Kayaking is offers the best of both worlds: stability and flexibility. Kayaks are pretty stable, so even small children and those of us who are a little less athletic can enjoy an outing. And the sport is flexible, in that you can do it solo or in a tandem kayak; rent equipment to go at your own pace, or have fun with a guided tour. If you’re new to the sport, a tour is probably the safest first step, as the guides can teach you all the fundamentals. If, on the other hand, you’re an experienced kayaker, there are plenty of opportunities for more intense, ocean-going daytrips.
On O‘ahu, a classic kayaking destination is to venture out to the Mokulua Islands, two bird sanctuaries off Lanikai Beach near Kailua, on the island’s Windward side. But kayaking in Kailua Bay is fairly spectacular even if you don’t have a particular destination in mind; just mosey along atop turquoise waters, taking in the view of the sugar beaches and the backdrop of the Ko‘olau Mountains. Maui has many good spots to kayak, including off Makena Beach, in South Maui, and in Honolua Bay, in West Maui. Honolua Bay is a marine conservation area and has a pristine coral reef system.
You’ll encounter both history and wildlife in Kealakekua Bay, on the Kona side of Hawai‘i Island. The protected marine area often hosts pods of spinner dolphins, who come to the bay during the day to nap and play. The bay is also the site of the demise of famed British explorer Captain Cook in 1779; there’s a monument there to him that you’ll see.
Kaua‘i has several intriguing ways to explore via kayak. The Garden Isle has Polynesia’s only navigable river, the Wailua River. It’s a popular spot for a day-long kayaking excursion, and you can also dock your kayak to hike up to the 120-foot Secret Falls. For more adventurous and fit paddlers, the Na Pali coast on the island’s northwest side offers views of emerald cliffs, sea caves and stunning valley views. These trips are done in the summer months; the surf is too high in the winter.
If you’re interested in the road less traveled, Moloka‘i’s south shore offers a coral reef that is close to the shore; it’s perfect for exploration via kayak.
With this many ways and places to paddle in Hawai‘i, the only challenge you’re likely to face is deciding what to do first. Hoe! (Paddle! Off you go!)