Tunnels Beach is one of Kauai's beautiful beaches with spectacular sunset and is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. A brilliant coral reef reaches nearly the shoreline during low tide. The reef and the island are riddled with caverns and tunnels, which are fun to explore and offer prime habitats for underwater wildlife. This beach is great for surfing and snorkeling! Below, we'll go over what you'll need to know to make the most of your trip to Tunnels Beach, Kauai!
Best Time To Visit Tunnels Beach
During the winter months, large waves buffet the north shore beach of Kauai. These high waves make the tunnels too dangerous to explore, as well as put the surfing out of the capabilities of beginning and intermediate surfers. During the summer months, you'll battle crowded beach fronts and long lines for tours and outings. It's better to visit Kauai Tunnels Beach in spring and fall.
Where Is Tunnels Beach (aka Makua Beach) Located?
Makua Beach is found on the north shore of Kauai, one of the Hawaiian islands. It's on the western point of a crescent-shaped bay. It gets its nickname of "Tunnels Beach" because of the many underwater formations created by lava tubes. When these lava tubes form, they create underwater caverns and tunnels, both through the island and the coral reef.
Best Things To Do In Tunnels Beach
While all of the Kauai beaches are interesting, the main attractions of Tunnels Beach are its snorkeling and surfing!
Because of the unique lava tubes and the formations they caused, the underwater world of Tunnels Beach is stunning and not to be found elsewhere! It's also unique because it has an inner and outer reef. The inner, half-moon-shaped reef reaches nearly the shoreline during low tide, and the tunnels through the reef have made it the perfect habitat for tropical fish and sea turtles! This makes for great snorkeling, especially for novice snorkelers that should stay near the shore and you wouldn't see much on other beaches. In fact, snorkeling in the outer reef area is no better than snorkeling closer to shore! And snorkeling in the outer reef is significantly more dangerous, with steep drop-offs and strong currents.
The incredible underwater sights you'll see while snorkeling is also accessible while scuba diving! There is a slight rip current flowing almost continually, but it's rather weak.
Tunnels Beach is a popular spot for all sorts of surfing. Surfing, windsurfing, and kite surfing are done all up and down this beach. While there are areas of the beach suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers, there is a surf break beyond the outer reef that is a perfect challenge for experienced surfers. In fact, some surfers call Makua Beach "Tunnel Beach" more because of this more difficult surf break than because of the reef tunnels!
For a readily-accessible trail, the 4-mile Hanakapiai Falls Trail in Haena State Park is a great option. However, the Kalalau Trail, in Na Pali Coast State Park, is the most famous trail in all of Hawaii. It's not only famous for its beauty - and it is beautiful, passing many waterfalls - but also for its difficulty. It is 22 miles round trip, with many elevations and terrain changes. The trail is narrow, muddy, and jagged. In portions, hiking takes a back seat to something more like rock climbing. A permit is needed to hike the Kalalau trail, and it's important to note that that permit also grants you access to Haena State Park.
There are many reasons why Tunnels Beach is ideal for general sightseeing, like beach walking, scoping out sunsets or photography. Tunnels Beach is a crescent-shaped bay, and palm trees and ironwood trees edge the golden sand beach. The combination of island mountains, lush jungles, and golden beaches make this a picture-perfect beach. The crescent shape means that this backdrop faces the ocean and frames it.
Best Things To Visit Near Tunnels Beach
The main attraction of Tunnels Beach is the beach itself, but there are some specific points of interest in the area as well!
Haena State Park
Tunnels Beach is not technically in Haena State Park, but it's within a few minutes of walking distance from it. This state park not only contains wilderness reserves, but also offers many beach-related activities that aren't allowed on residential beaches (such as Tunnels Beach). At the Haena Beach Park, you can enjoy shore fishing for many of the unique tropical fish. You can also enjoy swimming with the benefit of beachfront amenities.
Hanalei Valley Lookout
If you're looking for stunning views, you need to add Hanalei Valley Lookout to your list. From here, you can see a full panoramic view of Mount Makana (also known as Bali Hai), the entire Hanalei Valley, and extensive taro fields.
Limahuli Gardens and Preserve
Technically a portion of the greater Haena State Park, the Limahuli Preserve is a National Tropical Botanical Garden. It features many plants native to Hawaii and often only found there. You can tour the garden for over two hours or take a guided tour that lasts three hours.
Waioli Mission House Museum and Gardens
If you'd like to take in some history or architecture during your stay at Tunnels Beach, the Waioli Mission House Museum is the perfect option. American missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1834 and founded this mission house that today serves as a museum of early Hawaiian mission life.
Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
This 16-mile stretch of coastline has stunning landmarks created by long-term erosion. It contains the Hanakapiai Falls, Kee Beach, Waimea Canyon, and the famous Kalalau Trail.
There are limited food options available at Tunnels Beach, and you should bring food and snacks yourself. There are a couple of food trucks selling snacks and fresh fruits in the parking lot, but you should bring some yourself.
How To Get To Tunnels Beach, Kauai
Since Tunnels Beach is in a residential area, beach access points are somewhat limited to street parking. Take state highway 56 West out of Hanalei for 5 miles to get there. After passing mile marker 35 and making your way through the neighborhood, look for a "Tunnels" sign to the left on Waikanal Road. Then, look for mile marker 8. There will be two short dirt roads along this mile, at 0.4 and 0.6 miles past the marker, that will lead to Tunnels Beach. Since you're limited to street parking, you'll need to go early in order to find a legal spot. Many choose instead to park in Haena State Park and walk the half mile to Tunnels Beach.
Lack Of Amenities
Tunnels Beach is in a residential neighborhood. There is a lack of amenities on the beach, such as restrooms, showers, or picnic tables. There also won't be a lifeguard on duty, except during the summer months. Your closest access to beach amenities and lifeguards is at Haena Beach Park, about a quarter mile away.
Bring Reef Safe Sunscreens
The Makua reefs are a vital part of Tunnels Beach. Many types of sunscreen are harmful, and sometimes deadly, to a reef's ecosystem. Before you visit Tunnels Beach, get a reef-safe sunscreen - and apply it frequently! The sun is intense!
There are limited parking spots available, so parking can be challenging. Get there early in the morning, and you should be fine with parking. Otherwise, you can park at Haena Beach Park and walk over.