Best Hawaii SUP & Kayaking Spots
Snorkeling, Sightseeing, Waterfalls, & More
If you're planning to explore the natural beauty of Hawaii, a kayak or stand up paddle board (SUP) excursion is the ideal way to do so.
With an endless selection of beautiful beaches and easy access to equipment rentals, here are seven of the best spots on the Islands to get in the water on the small craft of your choice; whether you just want to paddle and see the sights or you plan to engage in some kayak fishing.
Keauhou Bay- Big Island
This historic spot in the picturesque Kona coastal district on the Big Island features a harbor with a boat launch surrounded by dried lava beds, ideal for both SUP and kayaking as well as snorkeling. Keauhou Bay is a popular fishing spot for locals and tour groups alike, with access to large yellowfin and ono.
Those who decide to kayak can head south of the bay to explore sea caves and dive off pristine cliffs into the sparkling water below. The small adjacent park has picnic tables, showers, and restrooms. With local shopping and golf, this is an awesome spot for a day trip that will likely please everyone in your party. The area is free to enter; rentals and lessons nearby are available from Ocean Safaris Kayak Adventures and Kahalu'u Bay Surf and Sea.
Kealakekua Bay- Big Island
Another Big Island historic site, Kealakekua Bay is home to Hawaii's only underwater state park. When the water is clear, paddling enthusiasts will be able to see more than 100 feet down, offering unprecedented views of marine life such as sea turtles, dolphins, and rays. This site is suitable for both kayaking and stand up paddling, but beginners should go in the morning as the water tends to get a bit rougher in the afternoon.
The state's famous Captain Cook Monument is located at this site, accessible only via watercraft. The park has no entrance fee; rent kayaks and paddle boards nearby at Kona Boys, Inc.
Kahalu’u Beach Park- Big Island
This is the best place for paddling and snorkeling on the Big Island if you want to see an eye-popping variety of tropical fish, including rainbow parrotfish and moray eels. In fact, many tourist maps explicitly refer to Kahalu'u as the "snorkel beach." This busy area also features plenty of public amenities, including grills, picnic tables, showers, and public restrooms.
A lifeguard is on duty to protect swimmers. Kona Kayak Rentals and Kona Boys offer nearby equipment rentals.
Image provided by rxfortravelblues.com
NaPali Coast- Kauai
Kauai's famed NaPali Coast is one of the best kayaking spots for experienced paddlers who want an authentic natural experience. The only way to reach it is by hiking or kayaking, so it doesn't see the traffic of other popular paddling sites in Hawaii.
Take a day trip between Haena Beach Park and Polihale State Park to reach Napoli. While the journey may be arduous at times, you'll be rewarded with incredible vistas and glimpses of sea caves, valleys, cliffs, and wildlife. You can rent kayaks and SUPs nearby at Kayak Hanalei. Haena Beach Park admission is free.
Wailua River- Kauai
This easy river in Kauai is notable for a few reasons. First, it's calm enough to work for even the youngest or least experienced members of your party while providing a respite of relaxing greenery views.
It's also the only way to access a trail leading to one of Hawaii's most sought-after sights: the Ulewehi (Secret) Falls, towering 100 feet over the river. There's no entrance fee. Get your kayaks and SUPs from Wailua Kayak and Canoe.
Lanikai Islands- Oahu
These islands offer a more secluded, private paddleboarding experience with heavenly white pebble beaches and crystal-clear blue water. With medium difficulty, this isn't the best spot for mixed groups that include beginners, but those who are up to the challenge will enjoy a uniquely peaceful experience.
It's also less than a mile from another outstanding paddling spot, Kailua Bay, home to accessible offshore islands managed by the Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuaries. There's no admission fee and convenient kayak and SUP rentals are available at Kailua Beach Adventures.
Kahana River- Oahu
This two-mile kayaking trek is a great way to spend a gorgeous Hawaii morning or afternoon. Located on Oahu's Windward Coast, paddlers will be treated to peaceful rainforest and waterfall views before traveling through the Ko’olau Mountains and ending at Kahana Bay Beach Park. Admission is free, and kayak rentals are available from Kailua Beach Adventures.
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Makena Bay- Maui
Located near Wailea on Maui’s lovely South Shore, Makena is a favorite of paddlers thanks to its stunning views and generally calm waters. Not only is the impressive Haleakala in the background, but you’ll also enjoy breathtaking views of Molokini Crater, Lanai, and the West Maui Mountains as you glide along. Makena is also referred to as Turtle Town, as it is home to an abundance of Hawaiian green sea turtles, as well as colorful tropical fish.
As South Maui is blocked from the wind in the early mornings on normal trade wind days, Makena is the perfect paddling spot for families and first-time paddlers. There is a small beach but waves can be large in the afternoons. Admission is free. Professionally-guided SUP and kayak tours can be booked through Hawaiian Paddle Sports.
Also known as Coral Gardens, Olowalu located in West Maui just 15 minutes from Lahaina. It is a place of rich history and is also home to Maui’s largest and healthiest reef. You’ll paddle over 100 acres of coral reefs, some of which are over 500 years old. Of course, this healthy reef systems means that Olowalu is home to a wide variety of marine life, including colorful fish, Hawaiian green sea turtles, the fourth-largest manta resident population in the world. There’s even a black tip reef shark nursery here.
Olowalu is best explored in the early morning hours when conditions are optimal. Because the waters here are shallow and it is relatively protected from trade winds, paddlers who opt to jump in a snorkel will likely enjoy great visibility. Olowalu Beach admission is free. Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers guided SUP and kayak tours.
Our Maui Recommended Kayak and Paddling Tours
Looking for the best places to kayak, canoe surf, or even paddle an outrigger canoe? Wondering where to spot Hawaiian green sea turtles? How about the best time to enjoy a humpback whale watching kayak adventure? Let an expert guide lead the way for an unforgettable Hawaiian paddling adventure.
About the Author
Mark is from KayakGuru.com, a site specializing in kayaks, fishing, SUP, and camping. Kayak Guru provides useful information for complete beginners, right through to die-hard, all-weather outdoor lovers. Get expert tips and connect with him on Facebook and Pinterest.