uhonua (marine refuge) was designated as part of the Hā‘ena Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) to protect the fish nursery there.
Note: This page is a sample from our popular Kauai Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.
We have been informed by Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), that markers will be placed on the reef at the four corners of the prohibited area.
If you would like more information about the Makua Pu’uhonua and the Ha’ena CBFSA see the signs at the public entrances to the beach (see image), or this webpage.
With this change, the small snorkeling Tunnels area that remains is decent for seeing fish, a few small corals, and some fun topography, but do be careful of the strong current.
Tunnels, like any north shore Kauai snorkeling spot, is seasonal. Often in the winter the waves are too big and the current too dangerous to attempt to snorkel here. We recommend in the winter to snorkel on the south side of Kauai.
The parking for snorkeling Tunnels is scarce. You must arrive very early in the morning to guarantee yourself a spot here. If you don’t get here early enough to get one of the few spots nearer the beach, you can park farther down the road at Ha’ena Beach Park and walk down the beach to Tunnels area. It is over a half mile walk along the beach. You could also take a shuttle to Ha’ena Beach Park so you don’t have to find a parking spot. Read more below.
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Water Entrance for Snorkeling Tunnels
The beach is sandy and you can enter the water in your bare feet. Enter to the right side, looking from shore, of the rocky reef at the shoreline.
Where to Snorkel
The only place you are allowed in for snorkeling Tunnels with anything of interest to see is in the area right in front of the beach where the rocky reef is at the shoreline. There are two sections of this reef divided by a sandy channel.
You can see some fish, algae, and a few small corals on the offshore side of this reef, and in the section farther left, looking from shore, there is a wall that drops off fairly deep with some interesting caves and tunnels to check out. We don’t recommend snorkeling the length of this reef over to Ha’ena Beach because you get out from behind the protection of the outer reef and the waves start crashing on the reef.
If you get away from the rock reef and out into the channel, you will find some current trying to take you out to the ocean. Stay close to the reef when snorkeling Tunnels.
The water depths for snorkeling Tunnels range from 3-25 feet.
The visibility has never been great in all the times we have snorkeled there.
Got Hurt Snorkeling and Travel Insurance Won’t Cover It?
Yes, many travel insurance policies exclude snorkeling accidents, leaving you in the lurch. See our recommended travel insurance that does cover snorkeling.
What We While Saw Snorkeling Tunnels
You can see a few fish and small corals while snorkeling Tunnels. We saw the list of fish below on all previous visits.
- Boxfish, Spotted
- Butterflyfish: Fourspot, Lined, Ornate, Raccoon, Teardrop, Threadfin
- Chromis: Blackfin, Oval
- Coris, Yellowtail
- Damselfish, Brighteye
- Dascyllus, Hawaiian
- Emperor, Bigeye
- Filefish, Barred
- Goatfish: Doublebar, Manybar, Yellowstripe
- Gregory, Hawaiian
- Grouper, Peacock
- Hawkfish: Arc-eye, Freckled, Stocky
- Hogfish, Hawaiian
- Moray Eel, Undulated
- Parrotfish: Bullethead, Redlip
- Sergeant: Blackspot, Hawaiian, Indo-Pacific
- Snapper: Blacktail, Bluestripe
- Surgeonfish: Eyestripe, Goldring, Orangeband, Ringtail, Whitebar
- Tang: Achilles, Convict, Lavender, Sailfin
- Toby, Hawaiian Whitespotted
- Trevally, Bluefin
- Triggerfish: Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Lei, Picasso
- Unicornfish: Bluespine, Orangespine
- Wrasse: Bird, Christmas, Hawaiian Cleaner, Saddle, Surge
- Sandpaper Rice
- Sea Cucumber: Black, Teated
- Urchin: Blue-Black, Pale Rock-Boring
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These directions are from Princeville on the north shore of the island on Hwy 56 (Kuhio Hwy).
1. Head west on Hwy 56 (Kuhio Hwy), which will become Hwy 560 shortly past Princeville and you will soon pass through the town of Hanalei.
2. Keep driving and just past the 8 mile marker there is a dirt road on the right (beach) side of the road. It is .6 mile past the 8 mile marker. After parking you will need to scramble down some tree roots to get to the beach. Also, you will need to walk a little more than a quarter mile to the right on the beach to get to the snorkeling area.
3. If the parking is full on this small road, you can drive a little farther and use the parking lot at Ha’ena Beach Park. It is more than a half mile walk down the beach to Tunnels from there.
4. Another option is to use the Go Haena shuttle. You park in Hanalei and ride on the shuttle to Ha’ena Beach Park. Your fee to ride the shuttle also includes entry into Ha’ena State Park farther down the road. Make reservations for the shuttle on this website.
None. But Ha’ena Beach Park down the road has restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and shade.