Lanikai Beach: Kayaking to the Mokulua Islands

Hawaii, Tours & Experiences, United States / Friday, May 26th, 2023

Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches with pure white sand and sparkling turquoise waters. Kailua and Lanikai beaches are undoubtedly the most beautiful on Oahu and shouldn’t be missed. Kailua Town has relaxed beach vibes with the convenience of shops and a range of cafes to enjoy. If you’re looking for something a little more active to do, you may be tempted to kayak out to one of the islands off shore. Kayaking is a great activity for all ages as you don’t need to be incredibly fit. If you can swim without a life jacket then you can take part.

Hawaii mountains and beach

Just a short walk out of town is the Kailua Beach Adventures shop where I arrived for my reservation at 1pm sharp. One of the team members organized liability waivers and an additional form for me to sign, organized a locker, and took me to watch the instructional video. The process took a little longer than I expected so I recommend getting there 30 minutes before your actual pick up time. This will ensure to make the most out of your kayaking experience.

The 10-minute instructional video is a fantastic resource about how to kayak if you’re a beginner and will tell you a range of other useful information including the path to head out to the islands. There is a correct way and a very dangerous way so this is really important.

Photo of the Kailua Beach Adventures sign

After the video, it was time to lock away belongings, get changed and have the crew allocate a kayak. They come on a little trolley which makes it easy to walk the kayak a short way down to the mouth of the river at the beach. This space is a great place to practice if you’re not confident otherwise you can head straight into the ocean. The day I went was very rough and windy so it’s essential to paddle straight out of the swimming zone to avoid hitting anyone. Once out of the swimming zone it’s clear sailing.

yellow kayak on blue water with blue sky

My intention was to head out to the Mokulua Islands but when I saw how far they were, being by myself and having the wind against me, I decided not to take the long journey. It’s wonderful there’s a shorter option as well which is suitable for all skill levels. That option is Flat Island which is 320m off Kailua shore. It’s a pretty easy paddle and will take about 20 minutes to reach the little sandy beach. The key is to pull the kayak up on to the rocks so it won’t float away. This island is a bird sanctuary so it’s important to stay on the outside of the ropes to give the birds their peace and privacy.

It’s a lovely little walk around the island and you’ll even find small private tidal pools sheltered from the wind and waves which are lovely to take a dip in. There are plenty of wedge-tailed shearwaters, crabs and if you’re lucky you may even see a Hawaiian green sea turtle. There’s an unobstructed view of the Mokulua Islands (the “Mokes”) which you can enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland beach. Often the wind is onshore so paddling back is much easier. You can probably even drift most of the way back.

mokulua island in the background with green foliage in the foreground

If you do decide to paddle to the Mokes, you’ll need to paddle parallel to the shore for most of the way. This is made easier due to a protected reef you’re paddling above. You’ll pass over green sea turtle feeding grounds, a coral reef, and plenty of tropical fish. When you arrive closer to the islands the waves are moving in multiple directions so observe the patterns and paddle to shore between waves.

Before you go:

  • Check the weather report then reserve your kayak ahead of time
  • Keep in mind you’re not allowed to land on the islands on Sundays
  • Use the bathroom before you leave Kailua Beach Adventures
  • Arrive about 30 minutes prior to your hire time to take care of the administration

What to bring:

  • Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses
  • Reef shoes – for the island
  • Food – you’ll be surprised at how much energy you exert. I suggest bringing a picnic lunch and plenty of snacks
  • Water – you’ll strap your bag to the kayak so don’t need to worry about the weight you’re carrying. Bring more rather than less. Kailua Beach Adventures have water available for you to fill up your drink bottle at the shop
  • Waterproof bag – no matter what you do, your bag will get wet! Don’t risk soggy sandwiches and hire a dry bag for $5
  • A watch – don’t get hit with late fees



Flat Island (Popoia)

Only 320m off Kailua Beach is Popoia, also known as Flat Island. It’s a relatively small island home to many wedge-tailed shearwaters who take sanction here. The center of the island is roped off so be respectful and stay on the outskirts. There is a sandy landing spot which is very easy to get to. If you plan on reaching the Mokulua Islands then I would advise bypassing Flat Island.

Mokulua Islands

The iconic Mokes are the two cone-shaped islands just offshore Lanikai. Only the left is permitted to be accessed. Kayaking the path alongside the mainland beach is relatively calm but then can get quite rough closer to the islands. There are tide pools, a sandy beach, and a cove at the rear of the island.

Keep an eye on the time as you don’t want to be late returning your rental. The way back is generally quicker as you’re paddling with the waves as opposed to against them. The wind will most likely be in your favor also.

For more information on Kailua Kayaks, click here.

a hand making a peace sign at the beach with a turquoise ring

It’s a beautiful way to admire the crystal clear waters of Kailua beach. If the islands don’t sound appealing, take a paddle up to Lanikai Beach for the afternoon. I believe Lanikai is the most beautiful beach on the island and have found it is a little quieter.

If I were to go again I would find a friend and take the double kayak for the whole day. The winds are normally calmer in the morning on the way out. It would be nice to spend a few hours relaxing and exploring the island then can leisurely paddle back in the afternoon.

To book your Kayak from Kailua Beach Adventures click here.

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I was provided with this tour in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own and not influenced by the company.

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