Overview of Tunnels Reef

Tunnels Reef

Hawaiian Islands


Tunnels Reef is an advanced dive, with spectacular underwater sights. There is a shallow lava shelf to be negotiated, but once you make it over the edge, you'll find lava tubes in the deeper water. We do recommend having a guide with you before attempting this dive for the first time.

Directions: On the North coast on Highway 560, around mile mark 8.5, you'll see access roads heading off to the beach. Many are private, but a couple are public access. Find the one in the picture, as it offers good access with minimal hiking.


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Diver Reviews:    Click here to write a Site Review, and share any new information about this site!

10/21/2013 Sam Hopkins (Avg: 4.06 Review) - Amazing site! Dove here with a guide (Jeanette from fathom five) who knows this site blindfolded. Over 2 dives we saw 10+ white tip reef sharks, a Spanish dancer, several turtles (and a turtle cleaning station!), shrimp, worms, a variety of fish and oh so many swim throughs and tunnels with light cascading through holes above. We dove in October at the very end of the season for the North shore and the vis was a bit like pea soup (~20 feet) but it was still wonderful. Our guide recommends the site in May when the vis can be 60-80 feet, when I'm sure it's positively breathtaking!

06/11/2013 Ken Wilhelm (Avg: 4.42 Review) - Did a two tank dive for the first time on this site......very nice This is a world class dive....Don't miss it!!!

04/22/2011 Anonymous (Avg: 4.72 Review) - Tunnels was by far our best snorkeling experience overall. The water was clear and the underwater terrain and coral was like the coolest aquarium you've ever seen. Great variety of fish, wrasse, trigger-fish, parrot-fish, and a lot of them. We barely covered 10% of this reef protected site. Get there early for a parking space or park down the road at the State Park.

09/16/2010 East (Avg: 2.91 Review) - We chose this for our first shore dive in Kauai. We did plan ahead evaluating the available sites across the island and, with larger surf in the south, we decided on Tunnels. With all the research it was busy and parking was nonexistent so we did a drop and hump the gear. It was easy to spot the breaks in the reef allowing the entry to deeper water without problems. A significant current was visible so we exercised even more caution. Dive went great. Lots of fish, shrimp, and a beautiful White Tip being cleaned. Lots of snorkelers enjoying the spot too. On our exit, current increased forcing us to swim some but no big deal. Enjoyed it and sure you will too, just plan ahead like your supposed to.

07/19/2010 Mike (Avg: 3.17 Review) - Dove this site with a guide and was glad I did. It would be very easy to make a navigation mistake here and I would've been comfortable doing the swim throughs without a professional. Did see 5'-6' white tip shark with 4-6 cleaner fish taking care of him. Saw a shrimp and some reef fish, but not as plentiful as at Koloa Landing. Very easy entry/exit and the water was calm, so not much surf/surge to speak of.

08/07/2009 Bobby (Avg: 3.09 Review) - Most important tip is to park as close as possible. Another observation, though, is that the local police didn't mind cars parked all along the roadside, even beside 'No Parking' signs. We showed up about 8 am, which is as late as you should arrive to get decent parking. Easy entry. Did 2 shore dives. Saw a lot of great stuff, but no sharks (my 12-year old daughter's main goal for our dives). Overall, good location for dives. Large enough to occupy you for several dives.

05/07/2008 George Kirkish (Avg: 3.80 Review) - We did 2 shore dives here. Both were great. Lots of tunnels with skylights back lighting the fish. Lots of white tips and schools of fish. A definite 9 out of 10 rating in my book!

12/19/2007 Anonymous (Avg: 4.14 Review) - Incredible snorkeling experience. It was very windy during the time we visited Kauai, but this reef is very protected and easy to navigate. Lots of fish with great visibility. Lots of road construction on the way, but worth the drive!

10/05/2007 Scott G (Avg: 3.50 Review) - We did 2 dives at tunnels. The best entry is at the 1st dirt road. Follow the narrow sand channel straight out the beach, then make a left to dive the inner reef. You will soon find the "tunnels". They are quite cool. We found a few turtles and a white-tipped shark. Beware of currents in the sandy area outside of the inner reef.

07/22/2007 Anonymous (Avg: 3.77 Review) - Free dived Tunnels 5 times over the last week. Each day topped the previous. Dolphin visits, family of 9 sea turtles within reach, monk seal, huge eel, white tip sharks. Head out to the edge of the breakers. You will be alone with good visibility.

