So, you’re thinking about kayaking in Oahu? You’re in for a rich experience full of awe-inspiring scenery, colours and cultural traditions. At least once (if not many, many more times) you’ll exclaim something like, “I’ve just never seen anything this blue!” You’re right, you haven’t. Kayaking in Oahu is a special experience, and once will make you want to turn that into twice, or three times, or four…
Oahu kayaking spots
Kaneohe Bay is a popular put-in spot for kayakers, and a haven for those looking for an accessible day of kayaking for all skill levels. Kaneohoe Bay is a calm, open bay covering 17 square miles, including scenery you’ll recognize from Pirates of the Caribbean (among other Hollywood movies filmed in the Hawaiian Islands).
Kayakers of all experience levels can enjoy a short trip into the bay, a full day exploring, or access to longer multi-day trips. Kayak the calm waters, snorkel, fish for papio, and enjoy a world-class paddling experience!
Kailua Bay is home to some of the best kayaking on Oahu. Located on Oahu’s Windward Coast, Kailua Bay offers easy access to several offshore islands. Day trip from Kailua Bay with a tour guide, rent a kayak for a choose-your-own-adventure in the easily accessible islands, or make it a multi-day trip and stay overnight on one of the nearby islands hotels, Airbnbs, or campgrounds.
Kailua Bay also provides access to the Mokulula Islands, Molokai and Lanikai. The Twin Islands are time-honoured spots for all visitors to Hawaii, but hold a special beauty for paddlers kayaking from Oahu. Both islands are sea bird sanctuaries; the sights around the Twin Islands will entertain both avid and casual birdwatchers alike. The pair of islands are a day trip on kayak from Oahu—challenging enough for those with kayaking experience and calm enough for families or those newer to paddling.
A great option for families visiting the Kailua Bay area is the low-key trip to Popoai, a beautiful island that is a one-mile round-trip and perfect for a shorter day on the water. You’ll have the opportunity to take in an incredible landscape, see green sea turtles and snorkel in the turquoise water, while still keeping your time commitment within a half-day.
Kayak rentals in Oahu
Beautiful water and incredible scenery make kayaking a popular activity on Oahu, and there is no shortage of businesses spanning the island that have kayaks to rent. We’ll cover the main rental and tour companies on Oahu here.
Kailua Beach Adventures, Kailua
If you’re in Honolulu and up for a short drive, Kailua Beach Adventures is a pretty full-service shop that offers both tours and non-guided kayak rentals. It’s a 30- to 45-minute drive from Honolulu depending on which route you choose. Kailua Beach Adventures offers single, double and triple kayaks with half-day to full-day rentals for $59 to $104 USD. If you’re looking for a longer kayak adventure, they also offer multi-day rental options and gear delivery for your convenience, and a great selection of other water sports gear for rent.
Rainbow Watersports, Haliewa
If you’re in Haleiwa, check out Rainbow Watersports. They don’t offer guided kayak tours, but are centrally located in Haleiwa with single and double kayaks available for rent for $30 to $35 per hour. Rainbow Watersports is a great option for kayaking on Oahu for shorter trips.
Shaka Kayaks, North Oahu
If you venture to the northern tip of Oahu, Shaka Kayaks has tours that focus on Hawaiian sea turtle habitats and locations with cinematic-grade scenery. The tours are a great for families to see Oahu’s incredible natural beauty by kayak.
Venturing onto the water in a clear kayak makes for a beautiful excursion that will allow you to truly take in the aquatic life of Oahu. Clear kayaks are not available at all rental companies, so if you have your heart set on this experience, it’s best to scout out your rental options for clear kayaks on Oahu ahead of time.
If you’re on the North Shore near Haleiwa, Hawaii Activities has clear kayaks tours in Waimea Bay. While you can’t rent Hawaiian Activities’ clear kayaks to take out on your own, their tours take you out into the open water of Waimea Bay, which gives you plentiful opportunities to paddle with local residents like the Hawaiian green sea turtle.
In Kailua, Two Good Kayaks offers multiple rental options. Single clear kayaks start at $80 for a half-day, $95 for a full-day, and $400 for a five-day rental. Tandem clear kayaks at Two Good Kayaks rent for $90 for a half-day, $105 for a full-day.
Kayak tours in Oahu
Don’t have much experience in a kayak or simply want to get more out of the locations you’re visiting? Taking a tour is the way to go. Take your pick of the following when in Oahu.
Kailua Beach Adventures
Kailua Beach Adventures offers laid-back, family-friendly, two-hour kayak tours through the beautiful waters of Oahu. The more relaxed tour is $139 per person. If you have more kayaking experience but still want the expertise and local knowledge of a kayak guide, Kailua Beach Adventures also offers an intermediate level tour for $179 per person. For those looking for a more independent kayak adventure in Oahu, self-guided tours are $99 per person.
Kama’aina Kayak & Snorkel Eco-Ventures
Kama’aina Kayak & Snorkel Eco-Ventures is located on the west coast of Oahu, about a 20-minute drive from Central Kailua. Kama’aina offers a wide selection of tour combinations, so you can kayak, snorkel, and SUP in Oahu. If fishing is your thing—don’t worry, there’s plenty of great kayak fishing in Oahu too!
Go Bananas has locations in Honolulu and Aiea with a good variety of rentals, including kayaks that are well-suited for fishing, starting at $35 per day. The waters around Oahu offer amazing variety in fish, but you can expect to find bait fish like scad mackerel for bringing in larger open water fish, or bonefish, papio and tuna if you stick closer to shore.
This Living in Hawaii article has a good list of common near-shore fish in Oahu. Hawaii has a rich biodiversity and ecological system; guides will be well-versed in their areas, but make sure you’re aware of the restricted fishing areas on Oahu before venturing out on your own.
Best time of year to kayak in Oahu
Hawaii has a gorgeous destination climate year-round, and no matter the time of year there will be kayaking options available to you in Oahu. The average ocean temperature in Hawaii is 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you’re planning your kayaking trip in Oahu, keep in mind that during the winter months the ocean swell on the North Shore picks up and creates Hawaii’s legendary waves. That’s great for surfing and wave-watching, but stay off the open water in the North Shore during these months. There are plenty of Oahu kayaking spots that are sheltered year-round, such as Kaneohe Bay and Popoai.
What to pack
When you’re planning what to pack to have the best kayaking adventure on Oahu, don’t stress! For day trips you’ll need the beach basics: a bathing suit, towel, water shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a change of clothes, and a beach bag. Kailua Beach Adventures has a great list of what to bring, but not to worry—if you forget anything, most rental companies have extras you can buy or borrow for the day.
Important things to know
The Hawaiian Islands are home to deep cultural roots, traditions, wildlife and natural beauty. Locals of Oahu are passionate about land and ocean conservation, and you’ll frequently see events and organizations dedicated to cleaning up the ocean, reducing single-use plastics, and using reef-safe versions of sunscreen and other products to minimize their impact on sensitive natural resources.
Be respectful of the incredible ecosystem, and feel free to participate in local awareness and conservation activities—your efforts will be welcome and warmly appreciated. Go Hawaii is a great resource for getting the most out of your Oahu adventure, kayaking and beyond!