One of the best experiences for those traveling to Kauai is the chance to see the native wildlife, such as sea turtles. Beaches on the north and south shores of the island are popular spots for getting pictures of sea turtles in or out of the water. Before you head for the beach, learn about the turtles and local laws that protect them to ensure that you and the wildlife have positive encounters.
Fascinating Facts About Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
Most of the sea turtles spotted in Kauai are Hawaiian green sea turtles, also known as Honu. These large turtles can weigh up to 250 pounds and measure five feet long.
You may see turtles older than you are. Green sea turtles have lifespans that average between 60 and 80 years.
They prefer to rest on beaches and swim in shallow waters. So, visitors to Kauai’s beaches have plenty of chances to see these turtles while having fun in and around the water.
Know Before You Go
Before traveling to any of these top places for sea turtle spotting, know the local laws in Hawaii. Hawaiian green sea turtles and all other species are states and federally protected species. Therefore, you must adhere to the following requirements to protect them from harm. Failure to do so could cost you fines of up to $100,000.
First, stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away from turtles. This means that you cannot swim next to the turtles. Nor can you touch, approach, high-five, ride, chase, or dance with them. Also, do not make loud noises to try to attract the turtles’ attention. They can become startled by loud sounds and sudden motions.
Watching the turtles quietly from a safe distance is the best way to enjoy these beautiful creatures. You get the experience of seeing these rare animals. And the turtles benefit from not becoming stressed by humans in their environment.
1. Poipu Beach
Poipu Beach is a highly popular south shore beach. During the day, it quickly fills with visitors enjoying the sand and surf. However, if you want to see sea turtles, visit around sunset and stay through the evening. You should be able to see turtles at the end of the day.
Previous visitors to this beach note that dozens of Honu come ashore after dark to sleep. Volunteers keep visitors at an appropriate distance from these turtles. Pay careful attention to their directions to avoid getting too close.
During the day, you may see Honu sunbathing on the sand. Snorkeling in the waters of Poipu Beach is another popular activity. Many snorkelers report seeing turtles in the water near where they swim. Remember to always stay at least 10 feet away from the turtles, even in the water.
2. Anini Beach
Anini Beach on the north shore of Kauai offers a quieter place to spot Honu. This beach offers great snorkeling conditions. But it does not have the large crowds of more popular beaches on the south shore.
Sea turtles come to the waters off Anini Beach specifically to have fish clean off the algae from their shells. Known as a turtle cleaning station, this site ensures that you’ll see plenty of turtles while snorkeling or walking on the beach. Some visitors have even spotted the rarer Hawksbill turtle, known as Honuea, in these waters.
3. Lawai Beach
Located on the south shore near Poipu Beach, Lawai Beach offers turtle viewing from the rocky shore. The waters around this part of the island provide rich feeding grounds for sea turtles, so you’ll likely see at least a few if you watch the water long enough. Plus, the reef off the coast provides numerous chances to see plenty of fish and turtles while snorkeling.
Park in one of the street parking spots just to the west of Lawai Beach. Look for turtles in the water near the rocks to the west of the beach where they congregate to feed. You may also spot the turtles in the waters in front of the Beach House Restaurant, on the east side of Lawai Beach.
4. Brennecke’s Beach
Brennecke’s Beach is close to Poipu Beach and another popular spot on the south shore. Like Poipu, you may not see too many sea turtles during the day on the beach due to the heavy crowds. You can still spot them in the water.
Boogie boarding brings most people to Brennecke’s Beach. Watch these swimmers. Often, they will spot turtles in the water with them and point them out to others. You don’t have to go body surfing to see sea turtles at this south shore beach.
Look in the waters to the east of the beach. Visitors report a family of Honu living in that area.
Similar to turtle viewing at Poipu Beach, you can increase your chances of seeing sea turtles by waiting until sunset to watch them come to shore after the beachgoers leave.
5. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
One of the best places for seeing all types of Hawaiian wildlife is in the protected Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the north shore. This 199-acre refuge provides a safe place for endangered and protected animals to rest. They also can increase their population numbers in this refuge, safe from predators. The refuge also preserves the natural habitat of the northern shore.
While most of the focus on preservation at this refuge is for birds, it also provides a perfect place to spot Honu. Go up to the bluff where the lighthouse stands. Take binoculars with you to look down toward the water. Visitors have spotted Honu, seals, and whales off the coast of this refuge.
Before you go, make reservations for your visit. Tickets open two months in advance. You cannot enter without reservations.
You can spot sea turtles throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Kauai has several beaches favored by these magnificent creatures. Visit any of the above beaches to raise your chances of spotting a Hawaiian green sea turtle in person.