Nestled in Kaneohe Bay, on the Windward side of Oahu, Coconut Island known as Moku o Loe in Hawaiian is a mini island surrounded by coral reefs. Coconut Island is home to the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology and is a beautiful place to visit on your standup paddle board. Coconut Island is a hub for marine research into tropical Pacific biodiversity and conservation. Fun fact: the Pacific Ocean shelters two-thirds of the world’s marine biodiversity!
Town of Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii as seen from across the bay. Kaneohe Bay in the foreground and Ko'olau Mountain range in the background. | Photo: Shutterstock
One really fun thing about paddling coconut island is that you can paddle around the entire island! The loop is plus or minus 4 miles and will take around 2 hours of paddling. To get there, lanching is very easy at Kaneohe Beach Park. Paddle towards the island in the middle of the bay.
When arriving at Coconut island, paddle board around it counterclockwise. Landing on the island is prohibited, but you can still enjoy its beauty from all around. The water surrounding the island is crystal clear. You’ll observe the beautiful coral reef and some of the fish bans. Draft along the mangrove on the shelter part of the island and you’re likely to see Hawaiian green sea turtles swimming along.
Paddling next to the mangroves. | Photo courtesy: Christine Aigle Foley
The view of the Ko’olau volcano is absolutely breathtaking. The Ko'olau Range peaks at two to three thousand feet high, joined by walls of sheer green cliffs. Ka Moa'e (the ENE trade winds) sweeps warm moist air into the mountains and clouds form along the summit. Rainwater has cut steep gullies into the cliffs and gives them their distinctive wrinkled appearance. When it rains, dozens of thin silvery waterfalls run down the vertical gullies. Half obscured by rain and mist, the waterfalls seem to pour directly from the clouds. It’s quite the sight!
How to Get There:
Coconut Island is in the middle of Kaneohe Bay and is about 30/35 minutes by car from Waikiki. Once you get there, park the car at Kaneohe Beach Park. Parking is free, but just a few parking spots are available so the earlier you get there the better.
Address: 45-15 Waikalua Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Photo courtesy: Christine Aigle Foley
With Hawaii being in the tropics, this paddle board adventure is great all year around! That being said, the best time to do paddle in the area is early morning. Being on the windy side of the island means that the trade winds commonly pick up in the late morning & blow hard through the early afternoon. On very calm days, it is a fairly easy paddle. However, the wind and currents can sometimes be strong and make it a difficult paddle, particularly when you’re having to paddle directly into the wind or when the waves are coming at an angle. It is strongly advised to always check the weather conditions before leaving because the Kaneohe bay can be very windy and rough.
The windward side of Oahu offers other hot spots close by:
View of the clear turquoise waters of Kaneohe Bay as seen from the iconic sandbar in Oahu, Hawaii with the famous Chinamen's Hat rock formation island in the distance. | Photo: Shutterstock
The Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is a very special paddling destination. The miles long bank of sand in the middle of the bay is always between waist and ankle deep, and when the tide is very low it can be completely exposed. Launching your SUP is easy from the little beach. The paddle distance is just over one mile each way and can take some time, so it’s better to start early.
How to Get There:
The drive is about 30/35 minutes by car from Waikiki. He’eia Kea is the closest small harbor to Kaneohe Bay Sandbar. Take the coastal road called Kamehameha Hwy. Park in the parking lot. Parking is free.
Address: 46-499 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744
Lanikai Beach as seen from above in Kailua, Oahu, with the Mokulua Islands in the distance. | Photo: Shutterstock
The calm and tranquil atmosphere of the Mokulua makes it one of the most beautiful places on Oahu to paddle. Mokulua, in Hawaiian means "twin islands", these two islands are located off Lanikai beach. Moku Nui (Big Island) & Moku Iki (Small Island) commonly known as "the Mokes" are bird sanctuaries protected by the state of Hawaii. It's only allowed to go to Moku Nui, the northern Island (the one on the left).
Paddleboarding to Mokulua Nui takes roughly 45 minutes from Lanikai Beach. You will be paddling a distance of 1 mile each way, so roughly two miles there and back. If you're lucky, you may be able to see a Hawaiian monk seal during your paddle! The water surrounding the island is extremely clear which makes it impossible to not go for a swim. The waves around the island on calm days allow even beginners to surf. You can explore more of Moku Nui by taking the lava hiking trails along the edge. The panoramic view of the ocean and Kailua is definitely worth a visit. Along the trail, a natural saltwater pool awaits you.
Islands at Sunset. | Photo: Shutterstock
How to Get There:
Get directions to Lanikai Beach. Once there, park the car in one of the streets perpendicular to Mokulua Dr. Note: On weekends, it's forbidden to park in Lanikai. You can leave your car in the parking lot of Kailua Beach Park. The departure from Kailua beach adds a good kilometer to the distance to be covered to your paddle.
Address: 1077 Mōkūlua Dr, Kailua, HI 96734
A great resource for more places to paddle and any equipment you might need is Kailua Beach Adventures. They are the local shop where you can rent a SUP board, get tips and have all around good vibes.
For more SUP Destinations, click HERE.