Makua Beach earned the nickname of “Tunnels” from the labyrinth of lava tubes that wind through its inner and outer reef, making this Kauai’s premiere snorkeling and diving site year-round. But as fascinating as the rainbow of tropical fish and the underwater tunnels, arches, and channels may be, they’re more than matched by the beauty above water. The last pinnacle in a row of velvety green mountains, Makana (Bali Hai) rises over the western end of a golden curved beach with a fringe of ironwood trees. The only problem: The few parking spots on dirt roads fill up instantly, and residents vigilantly enforce “no parking” zones.
Fortunately, a quarter-mile up the sand is Haena Beach Park, a county facility with much more parking—plus restrooms, showers, picnic tables, campsites, and lifeguards. During calm conditions, most frequent in summer, Haena Beach offers good swimming and some snorkeling, though not as enticing as at Makua. Winter brings enormous waves, rip currents, and a strong shorebreak; leave the water then to local surfers. Walk across the road for a gander at Maniniholo Dry Cave ★★, another former sea cave (see “Haena State Park”). You can stroll for many yards inside before it gets too dark and low (watch your noggin).