Tunnels Beach#5 in Best Things To Do in Kauai
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If you're looking for a great place to snorkel in Kauai, head to Tunnels Beach. Tunnels Beach is located on the north shore of Kauai in Wainiha, about 2 miles east of the Kalalau Trail and 9 miles west of Princeville. The beach offers an expansive reef that is suitable for both novice and experienced snorkelers. Travelers can expect to see batches of coral, small sea caves and tunnels as well as wildlife, such as turtles, plenty of colorful fish, and if you're lucky, a Hawaiian monk seal. If you're not up for snorkeling, visitors say this beach is still worth a trip for its fantastic location. Here, the water is clear, palm trees abound and if you look toward the west, you can admire the cluster of lush, jagged peaks that flank the beach.
There are lifeguards stationed at Tunnels Beach and regularly posted signs outline the day's conditions. If there are signs discouraging visitors from swimming and snorkeling, do listen, as the north shore is known for being a lot rougher than southern beaches. If you're still unsure of conditions, just ask the lifeguard. It's advised that novice snorkelers stay close to the shore in the inner reef; only advanced snorkelers should venture to the outer reef, which features steep drop-offs and is subject to stronger currents. There aren't bathroom facilities at Tunnels Beach but there is some at the nearby Haena Beach Park, which is a little more than a half-mile southwest. Recent visitors also warned that parking is a problem, so plan to arrive as early as 9 a.m. if you don't want to walk too far. For more information on Tunnels Beach and other snorkeling hot spots, visit the Hawaii tourism board's website.
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#1 Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park
Waimea Canyon, aptly nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," should be at the top of every traveler's itinerary. This 14-mile-long, mile-wide and approximately 3,600-feet deep gorge is awash with spectacular scenery difficult to find elsewhere on the Hawaiian islands. Here, you'll find craggy red cliffsides and crested buttes blanketed in lush, evergreen vegetation as far as the eye can see, with waterfalls and rivers dotted in between. Most travelers who visit Waimea Canyon choose to take in the sight by car, as there are multiple lookout points situated along Koke'e Road, including the popular Waimea Canyon and Puu Hinahina lookout points. If you're hoping to explore outside your car, there are trails in the canyon that range from easy to difficult. Many trailheads can be found off of Koke'e Road, with some, including the Cliff Trail Lookout and the Waipo'o Falls Trail, accessible from the Pu'u Hinahina lookout point. Helicopter tours are another great way to view the canyon from all angles.
While at Waimea Canyon, be sure to pop over to the equally stunning Koke'e State Park. What makes Koke'e Park so interesting is that despite being right next to Waimea Canyon, the park has a completely different makeup. Koke'e Park occupies thousands of acres of rainforest, and as such produces a different microclimate (the farther you drive up Koke'e, the colder it gets). Like Waimea, travelers commonly explore the park via car, as the main road through Koke'e cuts through the park. While here, be sure to visit the Kalalau Lookout and the Pu'u O Kila Lookout for stunning views of the Napali Cliffs. If you want to get even closer, consider taking the Awa'awapuhi Trail, which takes hikers to the edge of some of Napali's famous cliffs. Another trail worth trekking is the Alakai Swamp Trail, which spends more time going through the park's rainforest. Wherever you decide to hike, whether it's in Waimea Canyon or Koke'e, bring proper hiking shoes to avoid falling from the slippery mud often found on Kauai trails.
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