Looking for a fun Oahu adventure? Scroll to see 4 of the best spots for kayaking Oahu plus the best Oahu kayaking tours.
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The island of Oahu is home to almost 1 million people, making up two thirds of Hawaii’s total population. It’s a hotspot for tourism, with beautiful beaches and attractions to keep a family busy for days.
Since Honolulu is on Oahu, it’s a mostly metropolitan island, with public transportation and fun things to do. You can indulge in a spectacular Hawaiian vacation without seeing the other islands
A trip to Oahu should include a kayak tour, whether it’s self-guided or lead by an expert.
Kayaking doesn’t require much skill or energy, making it a great way to take in Hawaii’s sights. There are many great kayaking spots on Oahu with varying levels of difficulty.
Kayakers who are new to the sport will likely be more comfortable paddling in calmer water, which the island can accommodate. To stay safe, novice kayakers should stick to spots on the windward side of Oahu.
Even more experienced kayakers may feel more comfortable on the windward side, since the winds will blow stranded adventurers back to shore.
These Oahu kayaking spots take safety and skill into consideration, as well as kayak availability if you don’t have your own.
As you plan for your Oahu kayaking trip, keep these spots in mind!
And be sure to read our top 101 things to do in Oahu with kids!
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Oahu Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Kayaking in Oahu: the Best Locations
1. Kaneohe Bay
This body of water on East Oahu is a great place to take beginners on their first kayak Oahu adventure. And it’s probably some of the best kayaking in Oahu.
Kaneohe Bay is protected by a barrier reef, which blocks off much of the ocean current. You’ll also see plenty of sea creatures on your kayaking journey due to the barrier reef’s proximity to the bay.
From Kaneohe Bay, kayakers of all skill levels can easily get to Sunken Island and Coconut Island (yes, the same Coconut Island that Gilligan’s Island was filmed on!)
Since Coconut Island is bound to bring about some nostalgia, Kaneohe Bay is a kayaking spot that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
While your kids are busy playing in the water, the adults can come up with some clever references for your social media posts. After all, what would a trip to Hawaii be without some Instagram photos?
If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent one. Along with your kayak rental, you’ll receive a safety orientation from a certified instructor. You can also rent stand-up paddle boards or snorkeling equipment.
Kayaking is definitely one of the top Kaneohe things to do for families.
2. Kailua Beach/Lanikai Beach
The waters at Kailua Beach are calm, with the beach sitting on the windward side of Oahu.
There are a couple of places to visit on this kayaking journey, like the tiny Flat Island. Since this island is a bird sanctuary, you’ll want to make a stop here to see the wildlife.
If you’re kayaking with kids, you might not want to travel beyond Flat Island – the “nearby” Mokulua Islands are much farther out, with rougher waves as you reach the final destination.
If you do decide to do a kayak adventure to the Mokulua islands, prepare for a long, yet rewarding journey!
Kailua Beach Adventures offers kayak rentals within walking distance of the beach. You can opt to rent their kayaks for a self-guided adventure, but they also offer guided kayaking tours in Kailua Bay.
You’ll be picked up from Waikiki for your guided tour before embarking on a half-day journey or a short, relaxing trip.
If you’re interested in visiting the peaceful Lanikai Beach for a snorkeling excursion, be sure to choose a kayaking tour that will bring you there. There are lots of Oahu kayak tours to pick from.
A 30 to 45-minute kayak trip will bring you to this beautiful beach with no shore wave breaks. Bring a waterproof camera to get some shots of the marine life both on and off of the shore!
You and your family could easily spend the entire day at Lanikai Beach, which is why several companies offer beach rental packages to tourists.
Hawaii Beach Time’s value package includes beach chairs, umbrellas, a cooler with ice, and a double kayak for 4 hours.
3. Kahana Bay
Take the scenic route by kayaking in Kahana Bay!
From here, you’ll get picturesque views of the Ko’olau mountain range and a tropical rainforest. The area is thriving with diverse species, like monk seals and sea turtles. You may even see a humpback whale further offshore!
Since Kahana Bay is on the windward coast of Oahu, the kayaking journey will be relatively easy.
The round-trip route is about 2 hours long, providing more of a challenge than the trip from Kailua Beach to Flat Island.
