In the shadow of verdant mountains, and shaded by palm and ironwood trees, Makua Beach has golden sand and baby blue waters. The post-card-perfect setting was featured in the 1958 movie South Pacific, but it’s the labyrinthine underwater reef, snaked with caves, that lends the beach its nickname and draws visitors today: Tunnels Beach is one of Kauai’s best snorkeling spots. Best of all, it’s frequently uncrowded.
Protected within a small cupped North Shore bay, two layers of reef offer different experiences. The smaller inshore reef boasts calmer waters and frequent sea turtle sightings, while the expansive offshore reef is a well-utilized scuba dive site with more varied terrain—some sections drop to 70 feet. The ocean-facing edge of the outer reef is popular with expert surfers. Both reefs are home to colorful wrasse, moray eels, butterfly fish and Hawaii’s state fish, the hard-to-pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua`a. If you’re lucky, you may even see an endangered Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on the shore.