Best Places for Kayaking in Hawaii

Are you wanting to go kayaking in Hawaii but don’t know the best Hawaii kayaking spots? Check out this guide to canoeing in Hawaii for the ultimate Hawaii adventure!
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Hawaii is an outdoor lover’s heaven.

The beach, the jugged cliffs, the lush forests and vegetation, the coral reefs, the perfect mix of flora and fauna, and the beautiful weather all year long makes this location one of the best kayaking destinations in the US.

There are numerous islands to choose from here and each one offers unique experiences.

Some of the best scenery can only be viewed from the sea, and what better way to do this than through kayaking?

From the turquoise waters of Honolua Bay to the sandbars of Kealakekua Bay and the amazing Na Pali Coast, this article highlights some of the best kayaking destinations in Hawaii. 

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Hawaii Itineraries complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Hawaii Kayaking FAQs

Which Hawaiian island is best for kayaking?

The most popular islands to kayak in Hawaii are Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. They all have very unique spots where you can kayak to a waterfall, see sea turtles, head out to tiny islands, or just cruise up the gorgeous coastline.

Can you kayak between Hawaiian islands?

While seasoned kayakers can technically kayak between the islands, the average tourist cannot. The islands are MUCH further apart than most people realize and there are strong ocean currents. Instead, plan on kayaking off the coast and enjoy the scenic views.

How long does it take to kayak to the Mokes?

One of the most popular places to kayak on Oahu are the little islands off the coast of Lanikai Beach. These are referred to as the Mokes. You can actually only kayak to Moku Nui. Moku Iki is a bird sanctuary and no one is allowed to kayak there. It takes about 30-45 minutes to kayak out to Moku Nui from Lanikai beach.

8 Amazing Places to Go Kayaking in Hawaii

Are you hoping to go kayaking in Hawaii? You’re in luck! There are TONS of places in Hawaii for kayaking. Here are a few top picks!

Honolua Bay, Maui

This is the most popular snorkeling, surfing, and scuba diving destination in Hawaii. The turquoise water here makes this spot a kayaking destination you are going to love.

Best Places for Kayaking in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blogger, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Honolua Bay, Maui is perfect for snorkeling or surfing

The bay is located in a controlled and conserved area. You will also access several hiking trails that pass through stunning landscapes. The marine and coral life here is rich and fulfilling as well.

If you love surfing, you can get surfing lessons here. But in the winter, the tides can be dangerous so proceed with caution. 

Na Pali Coast, Kauai

One unique feature of the Na Pali coast is that it is not accessible by road. While others take a hike to the coast, sea kayaking remains the most beloved alternative.

The coast offers you a rare chance to interact with nature as you paddle, absorbing the breathtaking views of the cliffs along the way.

Oahu or Kauai: Which is the Best Hawaiian Island for Kids? Tips featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: The Na Pali Coast has lots of amazing Kauai snorkeling.
View on Na Pali Coast on Kauai.

Some of the cliffs here rise as high as 4,000 feet above sea level and stunning waterfalls cascade down these cliffs with a lot of grace. 

You should start your kayaking journey at the Haena Beach Park and then follow the shore close to the cliffs and amazing sea caves for 15 miles to Polihale.

If you love scuba diving, this would be a great location to do this.

You may also get the chance to see all kinds of whales swimming further offshore. All around this coast is crystal white sand that makes everything seem magical. 

We found a Kauai Sea Kayaking Tour of the Na Pali Coast that looks incredible!

Makena Bay, Maui

When you think of beautiful, natural beaches with crystal clear waters, with a horde of blissful reefs, think of Makena bay in South Maui.

The waters here attract all kinds of sporting activities.

Best Places for Kayaking in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blogger, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Makena Beach State Park in Wailea, Maui
Makena Beach State Park. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

This bay is among the most popular kayaking spots in Hawaii, evidenced by the numerous kayak-tour vans that park here every day.

You should head to Maluaka beach, along the coastline to see green sea turtles. Scuba divers and people who love snorkeling should head to the northern side of the bay. 

We found a cool Maui Turtle Reef Kayaking Tour that looks super fun!

Wailua River, Kauai

One of our favorite places for renting kayaks in Kauai is right at Wailua River State Park.

The river is really calm and it’s a perfect place to go kayaking in Kauai with younger kids or beginner kayakers.

