8 Incredible Kauai Snorkeling Tours

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Kauai is one of the most gorgeous islands on the planet, with lush mountains, towering waterfalls, and electric blue water. One of the best things to do on Kauai is to dive into (quite literally!) its crystal clear waters to explore its vibrant coral reefs, which are teeming with tropical fish and adorable sea turtles. Here’s the 8 best Kauai snorkeling tours so you can experience its stunning underwater world for yourself. 

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Tropical fish while snorkeling during Kauai
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Na Pali Coast Snorkeling Tours

1. Raft Adventure- Na Pali 1/2 Day Snorkel

  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Includes: Snorkeling gear, breakfast or lunch (depending on which tour you pick), snacks, drinks

If you’re an adventurous traveler who wants to see the famed Na Pali Coast, this tour is an AWESOME option—in fact, it’s the Kauai snorkeling tour that my husband, Justin, and I chose during our most recent trip to the Garden Isle!

If you’re not familiar with the Na Pali Coast, it’s arguably the most famous coastline in the world—a 17-mile stretch of impossibly steep and rugged landscape along the north side of the island, with 4,000-foot tall lush rock spires, towering waterfalls, and untouched beaches. The landscape here is actually so wild that there are no roads that lead here—the only way that you can reach the coastline is by air, by a couple of hiking trails, like the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail, or by boat! 

People riding a zodiac raft to the Na Pali Coast on a snorkeling tour

During this small group tour (with just 14 guests!), you’ll ride in a Zodiac raft up the western coastline of the island—along the way, you’re all but guaranteed to see pods of spinner dolphins swim alongside your boat.  Once you reach the Na Pali Coast, you can soak in the stunningly gorgeous views and if the waves cooperate, zip into sea caves and under rock arches and towering waterfalls. After that, you’ll cruise back down the western coastline and stop at a beautiful reef to snorkel.

In transparency, we had mainly booked this as a Na Pali Coast boat tour, but the snorkeling actually turned out to be quite good, with HUNDREDS of colorful tropical fish and even a sea turtle! We were having such a good time in the water, the awesome crew actually let us snorkel for almost half an hour extra than originally scheduled! 

Sea turtle seen underwater while snorkeling in Kauai

2. Nā Pali Coast Zodiac Raft Expedition on Kauai

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Includes: Snorkeling equipment, snacks

This is another Zodiac boat tour option, that takes you up to the wild Na Pali Coast. On the way back, you’ll stop to go snorkeling in a beautiful, secluded cove, which can boast lots of colorful fish and adorable sea turtles. 

To be honest, despite having a very similar itinerary, this tour is a bit pricier than the one above, doesn’t include a lunch or breakfast, AND allows twice as many guests aboard at once. However, there definitely are a few benefits to this option. 

Tropical fish in coral reef seen underwater while snorkeling in Kauai

The owner of this company is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran—and is usually the one captaining the Zodiac! This definitely helps make you feel safe and secure aboard what can be a bumpy ride amidst Kauai’s gnarly waves—and you’ll be supporting a veteran-owned business. 

Additionally, the guides on this tour definitely go out of their way to share information, stories, and local legends about Kauai and its nature. Plus, they’re INCREDIBLE at tailoring tours so that you have the best experience as possible—for example, during humpback whale season (from November through April), they usually will cruise out of the way to whale hotspots, so you’ll have a chance to see these acrobatic giants leaping out of the water!

3. Na Pali Coast Kauai Snorkel and Sail

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Includes: Snorkeling gear, breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks (including wine and beer after snorkeling)

If you want to snorkel and see the Na Pali Coast but have a smoother ride than what’s provided on a Zodiac, consider going on this sailing catamaran snorkeling tour instead. 

This tour follows a similar schedule as the one above—you’ll travel up the western coastline to the beautiful Na Pali Coast, where you might see dolphins and even turtles along the way. Because of the catamaran’s weight and design, you’ll have a much smoother ride than what you’d experience on a Zodiac. However, because of the boat’s size, they don’t have the agility to zip in sea caves or through arches, so you’ll have to admire these unique features of the coastline from afar. 

Catamaran in front of the green cliffs of the Na Pali Coast in Kauai

Once you’re done taking in the spectacular views, the boat will retrace its path back to a reef on the western side of the island, where you’ll get to swim alongside tropical fish and, if you’re lucky, even some sea turtles! 

If you decide to go with one of the catamaran tours in Kauai, like this option, you’ll almost always get to hear a LOT more information about Hawaii’s history, culture, and nature than you would on a Zodiac tour—for the simple fact that a Zodiac is so noisy and bumpy! So if you’re interested in more educational Kauai snorkeling tours, this is one of your best bets!

4. Ni’ihau and Na Pali Coast Snorkel Boat Tour

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Includes: Snorkeling gear, breakfast, lunch, drinks (including beer and wine after snorkeling)

This tour offers one of the most unique itineraries. Like other tours, you’ll sail up the western shores of the island to the stunning Na Pali Coast, but also make your way to the crystal clear waters of the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau.

