Good snorkeling is frequent on the north shore. Several beaches offer the option to break out your snorkeling gear. Because of the reefs and currents, gear in addition to a mask and snorkel is a good idea. Reef shoes, swim fins, and gloves for holding onto rocks are useful, but remember not to grab or step on coral. When snorkeling, always remember to only go out when the waves are small, and it’s safest with a partner. Dive fins are always a must, not only as minor (although unofficial) foot protection, but also as an enormous help with speed and when fighting even a minor current.
Remember not to grab or step on coral.A water camera is always a good idea, and even the disposable ones available at most supermarkets take pretty good photos. Snorkel gear rentals are available at the Hanalei Surf Company (808/826-9000, 8:30am-9pm daily), Pedal-n-Paddle (in Ching Young Village, 808/826-9069, 9am-6pm daily), and the Snorkel Depot (5-5075 Kuhio Hwy., 808/826-9983). The last chance for snorkel rentals is the Wainiha General Store.
The calm water and the long fringing reef make for great snorkeling at Anini Beach. The water stays shallow shockingly far out and maintains a depth of around just four feet. From the beach park down, some of the safest snorkeling on the north side can be experienced. Snorkelers who head far enough out will see the ledge dropping into the deep sea. To get here, take the second Kalihiwai Road headed north. Keep to the left at the fork in the road (going right leads to the north side of Kalihiwai Beach) and keep driving.
Hideaways is the best snorkeling in Princeville as long as the waves are small. Snorkelers will be treated to a colorful array of tropical fish. Green sea turtles are known to cruise through the water at a leisurely pace. To get here, take the trail shortly before the St. Regis Princeville Resort gate house and next to the Pu‘u Poa tennis courts. To reach the other side of the beach, either swim to the right from Hideaways (when conditions allow, of course) or walk the paved trail from the Pali Ke Kua condominiums.
Hike down to SeaLodge Beach for a secluded, lively underwater world. There’s a reef right off the beach here in a cove, which means some pretty fish like to linger around. There’s no lifeguard here, so don’t go out too far. If you haven’t rented gear yet, you can buy some at the Princeville Foodland.
To get here, drive to the SeaLodge condos at the end of Kamehameha Road in Princeville; parking is in the unmarked stalls toward the top of the parking lot. The trailhead is in front of building A and marked with a sign. Take the dirt trail down past the small stream on the way to the ocean. Once you reach the ocean, keep to your left, where you can walk along the black rocks or on the narrow trail a little up on the dirt. After a minute or so you will see SeaLodge Beach.
If you’re going to check out Waikoko Beach anyway, you can hop in with a snorkel and mask since you’re there. The reef draws fish in and it’s worth a glance, but it’s not the best snorkeling on the north side. This area is rocky and waves break here, so it’s a good place for snorkeling gloves and foot protection. It’s at the north end of Hanalei Bay; to get here, look for the small parking area on the side of the road after the bridge and mile marker 4. If a spot is available, look for the short trail through the trees.
To the End of the Road
You’ll see a rainbow of fish at Tunnels. Reef fish spend their time not far from shore, and the sea caves to the left are a favorite hangout for bigger fish, along with the outside drop-off. The outer area is for experienced snorkelers and divers only, and should be done only when the waves are small. Sea turtles, the occasional reef shark, caves, and fish can be seen. Access borders homes located on two narrow side roads past mile marker 8. The first is just short of a half mile past the marker, and the second is slightly farther and most recognizable by the bent metal post with red paint. It is across from the 149th telephone pole, although at press time the 9 was missing so it looks like pole 14.
Another location known for spectacular snorkeling, Ke‘e offers good views inside the natural pond, where there is usually a crowd of snorkelers. Outside in the open ocean the views get even better but snorkeling here should only be attempted when the waves are flat in summer. Advanced snorkelers find that heading a bit to the left and snorkeling along the reef offers the best views. To get here, drive to the very end of Highway 560; the end of the road turns into a parking area at the base of the Na Pali Coast.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.