Best Scuba Diving in Kauai
Given its volcanic origins, the topography of Kauai has created a fantastic landscape that houses some of the world’s most spectacular natural environments. The 562.3 square miles (1,456.4 square kilometers) area of this oldest amongst the Hawaiian islands has been dubbed as the Garden Isle that features a lush tropical rainforest, breathtaking cliffs (cliff diving in Kauai is another popular activity!) , amazing pinnacles, and gigantic waterfalls. While these descriptions illustrate Kauai’s landmass, its underwater environment has its own set of unique characteristics that has attracted scuba divers from all parts of the globe. As one of top dive locations in the world, we hope you enjoy our guide to best scuba diving in Kauai.
Diving Kauai - Seasonality and Weather
There are over 15 areas in Kauai that are popular for scuba diving. While there are sites suited for all levels of certification, you have to take note of their geographical location where the several parameters can significantly influence your dive.
Dive sites located in the northern and southern coast of Kauai are suited for newbies where the waters are generally calm while the sites in the east and west coast are mostly for advanced and experienced divers as these sites are prone to strong currents and waves.
Scuba diving is a year-round activity in Kauai. However, if you want to experience the best diving conditions, then we highly recommend you go diving in Kauai from May through September. Water temperature ranges from 21 to 25 OC (70 to 77 OF) and visibility is virtually crystal clear reaching 30 meters (100 feet). When it comes to its marine inhabitants, aside from expecting to see common tropical fish, you will observe that Kauai dive sites has a lot of endemic marine fish which can only be found in the Hawaiian islands. A friendly reminder - as per Hawaiian laws that passed in 2018, you are required to use environmentally friendly sunscreen in Hawaii.
Best Dive Sites in Kauai
1. Anahola Beach
Location: Kauai North Shore
The white sandy beach of Anahola that slowly fringes to the fronting bay is famous for snorkeling and scuba diving courtesy from a nearby reef that protects the crescent-shaped area of this site. Shore diving (neoprene socks would work perfect here) is the fad here in Anahola Beach where the shallow area gives you a perfect location for donning your gears.
As you swim towards the reef, you will pass by a patch of boulders scattered over the vast white sandy bottom. When you arrived at the reef which will take just a few minutes of swimming, you will notice that the reef is sparsely covered with corals. However, despite the low density of corals, your underwater adventure will be compensated with the amount of fish that you can interact where you see a lot of tropical species like wrasse, parrotfish, triggerfish, and surgeonfish. Your average depth while diving around Anahola Beach is 12 meters (40 feet).
Caution for Newbies: Stay within the inner side of the reef and do not swim towards the ocean side of the reef where it is exposed to strong current and waves.
Here's a great video from the cam of a scuba diver showcasing beauties discovered during a Kauai scuba dive trip...
2. Tunnels Beach
Location: Kauai North Shore
Instead of white, the gold-colored sand of Tunnels Beach with a lush green forest scenery as its background on one side and the ocean on the other end has attracted thousands of swimmers and beachgoers. However, for scuba divers, the nearby twin reefs located just across the shore will surely give you a fantastic underwater experience and unmatched opportunities to capture marine life with your underwater camera.
After swimming from the shore, the first site that you will visit is the inner reef that runs perpendicular to the shoreline. As you reach the edge of the inner reef, you can swim further for 50 meters (160 feet) and enter a horseshoe-shaped reef where you will spend most of your underwater time. We recommend you follow a general direction that head towards the left side of the horseshoe-shaped reef where you can see massive lava mounds, overhangs, tunnels and caverns starting at 15 meters (50 feet) deep. This is also the part of the reef where marine reptile interaction takes place where many have seen green sea turtles.
Caution: do not plan and go diving in Tunnels Beach during the winter months as the site is exposed to strong winds and waves.
3. Koloa Landing
And another great video to start with recorded during shore diving in Kauai...
Location: Kauai South Shore
Koloa Landing is a historic site both in land and water, where the former was the site of the first sugarcane plantation in Hawaii while the latter is the refuge for Hawaii’s state fish - the Humu Humu Nuku Nuku Apu A'a or commonly called as the reef triggerfish. The water conditions in Koloa landing is pretty confined with an average depth of only 12 meters (40 feet) deep and free from the harsh effects of extreme physical conditions like currents and waves. With this, Koloa landing is very popular with newbies and is often the preferred site for taking the certification course.
The easy beach access makes Koloa Landing one of the best Kauai scuba diving sites for shore diving where you can easily bring your scuba gear package with you. As you enter the water, you will notice that the visibility is not that clear. However, it will get better once you reach the rocky edge near the reef. Aside from the well-known triggerfish, the reef is pretty much loaded with the so-called “Hawaiian Fare” which means a lot of fish where you can see butterflyfish, moray eels, snappers, damselfish, surgeonfish and a lot more.
4. Lehua Crater
Location: West offshore of Kauai
If you are an experienced diver wishing to go boat diving and explore offshore sites, then we highly recommend you visit the remnants of a dormant volcano where locales termed it as the Forbidden Island - the Lehua Crater.
Located in Ni’ihau island, Lehua Crater is a prime spot for deep and wall diving. You can go deep diving following a vertical wall that goes all the way down to 30 meters (100 feet) deep. Old lava tubes can still be found in Lehua crater which created a unique underwater landscape where you can even explore massive overhangs and swim-throughs which is ultimately complemented by its crystal clear waters (a good dive light will still help here). Aside from corals and tropical fish, Lehua Crater is one of the few sites for Kauai shark diving to interact with sharks where many have seen grey reef sharks, silky sharks, and sandbar sharks. There is also a good population of Hawaiian monk seals in Lehua Crater where, if you are lucky, will be joining you in your Kauai scuba diving adventures.
If you are looking to join a guided dive tour and tour with a reliable dive operator, Seasport Divers Kauai (dive shops located in Poipu and Kapaa) looks like a good choice. They are in business since 1987 and a locally owned and operated business. They also offer Niiahu diving trips (3 Tank Niiahu Boat Dive) for experienced scuba divers.
Another recommended scuba dive facility in Kauai would be Fathom Five Diving located in Koloa - (Fathom Five Divers offer night diving in Kauai as well).
And finally another option for a guided scuba dive is provided by Bubbles Below Dive Shop in Kauai. Bubbles Below offer year round diving off Kauai, Ni ihau, Na Pali.
Hope this guide proves to be useful for you to discover the best Kauai diving sites...
And if you are looking for further amazing scuba and snorkel destinations to experience, our guide to best snorkeling in Oahu is a recommended read so as our recent buyer's guide to best scuba diving fins... Enjoy!