11 Amazing Places for the Best Kayaking in Oahu

You don’t have to swim like a mermaid to have a good time in Hawaii.

The best kayaking in Oahu will get you all the time you need for fun in the water!

Oahu has always been synonymous with long, white beaches and generous bays.

Not to mention the coves and grottos dotted along the rockier shores.

The perfect compromise between not getting wet and spending time under the sun, kayaking is a must for any Oahu itinerary.

Let’s take a look at the best places to kayak in Oahu.

1. Kahana Bay

View over kahana bay from Kahana State park oahu
View from kahana state park

Some of the best kayaking in Oahu can be found along the Windward Coast, thanks to 30 scenic miles of cliffs and bays.

Smack-dab in the middle is Kahana Bay, which dips inward to create a secluded and sheltered beach park.

Waterfront camping is a visitor favorite – but nothing beats the kayaking here.

From the beach access, paddle to the Kahana Stream and up through the rainforest!

Family-friendly and perfect for beginners, the route takes you through green-clad valleys and cool Amazonian-like landscape.

How many birds can you spot?

If you only have time for one kayaking experience…

A self-guided or small group tour around the islands of Kailua Bay will slide nicely into your Oahu itinerary.

The half-day eco-adventure will let you experience the best kayaking in Oahu.

Enjoy island views, bird sanctuaries, watching sea turtles swimming, and relaxing lunch on the beach.

Kayak your way into the crevices of the Mokolua Islands and dip into freshwater pools!

Check off three kayak havens in a single trip.

tip

2. He’eia State Park Fishpond

First time kayaking? Play it safe by kayaking at this peaceful man-made landmark within He’eia State Park.

Constructed hundreds of years ago, the beautiful pond tells the story of how ancient Hawaiians learned to fish sustainably.

There are educational tours that guide you around the volcanic walls and touch upon regional legends.

You can also learn about how restoration efforts are going; the community removes invasive species while carefully repairing damaged areas.

It’s an amazing cultural spot.

Note: Fishpond is private property and permission must be obtained before accessing it.

3. Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach oahu
Kailua Beach

Pristine, powdered sand makes Kailua Beach a top contender when it comes to days out by the sea.

The beach park itself is well equipped with shade, rental shops, and a generous span of sand so you don’t have to fight for space.

For those who like to stay close to shore during their kayaking jam, the calm waters of Kailua Beach will rock your worries away.

In fact, why not kayak from one end of Kailua Bay to the other?

For an even calmer cruise, there’s Ka’elepulu Stream which spills into the ocean by the beach park.

Head upstream to reach Ka’elepulu Pond.

4. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach with Mokulua Islands in view oahu
Lanikai Beach

One of the biggest names on the Windward Coast, Lanikai Beach is often visited in tandem with Kailua Beach – literal neighbors and kayaking buddies.

Unlike Kailua Beach’s open access, the half-mile-long Lanikai Beach is tucked away in a residential neighborhood.

It feels more like a backyard beach, only accessible via pedestrian walkways.

Not only is it picture-perfect (think bendy palms and clear blue skies), but it also boasts live coral reefs!

Rent a kayak at Kailua Beach and paddle your way over.

The trade winds will push you back to Kailua when the time comes.

5. Flat Island

Across from Kailua Beach is Flat Island, also known as Popoia Island, just about a quarter-mile out.

The relatively flat, greenery-wrapped islet is well sheltered and home to nesting sea birds.

While you’re not allowed into the dense foliage for eco-preservation, the outskirts offer some of the best kayaking in Oahu.

Circle around to find small, sandy coves around the shores. Secure your kayak on these beach strips and go exploring!

Tide pools, snorkeling, and fish chasing will keep you occupied well into the day.

It’s a great option if you want to venture out into the ocean without challenging too much distance.

6. Mokulua Islands (The Mokes)

Mokulua Islands at lanakai beach oahu
Mokulua Islands from Lanakai Beach

The sibling islets of Mokulua are less than a mile out from Kailua; easily spotted from shore.

Officially serving as bird sanctuaries, they’re also unofficial photo spots with a dash of seafront adventure.

Warm up with a calm 2.5-mile paddle to the twin islands and take a breather at the small landing beach.

From there, wind through the sea turtle feeding grounds and peer down into the living coral reefs.

You might even discover some hidden coves!

Swimming suits are highly recommended as the reefs are the perfect snorkeling estate.

Just remember to respect the animals and the natural ecosystem!

7. Kaneohe Sandbar (Sunken Island)

kaneohe sandbar oahu nl
Source: Viator

Mystical, unique, and with a mind of its own, Kaneohe Bay’s Sunken Island has gained a fitting nickname – the Atlantis of Hawaii.

If we’re getting technical, the island is actually a sandbar.

Where the middle of the bay totters between being ankle and waist-deep, the outer edges of this bank are only exposed during low tide.

Not only is it a paddlers’ paradise, but the Kaneohe Sandbar is also one of the best places to kayak in Oahu.

There’s no dry land, just large stretches of sand surrounded by reef patches with wildlife spotting.

Prepare to be a prune by the end of the day!

Kaneohe Sandbar Snorkel Tour

Get the full experience and book a 3-hour boat tour that takes you out to the sandbar for snorkeling!

tour

8. Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli’i)

Aerial view of Kualoa Point and Chinamans Hat oahu
Aerial view of Kualoa Point & Chinamans Hat

Another Kaneohe Bay landmark is Chinaman’s Hat, poking out of the seascape at 200-feet tall.

The dramatic peak is quite something to see from sea level.

Your kayaking trip begins at Kualoa Beach Park; loop around Chinaman’s Hat to complete the journey!

While it’s less than half an hour paddle away, take your time and enjoy the crystal clear waters.

The reef patches peek out clearly – you might be tempted to stick your face underwater for a colorful show.

9. Coconut Island (Moku o Lo’e)

Coconuts evoke the image of beachside lounging – exactly what the island was originally designed for.

Today, this half man-made stop has divorced its exclusive yacht club identity and became home to research facilities.

Landing is, unfortunately, prohibited. But don’t let that stop you from rounding the island!

A shallow bay rings the island before dropping into deeper coral patches, giving it a ‘floating’ effect.

Paddle slowly to spot fish darting beneath your kayak; you might even spot some lucky inhabitants through the pines.

10. Haleiwa Beach Park

Waimea Bay at haleiwa beach park oahu
Waimea Bay, haleiwa beach park

The Windward Coast may boast a never-ending list of places to kayak in Oahu, but the North Shore is no slouch either.

Haleiwa Beach Park is a multi-feature hub, letting you jump from playground to basketball court to picnic areas and, of course, the beach.

The highlight of your kayaking tour is, no doubt, sea turtles – regular visitors that loiter where the Anahulu River meets the ocean.

It’s a 1-mile paddle as you watch these turtle pods eat their way upstream.

Make your way back down to explore the bay; the sunset views are spectacular.

11. Pokai Bay Beach Park

The Leeward Coast, on the whole, is often overlooked but well worth a visit for fewer crowds.

A breakwater protects Pokai Bay to make it family and surf-beginner friendly.

While most of the Waianae beaches experience strong surf conditions, the calm waters here are great for kayak-launching.

Those looking for an easy paddling time can stay within the buoy-marked area of the bay.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot some spinner dolphins early in the morning.

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