01/13/2006 Anonymous (Avg: 3.83 Review) - Beautiful place!

05/13/2005 Gary Harmon (Avg: 3.32 Review) - Very good spot on the North Shore. Love to snorkel, Gary

05/04/2005 JT (Avg: 3.51 Review) - I'm an advanced diver. I dove Tunnels solo twice. Both great dives! While not absolutely necessary, I'd too advise having a guide the first time as they'll take you through the swim-thru caverns/"tunnels" and show you where the wild life is. Park on the first PUBLIC road just past the little red "tunnels" sign, if possible. Parking only on the left side and NOT in front of anyone's drive/gate! Space for only about 5 or six cars so go early. If full, park at the second public road past sign- same # of spaces and about 250 yds beach walk to entry point. OR park at public beach further down the road-approx 1/3 mi beach walk to entry. First road /parking is about 50yds yd walk-best. You'll understand if you have to walk 1/3 mile carrying 40+lbs over beach sand Like I did! Hint: walk where moist sand meets dry, its the firmest footing. Look for sand channel leading out from shore. Wade out thru channel, don fins in waist deep water & swim out. Shallow reef (great for snorkeling) drops off to 30'. Go left/west. Stay close to rocks/ledge to left look for first tunnel entry. Always be sure that you can see the light/exit point: if its all dark that's not the way. I found navigation easy without a guide but these ARE enclosed, OVERHEAD environments with NO direct access to surface if you get skittish or something goes wrong! Again be REAL about your experience and ability. Do not try this dive on your own if you do not have proper training (dive/cavern) & equipment (spare air @ minimum). But this is an easy, safe, shallow dive even for beginners with proper guidance. Went very early morning at sunrise for my second dive. Beach deserted and perfect calm clear conditions. Having dove once before I knew about parking, entry point and where to go. Just a fantastic dive at that time. White tip reef sharks sleeping in caves and on ledges. Large sea turtle resting inside tunnel three feet away. Lobsters. I was gently frog kicking, going very slow, STAYING OFF BOTTOM-careful& accurate buoyancy control a must!. A nearly perfect dive and lasting memory!

02/23/2005 Tom Diehl (Avg: 3.58 Review) - A little difficult to find, and a little difficult on the entry, but saw a 6 ft. + white-tip within ten minutes of the dive, and counted a total of seven by the end of the dive. Great visibility, very little current that day, with some surge evident at depths less than 10 feet. Loved it.

08/07/2004 Ron Olson (Avg: 3.23 Review) - This was my 2nd time diving here. The vis wasn't quite as good and the fish weren't quite as good as last time either. It was still pretty good. Very little parking on the narrow road to the beach. To prevent a guaranteed parking ticket, park 200 yards down the road at the state beach with the camp ground. I saw several scuba divers coming and going. They seemed to be having a good time. Entry was fairly easy between the submerged rocks. I saw lots of fish, a couple of eels and a lobster. Some people were spear fishing out a ways and seemed to be doing pretty well. A beautiful setting for diving if you don't mind the 200 yard hike to the bathroom and shower.

07/11/2004 Freddy Mangogna (Avg: 3.43 Review) - On 06/11/04 my wife and I made two dives on the reef with Ocean Quest (a GREAT outfit, by the way). North shore run-off due to a wetter than normal June cut the visibility to about 25' more or less. No, it's not the Carib, but if you're not a "dive snob" and want to broaden your experience, it's a pretty neat dive. No sharks, but we saw turtles, tiger moray, leaf scorpion fish, razors, and heard the spinner dolphins playing a little further out. Topography was great, could be tricky for less experienced divers without a guide. All in all, a VERY enjoyable dive. We'll do it again when we go back.

04/12/2004 James Goddard (Avg: 2.77 Review) - My favorite shore dive on the island. Fascinating coral formations. Look around in the "tunnels" for resting sharks.

12/14/2003 Anonymous (Avg: 3.12 Review) - Nice! Had to go out quite away off the beach. Saw some sea turtles. It was a little eerie, and now we know why: we didn't see any, but I guess this is where the BIG tiger shark hangs out.

