Kayaking is quickly becoming a top choice for visitors to the Islands. Kayaking alone or with a partner on the open ocean provides a vantage point not afforded by swimming and surfing. Even amateurs can travel long distances and keep a lookout on what's going on around them.
This ability to travel long distances can also get you into trouble. Experts agree that rookies should stay on the Windward side. Their reasoning is simple: if you tire, break or lose an oar, or just plain pass out, the onshore winds will eventually blow you back to the beach. The same cannot be said for the offshore breezes of the North Shore and West Oahu.
Kayaks are specialized: some are better suited for riding waves while others are designed for traveling long distances. Your outfitter can address your needs depending on your activities. Sharing your plans with your outfitter can lead to a more enjoyable experience.
If you want to try your hand at surfing kayaks, Bellows Beach (near Waimanalo town center, entrance on Kalanianaole Hwy.) on the Windward side and Mokuleia Beach (across from Dillingham Airfield) on the North Shore are two great spots. Hard-to-reach breaks, the ones that surfers exhaust themselves trying to reach, are easily accessed by kayak. The buoyancy of the kayak also allows you to catch the wave earlier and get out in front of the white wash. One reminder on these spots: if you're a little green, stick to Bellows with those onshore winds. Generally speaking, you don't want to be catching waves where surfers are; in Waikiki, however, pretty much anything goes.
Kahana River. For something a little different, try the Kahana River on the island's windward side. The river may not have the blue water of the ocean, but the majestic Koolau Mountains, with waterfalls during rainy months, make for a picturesque backdrop. It's a short jaunt, about 2 miles round-trip, but it's tranquil and packed with rain-forest foliage. Bring mosquito repellent. Kamehameha Hwy., 8 miles east of Kaneohe, HI, 96717.
Lanikai Beach. The perennial favorite of kayakers is Lanikai Beach, on the island's Windward side. Tucked away in an upscale residential area, this award-winning beach has become a popular spot for amateur kayakers because of its calm waters and onshore winds. More adventurous paddlers can head to the Mokulua Islands, two islets less than 1 mile from the beach. You can land on Moku Nui, which has surf breaks and small beaches great for picnicking. Take a dip in Queen's Bath, a small saltwater swimming hole. Mokulua Dr., past Kailua Beach Park, Kailua, HI, 96734.
Equipment, Lessons and Tours
Go Bananas. Staffers make sure that you rent the appropriate kayak for your abilities, and can also outfit your rental car with soft racks to transport your boat to the beach. (The racks are included in the rental fee.) The store also carries clothing and kayaking accessories. Full-day rates begin at $30 for single kayaks, $45 for doubles. 799 Kapahulu Ave., Kapahulu, Honolulu, HI, 96816. PHONE: 808/737-9514. FAX: 808/732-7646. www.gobananaswatersports.com.
Surf 'N Sea. This outfitter is located in a rustic wooden building on the beach, so in minutes you can start paddling. Keep in mind that these plastic boats are great from spring to fall, but winter weather can be hazardous for even veteran kayakers. Full-day rates begin at $60 for single kayaks, $75 for doubles. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712. PHONE: 808/637-7973 or 800/899-7873. www.surfnsea.com.
Twogood Kayaks Hawaii. The outfitter offers kayak rentals, lessons, guided tours, and even weeklong camps if you want to immerse yourself in the sport. Guides are trained in the history, geology, and birds of the area. Full-day rental rates begin at $45 for single kayaks, $55 for doubles. Full-day kayak excursions are $125, including lunch, snorkeling gear, and transportation to and from Waikiki. Although the prices are slightly higher than average, this outfitter puts the boats in the water for you and gives you a crash course in ocean safety. 134B Hamakua Dr., Kailua, HI, 96737. PHONE: 808/262-5656. FAX: 808/261-3111. www.twogoodkayaks.com.
Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks. One of the best places for beginners to rent kayaks is Kailua Beach, as Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks has an ideal location just across the street. More adventurous kayakers can venture to the Mokulua Islands off Lanikai. Rentals start at $59 for a half day. 130 Kailua Rd., Kailua, HI, 96734. PHONE: 808/262-2555. FAX: 808/261-7341. www.kailuasailboards.com.