Makua (Tunnels) Beach
Best Snorkeling Beach in North Kauai
Kauai’s Tunnels Beach offers some of the best snorkeling on earth. Rock cliffs, stunning views, and a coral reef abundant with marine life make it a haven for adventure seekers who enjoy camping, hiking, and exploring caves.
"Tunnels" refers to the lava tubes that run through the reef and into the ocean. The magnificent lave rocks line the shoreline at Makua Beach.
Overview of Makua (Tunnels) Beach
Tunnels Beach is a beautiful beach on the North Shore of Kauai. Known to locals as Makua, this beach sprawls across the North Shore.
Tunnels Beach has an excellent coral reef that goes up to the shore, coming within a few feet of dry land at low tide. The beautiful beach offers so much for snorkelers or those looking to relax in the sun.
The reef at Tunnels Beach provides an excellent habitat for sea turtles, often swimming along the reef or resting in small caves. These small caves offer a fantastic place for sea turtles to rest and sleep, so keep an eye out if you choose to snorkel near them! In addition, you can also find many tropical fish swimming around the reef, along with other marine life, such as eels, octopuses, and crabs.
Tunnels is also known for its shore break, making it one of Kauai's best surf spots. There are two breaks — one at the mouth of the beach and another further out in the water. A third break is located offshore, but only experienced surfers should attempt this one.
Directions to Makua (Tunnels) Beach
Take HI-route 56 West out of Hanalei for 5 miles. Once you pass mile marker 35 and drive slowly through the residential area, look for "Tunnels" signs as you bear left to Waikanal Rd. Then, look for mile marker 8 Mile, which stands near the two very short dirt roads that lead toward the beach. With limited parking in this area, come early to find a legal spot.
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Essential Tips for a Makua (Tunnels) Beach Visit
Tunnels is too dangerous to swim during the winter when large waves pound the north shore. We recommend arriving early to find a spot. Don't leave it to the last minute if you want a prime location at the beach. But if a short walk doesn’t faze you, park in Ha'ena State Beach Park just past "Tunnels" or in the parking area on Alealea St. near mile marker 8, but it’s a half-mile walk to Tunnels Beach (heading west).
Makua (Tunnels) Beach Amenities
This beach LACKS any amenities, as it is a residential neighborhood. NO lifeguards here. However, you can access nearby Ha'ena State Park for many facilities.
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Thrilling Activities at Makua (Tunnels) Beach
Family Activities at Makua (Tunnels) Beach
If you are looking for a family-friendly beach, Makua Beach is one that you should consider. You can take advantage of plenty of activities while on vacation in Makua Beach. You can go swimming or snorkeling, hike along some trails, or even rent a paddleboard for a tour of the area. If you like to fish, there are plenty of opportunities here. Fishing can also be gratifying at this beach because it is surrounded by a reef system that provides food for many different types of marine life.
Makua (Tunnels) Beach Activities
The area offers many other outdoor activities perfect for visitors with a love of adventure.
Snorkeling: Snorkeling here is excellent, with plenty of tropical fish and sea turtles that call this place home.
Kayaking: You can launch your kayak from the beach or rent one from nearby shops. Excellent guided tours are available if you want some help navigating the caves.
Scuba Diving: The fantastic coral reef and generally calm conditions mean you, too, will have a spectacular dive. Be aware that there is a slight rip current, but it is usually relatively weak.
Picnics: At Makua Beach, you will find a large grassy area with a few pavilions and picnic tables that visitors can use for barbecues or picnics.
Surfing and Bodyboarding: The waves rise very high in the winter, especially for beginners and those who don't like to get hammered by the shore break. Yet, skilled surfers and bodyboarders flock here in the water.
Nearby Attractions and Sights of Makua (Tunnels) Beach
If you're looking for something to do near Tunnels Beach, discover several activities. For instance, see the otherworldly Na Pali Coast on a helicopter or boat tour. Other ideas include:
Hanalei Valley Lookout: For amazing views of Hanalei Valley, head to Hanalei Valley Lookout. The lookout offers a panoramic view of Mount Makana (otherwise known as Bali Hai), the lush Hanalei Valley, and the stunning taro fields. The lookout can be reached by car via Kuhio Highway/Hawaii Route 560 and is less than 10 minutes from Tunnels Beach.
Limahuli Gardens and Preserve: Limahuli Gardens and Preserve is another beautiful place in Haena State Park near Tunnels Beach. This park is a National Tropical Botanical Garden that showcases many different plants endemic to the Hawaiian islands. A self-guided tour through the garden will take approximately two hours, but if you're interested in learning more about this garden, they also offer guided tours that last around three hours.
Waioli Mission House Museum and Gardens: In 1834, American missionaries arrived in Hawaii and founded Waioli Mission House as their headquarters. Today, it's open as a museum that showcases its history and provides information about early Hawaiian mission life. It's just a short drive from Tunnels Beach and worth checking out if you're interested in Hawaiian history or architecture.
Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park: Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is home to Hawaii's most famous trail, the Kalalau Trail, which has become famous because of its beauty and difficulty. It's so difficult that not many people even attempt it — which makes it all the more beautiful when you see hikers on this trail that leads past breathtaking waterfalls.