Southwest of Lihue and south of Koloa, the snorkeling at Sheraton Reef is considered the best on the south shore of Kauai. It is an offshore coral reef formation located off the point of Sheraton Resort. During Sheraton Reef snorkeling, you may encounter butterflyfish, moorish idols, wrasse, parrotfish, lionfish, green sea turtles, monk seals, manta rays and sharks.
The Sheraton Reef is typically boat-accessed since it is a long snorkel from shore through waters popular with surfers. The water depth is roughly 20 feet deep with large coral formations. The dive site is quite popular with scuba charter boats, too. From May through September, the surf off Sheraton Reef 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, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver 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 Sheraton Reef snorkeling from Koloa, head south on Poipu Road. Turn right on Ho'owili Road to the end where there are two parking lots for Poi'pu Beach County Park. There are several large public parking areas, but they do fill up quickly in the morning. From the parking area you can walk west along the beach front as far as you can go, then enter the water for the long swim out to the reef off the point at the Sheraton Resort. If you’re not up for the long swim, there are a couple snorkeling boat charter tours that head out to Sheraton Reef daily.
Before snorkeling at Sheraton 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 Sheraton 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.
Overall, Sheraton Reef is the 22nd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 23 snorkeling dives in Kauai.