Kauai has created a fantastic landscape that is home to some of the world's most spectacular natural environments and this is all thanks to the topography of Kauai and its volcanic origins.
As one of the oldest Hawaiian Islands, Kauai, which measures 562.3 square miles, has been dubbed as the Garden Isle, featuring a lush tropical rainforest, breathtaking cliffs ( cliff diving being another popular activity here), the amazing pinnacles and huge waterfalls.
Whilst these descriptions emphasize the beauty of Kauai on land, it is the environment that you will find underwater that has its unique characteristics, attracting scuba divers from all over the world. Known as one of the best dive and snorkeling locations in the world, we have created a guide to the best scuba diving sites in Kauai.
Diving in Kauai - Seasonality and The Weather
In Kauai, there are over 15 different areas that are popular amongst scuba divers. It is important to take note of the geographical location because although there are sites that are suited for all levels of certification, the parameters of some can influence your dive significantly.
The Northern and Southern Coast has dive sites that are better suited to newbies as the water there tends to be calmer. For more advanced and experienced divers, sites on the east and west coast are the best option as they are prone to stronger waves and currents.
In Kauai, scuba diving is a year-round activity. However, we would recommend you visit between May and September to experience diving in the best conditions. During this time, the temperature of the water ranges from 21 to 25 OC and the visibility is practically crystal clear reaching 30 meters.
In terms of marine inhabitants, of course, you can expect to see some common tropical fish, but you will also find that the Kauai dive sites are home to a lot of endemic marine fish which are only found in the Hawaiian Islands. A little reminder, before you head off to Kauai is that according to the Hawaiian law that was passed in 2018, you need to use environmentally friendly Sunscreen.
The Best dive sites in Kauai
1. Anahola Beach
The Location: The North Shore of Kauai
Anahola is home to a beautiful white sandy beach that slowly fringes the fronting bay and is renowned for snorkeling and scuba diving, thanks to a reef nearby that shields the crescent-shaped area of this beach. Here in Anahola Beach, shore diving is the trend, providing a perfect location, thanks to the shallow waters, for you to don your gear.
When you swim in the direction of the reef, you are going to pass a patch of boulders that are scattered over the extensive, white, sandy bottom. Despite the low density of the corals the number of fish that you will interact with is going to compensate for your underwater adventure, as you are likely to see lots of tropical fish species such as wrasse, parrotfish, triggerfish, and surgeonfish. When diving around Anahola Beach, the average depth is 12 meters.
Attention for newbies: Remain within the inner side of the reef and don't swim towards the ocean side of the reef. This is because this area is exposed to stronger currents and waves.
The video below was captured through a scuba divers camera highlighting the beauties that they discovered during their scuba diving trip in Kauai.
2. Tunnels Beach
The Location: The North Shore of Kauai
Tunnels Beach is an image of gold sand and a background of lush green scenery of the forests on one side, however, the other side of the beach attracts lots of swimmers and beach visitors. For Scuba divers, located just across the shore are twin reefs, both providing a great underwater experience with unmatched opportunities to capture the impressive marine life via your underwater camera.
Once you have swum from the shore, the first site that you will discover is the inner reef which runs perpendicular to the shoreline. When you reach the edge of the inner reef, you can swim 50 meters further and then enter the horse-shaped reef, where you are going to spend the majority of your time underwater.
We would suggest following a general direction towards the left side of the horseshoe-shaped reef, here you will discover massive lava mounds, overhangs, tunnels and caverns that start at a depth of 15 meters. It is at this part of the reef that marine reptile interaction takes place and many have enjoyed the experience of seeing green sea turtles here.
During the winter, Tunnels Beach is exposed to strong winds and waves so you should not plan to go diving during this time.
3. Koloa Landing
The Location: The South Shore of Kauai
Koloa Landing is a historic location in regards to both the land and the water. The land was formerly the site of Hawaii's first sugarcane plantation. The water is the sanctuary for Hawaii's state fish. This includes the Humu Humu Nuku Nuku ApuA'a, which are commonly referred to as reef triggerfish. In Koloa landing, the water conditions are rather confined and the average depth is only 12 meters deep.
This area is also free from the harsh effects of extreme physical conditions such as currents and waves. For this reason, Koloa Landing is particularly popular amongst newbies and those taking the certification course.
This location has easy beach access which makes it one of the best sites for shore diving as you can easily bring your scuba diving equipment with you. You will notice upon entering the water that the visibility isn't very clear.
However, this will improve once you get to the rocky edge near the reef. Along with the well-known triggerfish, the reef is also loaded with the Hawain Fare and this simply refers to the sighting of a lot of fish including butterflyfish, moray eels, snappers, damselfish, surgeonfish and many more.
4. Lehua Crater
The Location: The West offshore of Kaia
If you are a more experienced diver who wishes to go boat diving as well as exploring offshore sites, we would highly recommend a visit to the remnants of a dormant volcano. This has been termed 'The Forbidden Island - the Lehua Crater' by locals.
Lehua Crater is located on Niihau island and is a prime location for deep and wall diving. If you go deep-sea diving, you can follow a vertical wall that goes down to 30 meters deep. You will still find old lava tubes in this area which create a unique landscape underwater. Here you can explore massive overhangs and swim-throughs which are all complemented by the crystal clear waters, although a good dive light will still come in handy.
Of course, you will find coral and tropical fish, but Lehua Crater is one of the few sites where you have the opportunity to go shark diving to interact with different shark species. Whilst doing so many have seen grey reef sharks, silky sharks, and sandbar sharks. In Lehua Crater, there is also a good population of Hawaiian Monk seals and if you are lucky, they are likely to join you during your scuba diving adventures.
If you are hoping to partake in a guided dive tour, with a reliable dive tour operator, Seasport divers Kaia is a very good choice. They are locally owned and operated and have been in business since 1987. For experienced scuba divers, they also offer Niihau diving trips.
The Fathom Five Diving facility located in Koloa is another scuba diving facility that we would recommend. They offer night diving in Kawaii too.
The final option that we would recommend to you, is the guided Scuba dive which is provided by Bubbles Below, a dive shop located in Kauai. This company offers year-round diving off Kauai, Niihau, Na Pali.
We hope that this guide has provided you with some useful information to help you discover the best diving sites in Kauai.