Southwest of Lihue and southeast of Koloa on Kauai, the snorkeling at Kawailoa Beach is truly an exceptional experience in a beautiful location. The best snorkeling in the unprotected Kawailoa Bay is to the left or east side along the rocks. The coral growth is not that spectacular and the marine life is limited compared to some north-shore dives. You may encounter humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Hawaiian state fish aka rectangular triggerfish), moorish idols, cornetfish, wrasse, parrotfish and convict tangs. From May through September, the surf off Kawailoa Beach is affected by seasonal southerly 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 Kawailoa Beach snorkeling from Koloa, head east on Weliweli Road. Stay to the left and continue east on Mahaulepu Road which eventually turns into a rough dirt road. A 4WD vehicle is recommended. There is a gate which may be closed on certain days. Continue following the main, open ungated roads leading to the right and eventually down to a large parking area. You can park here, or turn northeast on the smaller dirt road leading right to Kawailoa Beach.
Before snorkeling at Kawailoa 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 Kawailoa 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.