While traditionally people think surfing waves when they think of Hawaii, a lot of people are starting to think kayaking instead. Hawaii’s warm water conditions (around 78 degrees Fahrenheit) and extensive beaches offer some of the best kayaking in the U.S.
Kailua Bay is considered an ideal place for kayaking. The beaches alone are considered the best in the world by the Travel Channel and Dr. Beach, but kayaking through the turquoise water and exploring the hidden coves is the real treat. There is a large barrier reef that protects this bay from waves and allows for gentle paddling conditions inside. The bay includes six offshore islands that are also designated Bird Nesting Sanctuaries by the State. Wedge-tailed Shear Waters, affectionately known as “wedgies”, call these islands their home and can be seen peeping their chicks over the summer months.
Most kayakers head out to the Mokulua (twin) Islands located ¾ of a mile from shore, where you can land on a sandy beach. These islands formed when a volcanic eruption rocked the Ka’lalau Mountain Chain, sending the summit caldera into the sea. Hidden tide-pools and lava formations can still be found around the sides of the islands, but avoid the back (ocean-facing sides) due to rougher conditions.
Milder trips in Kailua include paddling to Lanikai Beach (Where Heaven Meets the Sea) or Po’poia (Flat) Island and are great for beginners. Kayak rentals and guided tours can also be arranged by contacting Kailua Beach Adventures at 808-262-2555. Established in 1982, their shop is located with-in walking distance of Kailua Beach Park and offers free parking and showers.
Kailua locals don’t let the tourists have all the fun and can be seen paddling one to six-man outrigger canoes in the bay. Paddling is the State Team Sport in Hawaii and it doesn’t get any more competitive than in Kailua. There are at least three Canoe Clubs here and the Lanikai Canoe Club boasts wins in some of the most famous and treacherous channel-crossing competitions in the world.
Some kayakers have also become more adventurous and can often be seen surfing the waves that form around the islands. World-class snorkeling conditions can be found amongst the live coral heads near shore where the Hawaiian Green Sea-turtles feed and Kailua Beach Adventures rents snorkel gear just off the beach at the Kailua Beach Center. These turtles, once endangered, now flourish in the shallow waters around the island. Paddlers must remember to stay calm and approach them carefully as they are timid creatures and protected by law.