Rediscovering Oahu's Unmatched Travel Experience - P. 7


Kayaking to Mokuloa Islands

We had set aside Tuesday for what I figured would be one of our more physically demanding days on Oahu — kayaking the windward coast to the Mokulii Island aka Chinaman’s Hat. My main concern wasn’t the actual kayaking as much as the problem of getting two kayaks to Kuoloa Regional Park a good 15 miles from Kailua Sailboards where we planned to rent the kayaks. Despite the Jeep’s apparently rugged frame, I wasn’t sure how we could lash two kayaks to the soft top for the drive.

Mokulii Island is less than a half mile offshore so I wasn’t too concerned about the possibility of encountering rough waters. Having heard that at times you can even wade all the way across, I was a bit concerned about the possibility that the tide would be too low to allow sufficient clearance over the rocks and corals.

After another wonderful Regency Club breakfast, our teen took the wheels of the Jeep for the drive to Kailua along the most expeditious route — the H1 Freeway to Pali Highway — to Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks at 130 Kailua Road.

The Mokes One of the most convenient, satisfying and challenging day-long kayak adventures on Oahu begins from Kailua Beach, home of Kailua Sailboards, for a round-trip to the Mokuloas or “the Mokes” among locals.

As soon as we parked and walked into Kailua Sailboards, I was reminded of the lesson I keep learning over and over — expect the unexpected. The Japanese lady who appeared to be the manager told us that it didn’t make sense to lug kayaks all the way to Kualoa. It would be better to wheel the kayaks — which were all mounted on hand-pulled trucks — two blocks to Kailua beach and kayak out to one of the three islands in the area.

In any case, if we really had our hearts set on Mokulii, she said we should come back another day since the round-trip would take more hours than remained before their rental return time of 4:30 p.m. It was already past 11 a.m. and it would take time to process the rental, watch the required safety video and pull the kayaks out to the beach.

We decided to forget Mokulii and focus instead on “the Mokes” — Mokuloa Island and its unlandable twin. The Mokes are about three-quarters of a mile offshore, but the section of Kailua Beach from which we could launch was about a mile and a half from the islands.

The safety video advised us that because of rock reefs and treacherous cross-currents, we should take a route that resembled a long reverse-S, making the actual one-way kayaking distance closer to two miles, and the round-trip a three-and-a-half-hour commitment, not including time on the island. Strong currents, potentially big waves and the sheer physical effort of paddling that distance made the voyage dangerous for beginners or for those who were not good swimmers, the video warned.

Instead, it suggested that beginners could kayak out to Popoia Island aka “Flat Island”, which lies less than a quarter mile offshore, or simply kayak along the coastline toward Lanikai Beach a bit to the south.

Our teen and I had kayaked a number of times and were good swimmers. The spouse hadn’t and wasn’t. But since she would be on a tandem kayak with me, we felt up to tackling the paddle to the Mokes. Our main concern was time, especially since we planned to make a stop for food at a grocery store and snack bar that lies halfway along the trundle from Kailua Sailboards to the beach.

The parking lot which held the row of truck-mounted yellow kayaks was becoming congested with people returning kayaks as well as several others waiting to take them out. Based on past experience we had decided to pay extra to get backrests on the kayaks and a dry bag to hold our camera, video recorder, car keys, suntan lotion, wallets and water.

It took another fifteen minutes before we were wearing our red life vests and pulling our kayaks down the sidewalk toward the beach. Our tandem kayak was strapped too far forward on the truck, forcing much of its weight on my arms. It kept slipping further forward, becoming heavier with practically each step. I didn’t want to slow our progress by stopping to shift the kayak back. By the time we had trundled a long block to the Kalapawai Market my arm felt like it was falling off. Our teen didn’t have much trouble with her single kayak which was better balanced on its truck.


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