One woman's husband tried to swim to them but had to turn back because of strong currents. Lifeguards weren't able to resuscitate the women, Arinaga said.
The National Weather Service had advised of high surf Sunday morning for north-facing beaches in Hawaii, including Kauai. The advisory lasts through Tuesday evening, and lifeguards have been warning people away from the water. The waves were expected to reach as high as 18 feet on Kauai.
"This weekend, we had large surf hitting the north side of the island," Arinaga said. "If you're not familiar with wave action at all, this would be a problem."
The women were identified as Heather Westphal, 33, of Washington, D.C., and Tonya Cataldo, 38, of Parker, Colo.
Earlier Sunday, a body surfer at a beach in Kapaa found the body of a snorkeler in the water. Arinaga said the man was 74-year-old Hiroaki Kinjo of Saitama Ken, Japan.
Drowning appeared to have caused all three deaths, but autopsies were scheduled Tuesday.
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