West of Hanalei at Haena Beach Park on Kauai, the snorkeling at Cannons Reef offers reefs close to shore that are rarely frequented unlike the near by Tunnels Beach. While snorkeling Cannons Reef, you may encounter goatfish, porcupine pufferfish, moral eels, parrotfish, tangs and rainbow cleaner wrasse among the califlower coral, mushroom coral and lobe coral formatio...
West of Hanalei at Haena Beach Park on Kauai, the snorkeling at Cannons Reef offers reefs close to shore that are rarely frequented unlike the near by Tunnels Beach. While snorkeling Cannons Reef, you may encounter goatfish, porcupine pufferfish, moral eels, parrotfish, tangs and rainbow cleaner wrasse among the califlower coral, mushroom coral and lobe coral formations.
The best time to snorkel at Cannons is around low tide so that the waters are more protected from the surf. From September through May, the surf off Cannons Reef 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, San Francisco, Denver, 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. When planning a trip to the Hawaiian islands, be aware that the State Of Hawaii has banned all sunscreens that oxybenzone, which has been proven to kill coral reefs.
To reach the snorkeling at Cannons Reef, head west on Kuhio Highway (SR56) through Kapa'a towards Hanalei. At Princeville, continue west on SR560 through Hanalei for another 5 miles to Haena Beach Park. There is a large parking area at Haena Beach Park, which does tend to fill by 10am daily. From the main Haena Beach Park parking area, walk to the left heading west along the beach and over rocks for about 1,000 feet to where the reefs come up to the beach.
Before snorkeling at Cannons Reef, 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 Cannons Reef 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.
In the Spring of 2018, there were heavy rains that damage the primary access road, Kuhio Highway, from Hanalei west to Ke'e Beach. As of May 2019, the road is still closed to tourists, and locals can only proceed through at scheduled caravan times. The projected reopening is June 2019, or later. The Hanalei Colony Resort has been used as rescue housing and a temporary school, while their laundry/pool building is also rebuilt.
To reduce the heavy road traffic along the north shore, starting in June 2019, the Kaua'i North Shore Shuttle will operate between Princeville Shopping Center and the Ha'ena State Park (Ke'e Beach) with stops along the way including County lifeguarded beaches. There will be a temporary Park-And-Ride located at the Waipa Foundation just west of Hanalei. To use the new bus, you must reserve a timed space on the Kaua'i North Shore Shuttle from their website (https://kauainsshuttle.com/).
Overall, Cannons Reef is the 23rd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 23 snorkeling dives in Kauai.
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