Nicknamed the “Garden Island” for its lush greenery, Kauai is also one of Hawaii’s most popular dive destinations. It offers more than 30 scuba diving sites along its coastline and around the neighboring island of Ni’ihau, ranging from comfortable shores dives to challenging drift dives that are only accessible by boat.

Aside from hard corals teeming with tropical fish, diving in Kauai will expose you to spectacular walls, underwater lava arches, and caves that provide a refuge for quirky critters. Encounters with big pelagics and sharks are not uncommon, as is the opportunity to come face-to-face with Hawaiian green sea turtles at wrasse-filled cleaning stations.

While scuba in Kauai won’t expose you to the colorful soft corals seen in other parts of the archipelago, it makes up for it with a diversity of marine life. Of Hawaii’s more than 650 fish species, over 400 have been recorded around Kauai by divers, along with dolphins, humpback whales, and monk seals.

In this guide, we’ll introduce some of the best scuba diving in Kauai, whether you’re just starting out or an experienced underwater enthusiast. Discover what you can expect to see at each of the sites, the diving conditions, and any challenges to be aware of.

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate/Advanced

DEPTH

55ft (17m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 180ft (55m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Shore entry or boat dives

NOTABLE SEALIFE

White-tip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles

RENOWNED FOR

Walls, tunnels, caverns

One of the best dive sites in Kauai is on the North Shore at Tunnels Reef. It’s located just offshore from a beautiful white sandy beach that enjoys stunning views of Bali Hai. The reef was created by an ancient lava flow that’s filled with cracks, crevices, and large caverns. It offers some impressive wall dives on both the inner and outer reef that will appeal to intermediate and advanced divers. Tunnels Reef is renowned for its underwater topography and encounters with big pelagics, including white-tip reef sharks, schooling barracuda, and spotted eagle rays. Hawaiian green sea turtles are also regularly spotted, together with spiny lobsters and a variety of nudibranchs within the caverns. Certified divers can also venture through the lava formations and tunnels accompanied by streams of sunlight, with the visibility usually exceptional.

kauai scuba diving

DIFFICULTY

Beginner/Intermediate

DEPTH

50ft (15m)

VISIBILITY

20 to 45ft (6-15m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Shore entry

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Moral eels, sea turtles, damselfish

RENOWNED FOR

Vibrant coral reef, protected conditions, abundant marine life

kauai diving

One of the most popular Kauai scuba diving sites on the south coast of the island is undoubtedly Koloa Landing. It was the location of the first sugarcane plantation in Hawaii, with the area boasting a rich history. The surrounding waters of Hanaka’ape Bay are also ecologically significant as they provide a refuge for Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (also known as the reef triggerfish). The easy shore entry and sheltered conditions make Koloa Landing ideal for beginner divers, and it’s one of the most popular Kauai dive sites for those taking certification courses. You can expect to see vibrant stony corals and an abundance of marine life, including butterflyfish, damselfish, sea turtles, and moral eels. If you’re visiting between December and April, you may hear the sounds of humpback whales migrating through the nearby waters. Some Kauai dive operators have also reported a pair of Hawaiian scarlet cleaner shrimp that will hop right into your mouth to clean your teeth if you allow them.

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate/Advanced

DEPTH

100ft (30m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 180ft (55m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Boat dives

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Grey reef sharks, Hawaiian monk seals

RENOWNED FOR

Deep walls, swim-throughs, sharks encounters

If you’re after a deepwater wall dive, head to Lehua Crater on Ni’ihau Island, which boasts some of the most impressive diving in the region. It’s located off the west coast of Kauai and features a vertical wall that descends to around 100 feet (30 meters), as well as old lava tubes that have created fascinating underwater landscapes. Think massive overhangs and swim-throughs to explore, with crystal clear waters only adding to the experience. Lehua Crater is also one of the best Kauai diving sites for shark encounters, with grey reef sharks, silky sharks, and sandbar sharks all recorded here. If you’re lucky, you may even come face-to-face with Hawaiian monk seals that come to play in Ni’ihau’s waters.

