Because the reef here provides more protection from the waves than perhaps any other beach on Kauai’s North Shore, and because this reef extends almost all the way into shore, Tunnels Beach may be the premier snorkeling beach on the northern coast of the island. The reef is divided into two parts, the inner reef and the outer reef. The outer reef is where you will see waves continuously breaking. This is where the big wave surf is found that is so popular with the experienced local surfers. The inner reef is the “sweet spot” for snorkelers because the waters will generally flatten out in this area and usually provide a more calm and peaceful spot to view the reef with all of its rich sea life. The above characterization of Tunnels Beach is obviously a generalization and every day can be, and is, different. This is Kauai’s North Shore, and it is always very dangerous. It’s true that the reef offers protection from much of the wave action but the currents that pass through the reef all the way into the beach can be nothing short of the force produced by a fast flowing river. Even on days when it looks calm to the eye there could be dangerous currents lingering so it is important for you to speak directly to the lifeguards who are on duty at this beach to ask whether it is safe to enter the water here on the day you are visiting and to ask which portion of the beach would be the most safe area for you to navigate. For a fact, unless you are an extremely accomplished snorkeler you should always stay away from the outer reef where the waves are breaking but even the inside reef can require care to negotiate.
The reefs that you will find at Tunnels will be a delight to behold. Although it has been lost in the sense of an urban legend it is surmised that the name “Tunnels” is derived from maze-like twisted corridor of coral reefs that seem to wander their way endlessly along this fabulous coastline. Bring a fish identification card if you want to be sure of what you are seeing because there is lots of reef life to observe.
As far as amenities are concerned Tunnels Beach has restrooms and showers, picnic tables and a small parking area.
Be advised that all beaches and ocean locations in Hawaii can be dangerous including this one. Be completely aware of the ocean conditions prior to entering any Hawaiian waters. Be certain that a lifeguard is on duty at this location and be certain to ask him where the best place for you to swim at this beach will be on the day you are there based upon the current ocean and wind conditions. Also, all shorelines and beaches in Hawaii, including this one, can be frequented by sharks, jellyfish and other sea creatures which can provide potential harm to people entering the water.