This remote island, off the shore of Kauai, serves as a small private colony for Native Hawaiians. In fact, with limited exceptions, no one else is allowed on land. While you won’t be able to step foot on the island, you will be able to explore its beautiful waters, which are world-renowned for their clarity and abundant wildlife. Snorkelers and divers actually come from all over the planet to see the wildlife around Ni’ihau, including monk seals, sea turtles, and manta rays regularly swimming through its waters. 

I also think it’s super cool how focused on sustainability this tour operator is. For example, they’re the only boat tour operator on Kauai that’s certified by the Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii, which recognizes companies that focus on environmental protection and advocacy, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Dolphin SMART program, which advocates for the protection of wild dolphins. They also incorporate sustainability practices in aspects of their tours, such as using cloth napkins and locally-sourced foods at meal times, as well as providing guests reef safe sunscreen.

South Shore Snorkeling Tours 

5. Kauai’s Ultimate South Island Zodiac Boat Snorkel Adventure

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Includes: Snorkeling gear, snacks

If you’re more concerned with snorkeling than seeing the Na Pali Coast, this small group tour, of less than 14 travelers, takes you around the southern coastline of the island on an adventurous Zodiac raft to two different snorkeling spots.

Pod of spinner dolphins in Kauai

Along the way, you’ll get to pass along the Spouting Horn blowhole, which dramatically shoots water 50 feet in the air, and, with any luck, pods of spinner dolphins will swim alongside your boat. You’ll stop at two reefs, where you can see hundreds of vibrantly colored tropical fish and even some sea turtles. 

The guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and super helpful at peppering in information about the wildlife you’ll see underwater, as well as facts about Hawaii’s history and culture. 

Snorkeling Tours from Kauai’s Shores

6. Kauai’s Ultimate Guided Shore Snorkeling Adventure

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Includes: Snorkeling gear, snacks, water

If you want an option that’s not such a large time commitment or if you don’t particularly care about seeing the Na Pali Coast, this is one of the best Kauai snorkeling tours. 

You’ll meet up with your small group, with no more than 8 guests, in Koloa, along the south shore, to snorkel in a beautiful reef.  Your knowledgeable guide will lead you to one of the best snorkeling spots on the island, where you’ll get to see colorful coral, tropical fish and, if you’re lucky, sea turtles and even an endangered monk seal. Throughout the tour, your guide will provide fascinating information about the flora and fauna that you’ll get to observe in Kauai’s stunning underwater world. 

Sea turtle sleeping in a coral reef while snorkeling in Kauai

Besides being full of interesting tidbits about the wildlife you’ll encounter, the guides are patient, especially with newbie snorkelers, and are great at tailoring tours to match your experience level. 

7. 2 Hour Snorkeling Adventure in Kauai

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Includes: Snorkeling gear, snacks

This tour operator will choose between five beautiful reefs, depending on the conditions for the day, and take you out on a snorkeling adventure directly from the shore. Here, you’ll usually see hundreds of tropical fish, sea turtles, and other beautiful sea life. 

And unlike some other tours, this option usually heads to snorkeling spots that are under-the-radar hidden gems—meaning there’s no need to worry about a bunch of other snorkelers kicking you in the face while you’re in the water!  

Tang swimming underwater while snorkeling in Kauai

One of the coolest things about this tour is how private it feels, with no more than six guests on any outing. This allows you to have tons of one-on-one interaction with your guide, who are awesome at sharing their extensive knowledge about Hawaii’s wildlife and culture and helping beginner snorkelers feel comfortable in the water.  

8. Hanalei River Paddle and Bay

  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Includes: Kayaking, water resistant bag, and snorkeling gear; lunch; drinks

This is definitely one of the most unique Kauai snorkeling tours, located on the stunning northern shore of the island, where you’ll be surrounded by the impossibly green cliffs of the Na Pali Coastline and the sparkling turquoise water of the Pacific Ocean. 

Couple standing in front of the taro fields in Princeville, Kauai

The tour starts with a leisurely kayak down the Hanalei River, where you’ll pass lush taro fields and through a dense jungle. You’ll eventually paddle your way to Hanalei Bay (seriously one of the most BEAUTIFUL beaches I’ve ever seen in my life!) and get to soak up the sun during a snack break. 

Afterwards, you’ll gear up with your snorkeling equipment and explore Hanalei Bay’s reef. The snorkeling is usually pretty decent here, with plenty of vibrant tropical fish and, on occasion, sea turtles, but in full transparency, it’s likely not going to be quite as good as the spots along the western and southern coastline. But the benefit of this tour is that, throughout this adventure, you’ll be totally surrounded by the North Shore’s absolutely epic scenery.

Couple sitting at Hanalei Bay at sunset in Kauai

After about an hour in the water, you’ll have a short kayak paddle back to where you started.

The guides with this company are friendly, knowledgeable about the local culture and wildlife, and go out of their way to tailor the experience so that you’re having the best time possible. For example, they’ll tailor the tour, depending on the weather or wave conditions, so you’re headed to a spot with the best water clarity—or even the best spot to see sea turtles! 

With so many awesome Kauai snorkeling tours to choose from, you’re bound to have an awesome time exploring the Garden Isle’s beautiful underwater world. Do you have any questions about these tours—or snorkeling in Kauai as a whole? Let us know in the comments below!

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