While it is tempting to take it easy in Hawaii – whether you’re exhausted from a rough week of work, or have come to the islands with a relaxing vacation in mind – sometimes it’s important to be a little more adventurous.
That’s where one of my favorite water sport comes in – kayaking. Whether you are taking a river-guided journey into the jungle, leisurely paddling through the crystalline waters of one of the islands’ most popular bays, or cruising down the coast alongside rocky cliffs, these 11 kayaking adventures in Hawaii are as unique as they are unforgettable. And luckily, as long as you have moderate arm and shoulder strength, you’ll be set to go on of these incredible island kayak destinations.
1. Mokulua Islands
In addition to being two of Oahu’s best beaches, Kailua and Lanikai are also a great access point in which to kayak to the popular Mokulua Islands, which are Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuaries. Kayakers will enjoy crystalline turquoise waters, and picturesque views of Oahu’s windward coast.
2. Kauai’s Na Pali Coast
Because Kauai’s fabled Na Pali Coast is simply not accessible via road, you have to either complete a strenuous hike, or book a helicopter or boat tour to experience this famous coastline. The paddle is extremely difficult and tiresome, but kayakers will explore sea caves and waterfalls, view remote valleys tucked into the clidds, and even hang out with turtles, dolphins, and – if they’re lucky – Hawaiian monk seals.
3. Kealakekua Bay
Hawaii Island’s beautiful reef-filled Kealakekua Bay is one of the state’s most historic bays, and a known dolphin hangout. Though you will have to go through a tour group in order to procure a permit, you will be able to paddle across the bay – approximately a mile – to reach the Captain Cook monument.
4. Honolua Bay
While Honolua Bay is one of Maui’s most popular snorkeling destinations, the turquoise water in this Marine Life Conservation District also makes for an out of this world kayaking excursion.
5. Kahana River
Located on Oahu’s Windward Coast is the Kahana Stream, which empties into the ocean at Kahana Bay Beach Park. Packed-with waterfall and rainforest views, this tranquil two-mile round trip kayak excursion will take you into the Ko’olau Mountains from the beach.
6. Makena Bay
What is better kayaking destination than an untouched area with gorgeous beaches, vibrant reefs, clear water, and a popular green sea turtle hangout? If you answered, absolutely nothing, then south Maui’s Makena Bay is the ultimate kayaking destination for you!
7. Hanalei River + Hanalei Bay
The start of the Hanalei River is found on the slopes of Kauai’s highest mountain, and meanders north past the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, eventually flowing into the beautiful Hanalei Bay. Many choose this kayak trip because it allows for both river and sea kayaking in one, several-mile trek.
8. Keauhou Bay
This historic bay on Hawaii Island’s Kona Coast is full of tropical sea life, sea cliffs, underwater lava tubes, and sea caves – making it one of the greatest kayaking or snorkeling destinations on the island.
9. Huleia River
For jaw-dropping landscapes and a serene environment near Kauai’s southeastern coastline, head to the Huleia River, one of the state’s few navigable rivers. Kayakers will be surrounded by lush jungle as they make their way deep into the heart of Kauai, towards the base of a 3,000-foot mountain range.
10. Kaneohe Bay
This sheltered and shallow bay on Oahu’s windward coast was formed when a portion of the Koolau volcano collapsed into the sea. The bay is home to one of Hawaii’s two barrier reefs, as well as two small offshore islands – Chinaman’s Hat, and Coconut Island – perfect for a short kayak adventure.
11. Wailua River
This stunning trek may be last on our list, but it is perhaps the coolest kayaking destination in all of Hawaii. In addition to having little current, the Wailua River is the only way to access the trail that leads to the stunning 100-foot cascading Uluwehi Falls.