Best Places for Kayaking in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blogger, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Wailua River is perfect for kayaking and leads to several Kauai waterfalls.
Wailua River. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

There are several spots where you can tie up your canoe and do short hikes into the jungle. We did one that took us to a secret waterfall and it was so cool!

This is also home to many kid-friendly Wailua River kayak tours and excursions.

We found an awesome Wailua River kayaking tour that would be great for families!

Mokulua Islands, Oahu

This is a good destination for more experienced kayakers.

These are two small islands off the beaches of Kailua and Lanikai, namely Mokulua Iki and Mokulua Nui.

Best Places for Kayaking in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blogger, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Kayaking near Kailua, Oahu

Mokulua Iki is closed to the public but Mokulua Nui is open.

Launch your kayak from a canal off the Kailua beach park and paddle for a 2.5 miles stretch. Note that tides are strong here when they come and the currents can be challenging to inexperienced kayakers. 

You can rent a kayak in Kailua and have them transport to the beach or hook it to your car.

There are turtles and crabs on the crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches of Kailua and Lanikai and in the winter, you can spot whales at a distance offshore.

Other activities you can engage in here include diving, swimming, and hiking.

We found a place where you can reserve a tandem kayak in Oahu.

Find out more about kayaking on Oahu

Keauhou Bay, Big Island

The beautiful, serene waters of Keauhou bay make this a great kayaking destination in Hawaii as well.

This is a unique beach especially at night when the manta rays come to feed on plankton. You would have to dive or snorkel if you want to experience this closely.

There are boating and kayaking tours here every day. You can rent kayaks and paddleboards close to the beach. This small island holds a lot of history and significance to its inhabitants.

Swimming may not be ideal because the bottom of the bay is rocky and there is a lot of harbor traffic. 

If you want to see Manta Rays in Hawaii, you’ll want to book this Big Island Manta Ray Night Kayak tour.

Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

At 7,500 acres, this is the largest water body in Hawaii. There are coral reefs around the bay, perfect for snorkeling, diving, and swimming.

This is also the only bay in Hawaii with a coral reef and sandbars. The sandbars result from the actions of water and tides.

Best Places for Kayaking in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blogger, Hawaii Travel with Kids

If the tide is low, they become completely exposed, making a small beach. This sandbar becomes an immediate attraction because it is a mile away from the shore.

Kayakers love to explore this sandbar and the beauty of the Koolau Mountains around the area. 

Since this is a closely regulated area, you will be expected to adhere to some rules and regulations so that you do not destroy natural habitat and marine life located here.

For instance, there are no bathrooms or changing places on the sandbar. You cannot dig up the sand or disturb the coral reefs because that may endanger the marine life at this spot.

Sporting activities that are common here include snorkeling, beach volleyball, and swimming.

You can rent a kayak from the Kaneohe Marina or bring your own.

Kealakekua Bay, Big Island

If you would like to see dolphins on your kayaking or boat tour in Hawaii or explore the amazing coral reef, this is the place to go.

Note that you can only be allowed to paddle if you secure a permit. Only tour groups are issued with permits, so you might need to join one.

Best Places for Kayaking in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blogger, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Snorkelers exploring Kealakekua Bay, Big Island
Snorkelers exploring Kealakekua Bay. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

However, you are still allowed to kayak for a short distance if you are in the tour group.

The most common destination for kayakers here is the Captain Cook monument. The center of this bay is deep.

Remember that this is also a conservation district and you should not disturb the marine life you come across. The deepest part of the bay is an excellent spot for scuba divers and underwater photographers.

The area around the bay has lush green forests, surviving in perfect harmony with the bay and turning this spot into heaven for kayaking lovers. 

We found a really cool Kealakekua Bay Snorkel, Kayak, and Dolphin tour on the Big Island!

Wrap Up

You know by now that Hawaii has some of the best kayaking experiences in the US. With so many amazing places to explore, it’s difficult to choose just one destination for your next adventure on the water!

Our list includes 8 different locations and awesome tours that you can book before your Hawaii vacation.

Loving these places for kayaking in Hawaii and looking for more Hawaiian adventures? Find out the best waterfalls in Hawaii, where to snorkel on Maui, Oahu, or Kauai, and my Hawaii Diving Guide!