10 Best Places For Kayaking In Hawaii, USA

kayaking in hawaii

Hawaii is arguably best known for being a haven of sunbathers, thanks in part to its gorgeous white beaches. Did you know that it also has a lot to offer in terms of kayaking destinations? From waterways that take travelers through a verdant jungle to a calm bay to crystalline waters that provide opportunities to spot a variety of marine life, there are plenty of options awaiting those who are willing to exert a little effort to take their sightseeing to a different level. While Hawaii itself is beautiful, some spots provide more rewards to intrepid explorers more than others. Check out this list of the best places for kayaking in Hawaii, USA.

1. Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay in the morning
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nnachappa64 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Kayaking in Kealakekua Bay is possible if you’re coming from Big Island. The highlight of this water adventure is a visit to the Captain Cook Monument, a historic white tower that is only accessible by water and can be reached after a 30-minute ride across the bay. If you’re a fan of snorkeling, you’ll love the fact that there’s a good snorkeling spot in this area. If you’re lucky, you may find yourself paddling side by side with dolphins as you glide across the waters.

Kealakekua Bay

Address: Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, USA

2. Kahana River

Kahana Valley Oahu
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Travis.Thurston used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

If you love exploring lush, verdant forests, go on this kayaking trip and experience two adventures in one. Kayaking on Kahana River takes travelers through a gorgeous rainforest with views of the surrounding mountains. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for waterfalls as you paddle along the river. If you want to take a quick stop before heading back, you may want to enjoy playing with the rope swings on the waters.

Kahana River

Address: Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park, Kahana River, Hawaii, USA

3. Hanalei River

Lower Hanalei Valley
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Marshman used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Those who want to go kayaking to enjoy a moment of peace surrounded by beautiful surroundings need not look further than a trip along the Hanalei River. Be sure to keep an eye out for turtles and birds - Hanalei River is home to different varieties of birds and it is a favorite destination for bird watchers. The river is accessible practically all year round, and it welcomes kayakers of all skill levels. While considered as one of the easiest kayaking destinations in Hawaii, it does feature a current, which adds a bit of a challenge for adventure seekers.

Hanalei River

Address: Hanalei, Kawaii, HI, United States

4. Wailua River

Wailua River, Kauai, Hawaii, June 2008 - panoramio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tori Sloane used under CC BY-SA 3.0

if you have limited experience in kayaking but, nonetheless, want to try your hand at it, Wailua River is probably the best option for you. The river, which feeds a number of the most popular waterfalls in Kauai such as the Opaekaa and Wailua Falls, is tranquil enough most of the time to even accommodate stand-up paddling. If you want to take your adventure to the next level, you can take a short hike to get to Uluwehi Falls, known also as the Secret Falls. Be sure to wear shoes with a good tread if you plan on going trekking, as the path can get very muddy, especially during the rainy season.

Wailua River

Address: Wailua River, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

5. Makena Bay

Amazing Makena Beach, Maui Hawaii (45689681682)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user dronepicr used under CC BY 2.0

If your main interest in going snorkeling is to catch glimpses of Hawaii’s aquatic life, Makena Bay may just be the right spot for you. It is located in Maui, which features a number of sea turtles, some of which you may find swimming by your kayak, along with dolphins. if you’re lucky, you may even spot some whales and rays. Just a short distance away from the Makena landing is Turtle Town, where you can spot some of these majestic creatures, along with some seals.

Makena Bay

Address: Makena Bay, Maui, Hawaii, USA

6. Huleia River

Sea Kayak
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Thruxton used under CC BY 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Huleia River may not be as popular as Wailua River in terms of providing a river kayaking experience to travelers, but it also has its own appeal. Be sure to include visits to the Papakolea Falls area and Alekoko Fishpond while you’re in the area. If you watched “The Raiders of the Lost Ark”, you may also want to go on the rope swing adventure that was seen in the movie. Huleia River is generally calm, which makes this a good option for first-time or inexperienced kayakers.

Huleia River

Address: Huleia River, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

7. Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user MEBurkhart used under CC BY-SA 4.0

This kayaking adventure option is extremely challenging but also very rewarding. Advised only for expert kayakers who are in good physical condition, this three-hour-long trip, depending on the weather conditions, may be peaceful or met with significant waves. Depending on the guide, travelers may be taken through caves and over gorgeous reefs. The destination is Kalalau Beach, a tropical paradise only accessible by sea or via an arduous hike. Kayaking this area is only advised from May to September. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles, dolphins, monk seals, and various species of birds.

Na Pali Coast

Address: Na Pali Coast, , Kauai, Hawaii, USA

8. Keauhou Bay

Keauhou Bay
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user W Nowicki used under CC BY 3.0

Keauhou Bay has, pretty much, everything that first-time travelers will want to have in their kayaking adventure: relatively calm and clear waters, picturesque sceneries, magnificent aquatic life, and fun moments to get your adrenaline pumping. This kayaking adventure sees adventure seekers traversing the pristine waters of Keauhou Bay, where they can watch out for sea turtles, dolphins, colorful fish, and even the vertical spikes of water that indicate that there’s a whale in the area. If you’re up for it, there are cliffs that you can jump from. You can also explore a number of sea caves and lava tubes.

Keauhou Bay

Address: Keauhou Bay, Big Island, Hawaii, USA

9. Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay
Source: Pixabay

If you prefer underwater views to sights above the water, Honolua Bay may just be the place for you. Kayaking in this area will allow you to enjoy the beauty of one of the most pristine coral reef systems in Maui. If you’re up for it, you can even go in the water and snorkel to get a closer look at the colorful corals and the different kinds of fishes. Dolphins, rays, and sea turtles also occasionally make their way in this area.

Honolua Bay

Address: Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawaii, USA

10. Mokulua Islands

Mokulua Islands, Oahu Hawaii
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Cristo Vlahos used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’ve set up base in Oahu, never fear, because there’s a kayaking adventure that awaits you from here. Launch your kayak from Kailua Beach Park and make your way to Mokolua Islands, which are about 45 minutes to 2 hours away, depending on the weather. Make sure to turn around and take a peek back at the beach once you’re in the water, as it’s considered as one of the most beautiful beaches to see from the sea. If you want to take a break before heading back, Mokulua Nui, the one on the left, is open to the public.

Mokulua Islands

Address: Mokulua Islands, Oahu, Hawaii, USA

An adventure in Hawaii

Hawaii’s most iconic photos feature white sand beaches, but the state has more to offer than idyllic fun under the sun along the coast. If you’re up for experiencing a different kind of adventure here, get your arms ready, choose the right kayaking destination, and grab a paddle to have a fantastic and memorable experience in this tropical paradise.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Melanie is a freelance travel writer. She considers freelancing for Trip 101 to be a combination of two of the things she loves: writing and traveling.

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