If you've ever had an opportunity to see the North Shore of Kauai from the air on a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft you will have had little trouble recognizing a huge reef that protrudes outward from the coastline on the eastern side of the NaPali Coast. This giant reef extends way out to sea and its semi-circle shape provides protection for an obviously beautiful beach at the shore line. This is Tunnels Beach.
Because the reef here provides more protection from the waves than perhaps any other beach on Kauai's North Shore, and because this reef extends almost all the way into shore, Tunnels Beach may be the premier snorkeling beach on the northern coast of the island. The reef is divided into two parts, the inner reef and the outer reef. The outer reef is where you will see waves continuously breaking. This is where the big wave surf is found that is so popular with the experienced local surfers. The inner reef is the "sweet spot" for snorkelers because the waters will generally flatten out in this area and usually provide a more calm and peaceful spot to view the reef with all of its rich sea life. The above characterization of Tunnels Beach is obviously a generalization and every day can be, and is, different. This is Kauai's North Shore, and it is always very dangerous. It's true that the reef offers protection from much of the wave action but the currents that pass through the reef all the way into the beach can be nothing short of the force produced by a fast flowing river. Even on days when it looks calm to the eye there could be dangerous currents lingering so it is important for you to speak directly to the lifeguards who are on duty at this beach to ask whether it is safe to enter the water here on the day you are visiting and to ask which portion of the beach would be the most safe area for you to navigate. For a fact, unless you are an extremely accomplished snorkeler you should always stay away from the outer reef where the waves are breaking but even the inside reef can require care to negotiate.
The reefs that you will find at Tunnels will be a delight to behold. Although it has been lost in the sense of an urban legend it is surmised that the name "Tunnels" is derived from maze-like twisted corridor of coral reefs that seem to wander their way endlessly along this fabulous coastline. Bring a fish identification card if you want to be sure of what you are seeing because there is lots of reef life to observe.
As far as amenities are concerned Tunnels Beach has restrooms and showers, picnic tables and a small parking area.
Be advised that all beaches and ocean locations in Hawaii can be dangerous including this one. Be completely aware of the ocean conditions prior to entering any Hawaiian waters. Be certain that a lifeguard is on duty at this location and be certain to ask him where the best place for you to swim at this beach will be on the day you are there based upon the current ocean and wind conditions. Also, all shorelines and beaches in Hawaii, including this one, can be frequented by sharks, jellyfish and other sea creatures which can provide potential harm to people entering the water.
Anahola Beach is a great choice for a beach on Kauai. Not only is Anahola picturesque with scenic vistas and a great expanse of beautiful white sand but its protective outer reef of Anahola Bay makes it a less dangerous area in which to enjoy the water than many other beach locations.
Hanalei Bay is by far the largest bay on Kauai and is the heart and soul of all the beaches on the North Shore. The area upon which the ocean touches the shores of the bay is what is known as Hanalei Beach the this colossal spectacle of a beach is perhaps two-miles long and in most places over 100' wide.
Kalihiwai Beach is one of the truly beautiful North Shore Beaches. It is scenically positioned between two prominent points of land and its perfect crescent shape is first noticeable as you get a glimpse of the bay when driving down the roadway which dead-ends at the beach itself.
Lumahai Beach is Kauai's equivalent of the Venus Fly Trap. A case could be made that this may perhaps be the most beautiful beach on the island. Because of its beauty Lumahai Beach was the spot that was chosen to film South Pacific and it is hard to take a photo of this beach that does not come out picture postcard perfect.
In many ways the Mahaulepu Beach experience is more of a hiking adventure than a traditional beach outing. The beautiful sands of Mahaulepu Beach are essentially the hiking path that will take you on a two mile journey starting from Shipwreck Beach in Poipu all the way to the cliffs on the eastern side.
Picturesque is a word that could easily be used to describe Moloa'a Bay. The few vacation rentals that dot this east side bay obviously have the same point of view, as their beachfront locations make a memorable impression in any photograph and aid in luring potential clients to their scenic ocean retreats.
The only reason we are including the Queen's Bath on our list of beaches on Kauai is to dissuade you from going there at all. At the time of this writing I am not exactly certain how many people have lost their lives here but a year has passed by since the official tally had reached 29 persons.
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