Since there’s so much to see on this adventure, you might wind up spending more time in the water taking photos.
Several rental companies serve the Kahana Bay area, offering self-guided tour packages to help you kayak through the rainforest.
Active Oahu Tours provides kayaks, life vests, and other kayaking equipment, but does not provide transportation to and from Kahana Bay.
4. Haleiwa Beach Park
If you’re interested in kayaking North Shore Oahu, Haleiwa Beach Park is a great place to start.
Several kayaking spots on Oahu house sea turtles, but they’re not always visible. Haleiwa Beach Park is an exception, with many turtles in plain sight.
Venture along the Anahulu River in a glass-bottomed kayak to see even more!
Start your 1.5-hour-long journey at Haleiwa Beach Park, where you’ll find plenty of convenient parking spots.
As you paddle, you’ll get a great view of Mt. Ka’ala, beautiful homes, and fellow kayakers (don’t worry – the river is wide enough for multiple boaters).
The currents can make a kayaking adventure on Anahulu River a bit challenging, so this spot is recommended for intermediate-level kayakers.
Hawaii Activities offers turtle watching tours in glass kayaks. The tours last about 2 hours.
Alternatively, you can rent a kayak for just $10/hour at Surf n Sea in Haleiwa. The knowledgeable shop staff will fill you in on the water conditions before you head out.
Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or you’ve never paddled before, kayaking on Oahu will become one of the highlights of your vacation.
Picking the right launch spots can turn a basic activity into an incredible journey through Hawaii’s turquoise waters. Remember to bring sunglasses, sunblock and plenty of water!
Kayaking on Oahu: the Best Guided Oahu Kayak Tours
Kayaking Tour of Kailua Bay with Lunch
During this half-day eco-adventure, paddle out to Popoia Island (Flat Island) or the Mokulua Islands to enjoy stunning island views from the water. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Guests can snorkel with green sea turtles at Lanikai and visit bird sanctuaries before enjoying a relaxing lunch on the beach.
This small-group tour includes round-trip transportation from select Waikiki hotels, all kayaking and snorkeling equipment and lunch.
Get your discounted Kayak Tour of Kailua Bay tickets
2-Hour Guided Kayaking Excursion
This guided kayaking tour takes you to prime locations in Kailua Bay, with the Koʻolau Mountain Range and its dormant volcanoes as a backdrop. Check out the latest prices and more details.
After lunch, you’ll have access to boogie boards, snorkeling gear, and shower facilities.
Get your discounted 2-Hour Guided Kayaking Excursion tickets
Twin Islands Guided Kayak Tour
This 5-hour kayak tour of Kailua and Lanikai beaches includes the Twin Island bird sanctuary (locally known as the Mokulua Islands), tide pools, and snorkeling above live coral reefs. Find the best prices here.
The tour includes a break for a fresh picnic lunch, and your naturalist guide provides context and insights about the surroundings.
Get your discounted Twin Islands Guided Kayak Tour tickets
Top Questions About Kayaking in Oahu
You can kayak in various rivers as well as the ocean. Our top Oahu kayaking spots are Kaneohe Bay, Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, Kahana Bay, and Haleiwa State Park.
The most important thing to wear on your Oahu kayaking adventure is a life jacket. If you’re kayaking with kids, be sure to check out these kids life jackets before you go.
You’ll also want to wear SPF clothing (like a rashguard) and swimwear in case you get wet!
We also recommend a sun hat, water shoes, and sunglasses, but that’s really up to personal preference.
Yep. From getting in and out of your kayak to paddling over waves, there’s a really good chance you’ll get wet at some point.
And if you are kayaking with kids, there’s a really good chance they will splash you (either on purpose or accidentally) at least once.
Other Adventurous Things to do on Oahu
Hiking on Oahu
Otherwise, try one of these more intense North Shore Oahu hikes that are for intermediate or advanced hikers.
Snorkeling on Oahu
If you want to see more of the amazing Oahu tropical fish and sea creatures, you should do some snorkeling. These are some of the best places to snorkel on Oahu.
And if you want to see Hawaiian Sea Turtles, head to Turtle Beach! It’s one of the best Oahu adventures!