kauai dive

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate/Advanced

DEPTH

35ft to 70ft (10m to 20m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 60ft (18m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Shore entry

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Picasso triggerfish, spiny lobsters, green sea turtles

RENOWNED FOR

Coral-adorned archways, swim-throughs, abundant marine life

kauai scuba diving spots

Comprising three lava tubes, the Sheraton Caverns are named for the Sheraton Kauai Resort on the south coast of Kauai. It’s located just off Poipu Beach, with archways and overhangs decorated in black coral to explore, not to mention myriad tropical Hawaiian reef species. Get up close to parrotfish, Picasso triggerfish, butterfly fish, and damsels, as well as green sea turtles that can be seen cruising through the tunnels. The arches are decorated with communities of reef crabs, spiny lobsters, and shrimp, as well as the occasional white-mouth moray eel. While the Sheraton Caverns are located relatively close to the shore, it’s best to go with one of the local Kauai dive shops as they can be challenging to find.

DIFFICULTY

Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced

DEPTH

25 to 75ft (7 to 23m)

VISIBILITY

60 to 100ft (18m to 30m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Boat dives

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Surgeonfish, sea turtles, dragon moray eels

RENOWNED FOR

Clear water, calm conditions, underwater lava formations

The Three Fingers dive site is named for three fingers of lava that extend below the water’s surface and is located just 100 feet outside of the harbor on Kauai’s south coast. It’s an ideal dive site for all experience levels, with clear, calm waters and plenty of marine life to see. Expect sightings of surgeonfish, angelfish, wrasse, and damsels, as well as sea turtles and rare dragon moray eels. The shallow depths and minimal currents allow beginner divers to hone their skills, although it’s best to avoid diving here when there are southerly swells as the visibility reduces significantly.

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate/Advanced

DEPTH

65 to 100ft (20 to 30m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 60ft (18m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Boat dive

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Butterflyfish, octopus, sea turtles

RENOWNED FOR

Wreck diving, abundant marine life, small caves

You can’t talk about scuba diving in Kauai without mentioning General Store, named for its abundant supply of fish and being just as well-stocked as your local general store. It’s also home to the wreck of the Pele, a freighter that sank here in the late 19th century. It features spectacular stands of black corals that attract a variety of wrasse, groupers, and parrotfish, as well as helmet conch, lobsters, and large crabs that like to hide in the small caves. You can explore the boilers, anchors, and decks of the shipwreck, although there isn’t a whole lot remaining of the Pele after all these years. Dolphins are regularly seen in the deeper waters, with drift dives possible depending on the currents. If the currents do get strong, there are plenty of inlets where you can hide.

scuba diving in kauai hawaii

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate/Advanced

DEPTH

100ft (30m)

VISIBILITY

15 to 30ft (4 to 9m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Shore entry, boat dive

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Reef sharks, nudibranchs, lobsters

RENOWNED FOR

Coral-adorned ledge, pelagic encounters, drift dives

kauai dive

Located just off Makahuena Point, Brennecke’s Ledge boasts a spectacular underwater cliff that’s home to pretty cauliflower corals and an incredible array of marine life. It’s only suitable for those with plenty of experience as swift currents are often experienced on exhilarating drift dives. Nudibranchs, spider crabs, and lobsters are all encountered here, as are moray eels, tropical reef fish, and giant tuna. Beneath the overhang is a garden of black corals where tiny critters find refuge, and you may even spot grey reef sharks and white-tip reef sharks in the blue waters beyond. If you’re scuba diving on Kauai between December and May, the sounds of humpback whales are often heard echoing off Brennecke’s Ledge.