08/02/2003 William Benton (Avg: 3.33 Review) - I did a two tank dive with local guides in June 2003. We met at an access area west of the one recommended here. The lava tubes are very interesting, but if you don't like closed in places, you would miss out. Large lobsters and sleeping green sea turtles are deep inside the tubes. I was glad I dove with professionals, because it would be really easy for me to get lost or in trouble exploring here. This was well worth the money and time I spent.

07/06/2003 Bill Baxter (Avg: 2.27 Review) - Let's be clear, this isn't Caribbean diving. Limited coral and fish life, mediocre visibility, but about average for Hawaii. The tunnels are interesting, but most fish life is shallower. Vis was about 40 feet. The access road mentioned is exactly 0.5 miles beyond mile marker 8, which is just beyond the YMCA camp. Lots of "No Parking" signs all along the road, and if you park along the small dirt access road, you will have a 15 foot cliff at the end that you will have a heck of a time transferring tanks and weights over. We just parked at the beach parking lot 0.2 miles further west (across from the dry cave) and hiked in down the beach. Very limited parking is a joke on weekends. During the calm summer months, this is an easy dive, and I wouldn't consider it advanced by any means. Also, contrary to some reports, the navigation is pretty simple.

06/18/2002 Terry Layton (Avg: 3.51 Review) - Tunnels reef is a very good beach dive. There are some real shallow reefs that you must navigate to get out to the deeper water. But once you get out to the deeper water it is real nice. The further out you swim the visibility seems to improve. The reef formations are very interesting and the fish life is plentiful. I saw 3 turtles, white tip reef shark, spotted moray, and plenty of reef fish. Overall a very good beach dive.

08/21/2001 Charity Kocher (Avg: 3.06 Review) - Tunnels was my very first scuba experience and it was fabulous! We saw several large turtles, sharks and myriad fish. One of the tubes/tunnels that we went through opened up into an underwater partially enclosed cavern with the light streaming through the top. It was filled with a school of fish swimming in a circle in the light. I felt like I was one of the fish swimming in a huge aquarium. Now I'm hooked on scuba, got my PADI certification and can't wait to come back!

05/15/2001 Wanda S. Rodriguez (Avg: 3.00 Review) - I saw my first shark at this dive site. The thing I remember most is the beautiful lava tubes and coral formations. If you have an opportunity to do a night dive at this site take it. No crowds, my instructor and I were the only divers there. I saw more sea life during the night than on my day dives. The only draw backs for this dive site is the lack of a good parking area, no fresh water to rinse your gear off with and no bathrooms.

04/01/2001 Honu Kane (Avg: 3.18 Review) - Parking limited to roadside. Walk to beach can be long during prime-time, so get there early. Primary entry point to reef has good access, though narrow. Opens up after 20-30 yards. Great intermediate snorkling, beginners should go elsewhere (Ke'e perhaps). Guided dive groups (scuba) all day long. Best underwater lava tubing of virtually anywhere. Lotsa small fish. Not much big stuff, though... too many people.


Site Photos

(click photo for a larger version)

 Map     Sat
GPS: KA1301


Entrance at Tunnels Reef 

This is the second of two dirt access roads to the reef area; the Haena Beach Park is just up the road.


 Map     Sat
GPS: KA1302


Parking at Tunnels Reef 

You'll find parking for 6-8 cars in this narrow corridor. Gear up at your vehicle and head down to the beach.

Trail Head

 Map     Sat
GPS: KA1303


Trail Head at Tunnels Reef 

There is a shady area at the end of road perfect for having lunch.


 Map     Sat
GPS: KA1304


Entry at Tunnels Reef 

Here's the view down toward the Haena Beach Park. The reef is off to your right.




Aerial at Tunnels Reef 
(click photo for details)

The entry is relatively easy when the surf is minimal. Kick out to the deep, and begin your exploration.




Aerial at Tunnels Reef 

And another perspective of the coast line.

Last Verification: September, 2000  


Diver Averages for  Tunnels Reef  (1=worst, 5=best)

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  3.88
Bottom Conditions:  3.79
Reef Conditions:  3.71
Animal Life:  3.83
Plant Life:  2.96
Facilities:  2.25
Solitude 2.88
Roads:  2.92
*Site Average:  3.45

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.92
Beginner Scuba:  3.38
Intermediate Scuba:  3.58
Advanced Scuba:  3.54
Night diving Scuba:  3.29

Number of reviews for this site: 24


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