West of Kilauea and east of Princeville on Kauai, the snorkeling at Anini Beach at Kalihikai County Park is primary known as an easy place to snorkel. The reef off 'Anini Beach is the largest in Kauai. Anini Beach snorkeling is good any time, even during high tide. It usually has calm waters even when there is high surf elsewhere. There are plenty of reef inlets to explore just off the beach, though you probably will not see a wide variety of fish. The reefs tend to be covered in a brown algae, but the health has improved greatly over the past few years with many new growths cauliflower coral, mushroom coral and lobe coral. You may encounter sea snakes, zebra moray eels, moorish idols, unicornfish, cornetfish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Hawaiian state fish aka rectangular triggerfish), convict tangs, parrotfish and butterflyfish.
The best snorkeling at Anini Beach is located directly offshore of the boat ramp. As of Spring 2015, there was a channel marker about 500 feet offshore of the boat ramp which happened to mark the start of the good snorkeling still inside the protective reef. For experienced snorkelers at Anini, try heading out center channel about a half mile to outer edge of reef then head right just before the white channel marker pole where there are drops of 30-40 feet to see green sea turtles and white tipped reef sharks. This is best about an hour before low tide. From September through May, the surf off Anini Beach is affected by seasonal northwest swells that kickup the large waves and generate strong currents so make sure to exercise caution.
To reach the snorkeling in Kauai by air, fly into the Lihue airport (LIH). There are direct flights from Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu. While most visitors to the island rent a car, it is possible to use the public bus but keep in mind that its small and slow. Plus, most of the main snorkeling beaches are well off the bus route requiring some hiking. If you do rent a car, make sure to leave the inside empty when at the beach to avoid attracting break-ins.
To reach the snorkeling at Anini Beach, head west on Kuhio Highway (SR56) through Kapa'a towards Hanalei. Turn right heading north on Kalihiwai Road. After about 0.5 miles, veer left on Anini Road for a mile to the public parking area.
Before snorkeling at Anini Beach, make sure to check the current surf report. The waters off Kauai are known for potentially strong currents, high surf and rogue waves. Luckily, there are excellent up-to-date surf reports that can provide guidance on these adverse conditions. WIth the usually rolling surf, it is strongly discouraged to use open-tube snorkels which are common at snorkel rental locations -- only use snorkels with a dry-top splash-guard and a sump purge-valve in the mouth piece. In addition to changing surf conditions, a Anini Beach snorkeling dive may expose you to sharp coral reefs and you may encounter sharks, such as whitetip reef sharks, galapagos sharks and tiger sharks. Most snorkeling shark attacks in Hawaiian waters tend to occur near spear-fishing snorkelers, so be aware of the activities of others in the water.
Overall, Anini Beach is the 1st most popular snorkel dive spot of all 23 snorkeling dives in Kauai.