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate/Advanced

DEPTH

45ft to 90ft (13m to 27m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 60ft (18m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Boat dives

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Sea turtles, white-tip reef sharks, black striped snappers

RENOWNED FOR

Turtle cleaning station, swift currents, big pelagics

Renowned for its turtle cleaning station, Turtles Bluff is located just west of General Store and offers some of the best scuba diving in Kauai for lovers of these gentle creatures. It comprises a small hill that lies between 45 and 90 feet (13 to 27 meters) below the water’s surface and is surrounded by ledges on three sides. Turtles arriving here are attended to by cleaner wrasse and shrimp, although white-tip reef sharks and schools of black-striped snappers are also in abundance. Due to the open water setting and sometimes strong currents, this Kauai diving location is not suitable for beginner divers and is reserved for those with a bit of experience under their belt.

DIFFICULTY

Beginner/Intermediate

DEPTH

40ft (12m)

VISIBILITY

32 to 98ft (10 to 30m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Shore entry

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Triggerfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish

RENOWNED FOR

Lots of tropical fish, sparse coverage of corals

diving in kauai

Situated on the north coast of the island, Anahola Beach offers easy shore diving in Kauai from its crescent-shaped sands. After a few minutes of swimming, you’ll arrive at the reef, which is sparsely covered with corals. The highlight here is the high density of tropical fish, including wrasse, parrotfish, triggerfish, and surgeonfish. It’s an ideal Kauai scuba diving spot for beginner divers, provided you stay within the inner reef and don’t venture to the ocean side that’s exposed to strong currents.

DIFFICULTY

Beginner

DEPTH

30 to 60ft (9 to 18m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 60ft (18m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Boat dive

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Tropical fish, octopus, lobsters

RENOWNED FOR

Big boulders, calm and shallow water

kauai reef fish

Located near the harbor at Nawiliwili, Aquariums is a fun and easy Kauai scuba diving site for beginner divers. As its name suggests, it’s like diving in an aquarium, with calm, shallow waters that make it a good place to practice new skills or hone your buoyancy. Aside from lots of big boulders dotting the sandy floor, you may also encounter octopus and lobsters. Aquariums might not hold enough interest for intermediate or experienced divers who are better off heading to the Kauai scuba diving sites along the south coast.

RAINFALL

Kauai’s dry season is from April until November, while the wet season extends from December through to March. November, December, and January are generally the wettest months, with around 4.5 inches (114mm) of precipitation. The driest months are June, July, and August, with as little as 1.75 inches (44mm) of rainfall. 

TEMPERATURE

Temperatures on Kauai range from around 78°F to 81°F (25°C to 27°C) during the winter months and 81°F to 85°F (27°C to 29°C) in the summer. 

BEST SCUBA DIVING MONTHS

Scuba diving in Kauai can be conducted year-round, although the best conditions are generally from May through to September. Kauai water temperatures are around 70°F to 77°F (21°C to 25°C) during this period, and visibility can reach up to 100 feet (30 meters) at some sites. If you visit during the slightly cooler winter months, heavier rainfall can hamper visibility, and bigger ocean swells are experienced. 

But it’s essential to keep in mind that Kauai is the rainiest island in Hawaii and experiences rainfall throughout the year. This results in its lush rainforests and abundance of waterfalls, earning it the nickname of the “Garden Island”. So, don’t expect to stay completely dry, even if you visit during the driest months of June, July, and August. That being said, coastal areas (where most divers are based) experience less rainfall than the inland areas. 

The island is at its busiest during the summer holiday months of July and August, then again over the Christmas/New Year holiday period. If you want to avoid the crowds, take advantage of the most affordable accommodation rates, and enjoy the best weather, opt to visit in the shoulder months of May/June or September. 

