Known to locals as Makua, Tunnels beach in Kauai is located on the north shore and is home to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving, among the best natural beauty on the island. Thankfully, it’s also home to a ton of great Kauai vacation rental options, so you’re never going to be too far from the action.
Tunnels beach crescent-shaped bay is fringed by picturesque palms and ironwood trees that offer much-needed shade during the heat of a Hawaiian summer. It’s the exact type of beach you’d picture when someone says Hawaii: golden sand, clear blue water, and a backdrop of lush jungle.
If you’re already in Kauai, or planning your next vacation, be sure to first check if Tunnels beach is open. Tunnels beach was temporarily closed after the 2018 floods, but the roads leading to Tunnels Beach have since been fully repaired and open access for tourists and travellers. But it’s always best to check in advance if Tunnels Beach is closed or open.
Now it you’re planning your next vacation to Kauai and seeking the ultimate Hawaiian beach experience, a Kauai beach house rental is highly recommended if you’re considering staying near Tunnels Beach. Let’s explore this stunning area together.
What makes Tunnels Beach in Kauai so popular?
If you’re a fan of swimming, snorkeling and diving, you absolutely need to move Tunnels Beach to the number one spot on your to-do list while on the garden island. Tunnels beach, or as the locals have named it, Makua, is an epic spot for snorkeling and scuba diving, and home to some truly incredible marine life.
Tunnel Beach’s name comes from the network of underwater tunnels and caverns formed by hardened lava flow. Under the surface there’s a whole other world to explore, however, it’s best to leave that to the expert divers or sign up for a scuba diving lessons and tour.
Snorkelers will still reap the beauty of the area though, and it’s common to see tropical fish, eels, octopuses, and crabs swimming around the shore. Now, if you’ve always wanted to swim with the turtles and get up and personal with tropical marine like, the reef at Tunnels Beach provides excellent habitat to make friends with the sea turtles. You’ll often see them swimming along or resting in the above-water parts of the caves.
The tunnels at the beach are also famous for their shore break, making them one of the best surf spots in all of Kauai. Whether you’re an experienced surfer heading out into the waves, or prefer just to watch the pros from the shore, the waves at Tunnels provide hours of entertainment.
What’s the best time to visit Tunnels Beach?
Highly recommended, time your trip to Tunnels Beach with the warmer months.
During winter (November to April), the beach is pounded by heavy surf which makes the caves and tunnels far too dangerous for swimming.
During the summer months, though, the beach is calm and placid. But keep in mind that it’s a pretty popular spot among tourists, so aim to arrive early in the morning to snag the best parking spot. You’ll also be avoiding the heat of the day, too, so it’s a win-win.
To really maximize your time on Tunnels Beach, its recommended staying at a Haena vacation rental –– these vacation rentals are within walking distance from Tunnels Beach so you don’t even need to worry about parking or packing the car.
And if you didn’t opt for the the beach house rental to whip up a picnic in the kitchen and simply wander down to the beach for a relaxing afternoon, then it’s recommended to prepare your own picnic in advance and bring with you.
But if you want some help in planning an intimate picnic setting, check our our picnic package where we’ll take on all the heavy lifting to plan your picnic at the beach. We’ve teamed up with catering partners that will bring a curated design of chef-inspired grazing boards and charcuterie – all ready made for you to enjoy.
Scuba diving and kayaking at Tunnels Beach
If snorkeling and swimming aren’t enough for you, there are a few more options. Local operators offer scuba tours for beginners, so long as you are familiar with the equipment.
Otherwise, rent a kayak and set off from the beach to paddle your way around Tunnels beach. You could also opt to go on a tour, for a more seamless kayaking experience where a guide will help you navigate through the caves.
Are their sharks at Tunnels Beach?
As for sharks, most tourists do not see sharks at the beach but they are known to make an appearance on occasion. However, white-tipped reef sharks may rest in the reef tunnels in deeper water and other species may also visit. It’s a common question among tourists as Tunnels Beach is the location of the infamous Bethany Hamilton shark attack where a tiger shark attacked Bethany who was surfing beyond the outer reef and fortunately her friends got her to shore and she survived. Despite this unfortunately incident, there is a low rate of shark attack occurrences at Tunnels Beach.
Visiting Haena State Park (Ha’ena)
Haena State Park is also called the “end of the road”, as it serves as the ending point of the famous Kuhio Highway.
The park is the home of several ancient Hawaiian sites, including 400-year-old sea caves. It’s just a 20-minute walk from Tunnels Beach, so you definitely need to include it on your list of things to do.
The number of activities at Haena State Park seems endless…
Enjoy helicopter tours to take in the mesmerizing views and grandeur of the park.
Take on one of the multiple hiking trails in the park, which vary in length and difficulty.
Explore sea caves that have been exposed by receding tide lines.
Watch the sunrise or sunset from a mountain peak.
Swim in the warm water off the Kee Beach, or strap on a snorkel to view the underwater world just below the surface.
You could spend a whole week in Haena State Park, which is why it’s such a great idea to book a vacation rental in the area. And if you’re curious to see what type of rentals are available around Haena, including Haena beachfront houses as a perfect family or couple place to stay, check out the availability of rental accommodations we offer.
Walking in the Limahuli Gardens
The Limahuli Gardens is a mesmerizing place located in Haena State Park, just near Tunnels Beach. This is the place to come if you’re keen for a short walk but don’t want to take on a massive hike.
The gardens are home to a variety of plants that are native to Hawaii, and is one of the most biodiverse valleys in the entire state. It is the natural habitat of dozens of animals and countless plant species.
Limahuli Gardens are also known as Pu’uhonua (place of refuge) for an ecological system. Enjoy a calming stroll in these gardens while taking in the beautiful mountains and ocean views. Follow the signs around the gardens for a self-guided tour to learn more about the environment and surrounds.
Got questions be sure to contact us, or if you’ve already spent time at Tunnels Beach, share your experience in our comments below.