Sea turtles are graceful and enchanting creatures that can be found in almost every ocean basin around the world. They’ve been around for more than 150 million years and grow to as long as three or four feet. It is estimated that sea turtles can live to 80 to 100 years or even older.
In Hawaii, sea turtles are known as “honu” (hoh-noo). When they aren’t resting on the sands, they can often be seen frolicking in the ocean, much to the delight of snorkelers and divers fortunate enough to catch sight of them.
Native Hawaiians consider the honu sacred. According to local belief, consider yourself blessed if they come alongside you when swimming or snorkeling.
If you want to experience the thrill of seeing these fascinating reptiles up close, the island of Kauai and the Napali Coast offer many opportunities to snorkel alongside sea turtles. Here, the honu can frequently be seen with other sea creatures such as the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, the state fish of Hawaii, or reef triggerfish and angelfish.
Here are the best places in Hawaii to snorkel with sea turtles:
Snorkel with Sea Turtles at Poipu Beach
Located in the sunny south section of the island, Poipu Beach is known as one of the finest beaches in Hawaii and even in the entire United States. That’s hardly surprising given its golden sands, crystal clear waters, tropical conditions all year long, and abundant marine life.
Of course, the presence of honu is a large part of what makes Poipu Beach such an inviting spot for snorkelers, divers, and marine life enthusiasts. The right side of the cove is especially enchanting, with plenty of fish, monk seals, and turtles enjoying the crystal clear waters.
See Sea Turtles at Ke’e Beach
Another worthwhile spot to visit is Ke’e Beach, which is located to the west of Kauai’s north shore. A top-rated destination for snorkelers and divers, the beach also attracts many casual beachgoers due to its breathtaking views and relaxing atmosphere.
Summer is the best time to head to Ke’e Beach, as it gives you the perfect opportunity to catch the honu in their natural habitats. The beach is as close as you can get to the fabled Na Pali Coast, and you have added advantage of seeing a host of enchanting marine creatures such as butterflyfish, unicornfish, needlefish, and goatfish.
Haena Beach Sea Turtle Experience
Haena Beach is an absolute paradise of a location, combining lush tropical jungles with gleaming white sand beaches. There are plenty of things you can do to while away the time, from walking along the shore and exploring the Tunnels to swimming and snorkeling in the refreshing waters.
If you are there mainly to see the honu, a visit to the Tunnels should be at the top of your list. There are always a few of them lounging about, and if you are lucky, a couple might even join you on your swim. As a bonus, there are also schools of colorful fish that populate the area, including parrotfish, sergeant major, and coronet fish.
The Honu of Anini Beach
Anini Beach is another popular spot on the north shore of Kauai. Like many beaches on the island, the waters are clear and tranquil throughout the year, making the place ideally suited for families with kids.
Anini also has many picturesque areas with excellent picnic grounds and walking trails strewn with shade trees. And unlike Hanalei and Poipu, the beach never gets too crowded, even during peak tourist season.
“Anini” is actually Hawaiian for dwarfish, but there are many honu in the area as well. The beach also gives you the rare opportunity to see manta rays, seahorses, and eels on the coral reef.
Sea Turtles at Lawai Beach
Finally, check out Lawai Beach for an exciting snorkeling spot that is ideally suited for experienced snorkelers and divers. Ground zero for water sports and all sorts of outdoor activities, the beach offers amenities such as showers and restrooms and even a beach house restaurant by the bay.
If marine life is what you are after, Lawai Beach has plenty to offer as well. Along with sea turtles, you also get to see schools of colorful fish frolicking in the clear waters in and around the reef.
There you have it: the best places in Hawaii to snorkel with sea turtles. If you are planning on a trip to the islands any time soon, make sure to schedule a snorkeling tour along the Na Pali Coast for a fascinating experience that you won’t soon forget!