Kayaking Oahu’s Mokulua Islands with Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks

On my recent trip to Oahu, one of the activities high on my list was to kayak picturesque Kailua Bay to the Mokulua Islands. I was really excited about this adventure and it didn’t disappoint.

Though Andy and I have kayaked in other places, we’re not exactly seasoned kayakers so we were looking for a guided tour. We took the four-hour eco-tour with Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks which was recommended to us.

Stacked kayaks at Kailua Kayaks
Stacked kayaks at Kailua Kayaks

The tour began at the Kailua Sailboard and Kayaks shop where we met our tour guide, Nate, and the two other couples that were also going on the tour. (Note that the tour size is typically limited to 6 – 8 people.) We stored our valuables and belongings that we didn’t want to get wet in lockers and observed the thorough safety briefing. Next we grabbed our two-person kayaks and rolled them on a short walk to Kailua Beach to put in. One of the trickier parts was getting in and out of the kayaks and Nate helped us individually.

We enjoyed being out on the water. The scenery included the pale blue water, white sandy beaches and green mountains. It was really beautiful. We felt more connected to the environment as we were gliding on water in the kayaks.

Our guide knew the currents and coral of the bay like the back of his hand, so he gave us guidance on what to avoid and how to avoid it. We appreciated having his expertise and watchful eye for our safety.

Mokulua Islands
Mokulua Islands

There are two Mokulau Islands and we stopped at the one with the safer landing point. I believe the island is called Mokunui. We landed at a small, but lovely sandy beach. There, we could snorkel if we wanted. Andy and I opted to soak in the scenery above the water, but one of the other couples snorkeled and saw a sea turtle. Lunch was provided on the beach. We had generously stacked deli sandwiches, chips, fruit and sodas and water. It was a nice lunch and the surrounding view couldn’t be beat.

Mokulua Islands
On Mokunui Island

After lunch, Nate led us on a tour of the island where we saw many Uau kani (wedged-tailed shearwater birds) nesting–the Mokulua Islands are bird sanctuaries. See a photo of this bird here. We also saw rock crabs and small fish in the tidepools.

After our time on the island, we kayaked back to Kailua Beach. Along the way we got to kayak surf, which was really fun. If I’m not mistaken, I believe we kayaked about 5 kilometers in total. We definitely felt like we had exerted some energy.

Here’s what to know before you go:

  • You don’t need to be in super fit to kayak Kailua Bay, but you do need to be in relatively good shape and have the ability to swim without a personal flotation device. Note that PFDs were provided and we all wore them.
  • You must 13 or older for this tour.
  • If you take one of the guided tours, the company will provide transportation to and from Waikiki hotels. We opted to drive our rental car, though.
  • Lunch, dry bags, and snorkel equipment were provided.
  • Wear sunscreen!
  • Wear sunglasses, preferably with an attachment that will keep them from blowing away.
  • Wear a hat or visor.
  • Bring a waterproof camera.
  • Most folks were wearing quick drying shirts and shorts/swim trunks. I was the only one wearing a swimsuit and I was a little self conscious. (Oops!)
  • The cost of the four-hour, guided eco tour is $119. Other tours tours are also available.
  • If you prefer, you can simply rent a kayak, watch a safety video about the bay and go on your own. Half day kayak rentals start at $39.

I wish we had taken a snapshot while we were kayaking, but we were too busy paddling to get the camera out. You can see all the photos we took on this tour. I found this YouTube video created by Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks that provides a good overview of what the tour is like.

We were really pleased with this tour and it seemed like the other couples also enjoyed it. The company was friendly and our guide was very knowledgeable about the patterns of the water and the geology and wildlife on the island. It was a great way to spend the day!

  1. I love your new lay-out / design!

    I’d be reading more later, I just want to make sure I post “nice lay-out!”

    Enjoy you Hawaii visit – Aloha!

  2. @ Dave – LOL…I was going to e-mail you to see if you wouldn’t mind checking out the new site. It just went live about 9am today. I’m glad you like it! Andy did all the work. He haz skillz. 🙂

  3. Kailua is amazing, I have done this guided kayak trip twice! If there is a nicer place to kayak in Hawaii, I’d like to see it.

  4. @ Josh – it is a great trip for sure and one of the few that you can do year round in Hawaii.

    I’m working up my nerve and trying to arrange the time to kayak the Na Pali coast off Kauai. It sounds amazing!

  5. Great site with lots of tips and help 🙂 I’m visiting Oahu in mid November and I was wondering if renting a kayak without the guided tour would be safe for a couple of inexperienced paddlers. What do you think based on your experience on this tour?

    1. Go with one of the guided tours and you should be fine. If the conditions aren’t safe, they won’t go out. The guides know the water patterns and reef well so they tell you where to paddle and not to paddle to keep you from tipping over.

    2. My wife and I kayaked there in Oct 2010. My wife had never kayaked before and I am not experienced by any means. But we did it just fine. My wife was nervous because I just went and rented the kayak and she didn’t know we were going to do it. But you can do it. The only somewhat tricking part is when you get to the island and you have to time your approach onto the beach with the waves that break sideways. We flipped over right on the beach, but it was ok. So I say go for it! Don’t waste your money on a guided tour. You’ll also save money if you rent your kayak in advance. I just rented from a vendor on the street off Kailua beach.

  6. Hello Sheila,
    Your website has been a treasure trove for all things Hawaii. We are planning our first trip to the islands and decided to go to Oahu. I was reading all the diff. things to do in Oahu for families and definitely wanted to add Kayaking as one of the must-dos. However, we have 2 boys 13 and 10 years old. The rental company you have mentioned here wont take my younger son, so wanted to know if you have any recommendations for our family of 4?
    Dhilip Ranganathan.

    1. Dhilip – we’re not sure of alternatives for kayaking to the Mokuluas. You don’t need to have super strength to kayak here, but you certainly exert yourself. Maybe the company (or more likely their insurance company) decided that ten year olds might not have the strength yet for this kayak trip.

      On Oahu, you might try kayaking trips offered by Turtle Bay on the North Shore or on Waikiki Beach there are the many kayak rentals. In Ko Olina, you can also find kayak rentals, but you’ll be confined to the boundary of the lagoon.

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