TIME ZONE: Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (GMT-10) 

CURRENCY: United States Dollars (USD)

CALLING CODE: +1

ELECTRIC VOLT: 120 V 

PLUG TYPE: A and B

MAIN AIRPORT: Lihue Airport (LIH)

1. How much does it cost to go scuba diving in Kauai, Hawaii?

The cost of scuba diving in Kauai, Hawaii, varies depending on the dive site, the dive operator, and whether you’re using your own equipment. Generally speaking, most Kauai dive shops price their dives based on their distance from Lihue and the coastline, with greater distances costing them more in transport and fuel. Two-tank boat dive trips start from around $150USD along the south coast of the island and can rise to around $235USD if you’re heading to the North Shore. Divers wanting to experience the underwater world of Ni’ihau can expect to pay about $370USD. Night dives begin at around $120 for a single dive. If you’re using your own equipment, you may be able to negotiate a discounted price with your chosen dive operator.

If you’re interested in doing a scuba Kauai certification course, prices start from around $500US for an Open Water certification. Advanced Open Water certifications are approximately $550USD, while a Divemaster course will set you back around $1,700. PADI, NAUI, and SSI certifications are all offered with registered professional instructors.

2. Where is the best scuba diving in Kauai?

Kauai’s south coast offers some of the most accessible dive sites on the island, with famous destinations including Koloa Landing and Brennecke’s Ledge, which is renowned for its spectacular underwater cliff. It’s also here that you’ll find many of the beginner-friendly dive sites like Aquariums and the giant caverns of Sheraton Caves where you can encounter plenty of marine life. Tunnels Reef is one of the best dive sites on Kauai’s North Shore, with impressive wall dives on both the inner and outer reefs.

But scuba diving Kauai reviews often mention that for the most breathtaking dives, you have to make the journey to Ni’ihau, the “Forbidden Isle”, and its majestic Lehua Crater. Here you’ll find deepwater wall dives, huge overhangs, and swim-throughs to explore, as well as incredible encounters with a variety of sharks.

3. Where is the best place to do a Scuba Certification in Kauai, Hawaii?

Kauai is home to a wide choice of dive operators and schools that offer daily dive trips and certification courses. Kauai Down Under Scuba, Fathom Five Diving Kauai and Seasport Divers are all based near Poipu on the south coast of the island and offer certification courses, as well as scuba dive Kauai trips. On the west coast of the island is Explore Kauai Scuba in Waimea, which offers everything from Discovery Scuba Diving to Divemaster courses. Whether you want to do a PADI, NAUI, or SSI certifications, you can find options across Kauai with registered professional instructors.

Scuba in Kauai can be organized directly with a dive shop or through your resort. If you’re not sure which dive Kauai operator to go with, check out Kauai scuba diving reviews online to see what others have to say about their experience. You can read about the quality of gear, boats, and instruction, as well as group sizes and the underwater experience.

4. Who is the best company to use for Kauai Shark Cage Diving?

At the current time, there’s no dedicated Kauai shark cage diving operator. If you want to come face-to-face with these fearsome predators of the ocean within a cage setting, you’ll need to fly to Oahu, where there are a couple of shark cage diving operators. You can venture out with the teams from Hawaii Shark Encounters or North Shore Shark Adventures to see Galapagos, sandbar, and tiger sharks in a safe environment.

Kauai shark diving is possible with friendly grey reef sharks and white-tip reef sharks. These species are encountered at many of the island’s dive sites in a wild setting, without any need for chumming. Some of the best Kauai, Hawaii scuba diving sites for shark encounters include Brennecke’s Ledge and Turtles Bluff, as well as the Lehua Crater near Ni’ihau.

As always, we create our content with you, fellow divers, in mind. So, how’d we do? Did you find this informative? Did it help you make a decision? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you below. Thanks for reading and we hope your next dive is a great one!

Pippa Strickland

Pip is a product expert, a degreed environmental scientist, and an adventure-style traveler originally from Australia. Pip has been an SSI-certified Divemaster for over 5 years, during which time she’s worked with hundreds of certified divers. She’s dived widely throughout Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and the Middle East, with a particular passion for night diving. When she’s not diving, her key interests include surfing, trekking and gardening in her ever-growing veggie patch.

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