EXPLORING CHINAMANS HAT ISLAND ON OAHU, HAWAII BY KAYAK
Chinaman’s Hat Island, or Mokoli’i, is a small islet in Kaneohe Bay on the on the east side of Oahu that offers views of cerulean waters and looming cliffs.
Chinaman’s Hat Island is easily spotted from the scenic route to and from the North Shore along Kamehameha Highway. This small island landmark got its name because of its distinctive shape looks like the traditional Chinese hat. There are a number of legends that go with the island but one suggests that the hat belonged to a giant who rests below the surface.
CHINAMAN’S HAT ISLAND KAYAK AND HIKE TOUR
Chinamans Hat Island is accessible by kayak or a short swim. Once you arrive at the island a mini hike to the top will give you amazing views of the shore and the Kualoa Mountains. There is a great kayak tour that picks you up from Waikiki and takes you on a Kayak adventure in Kaneohe and to Chinamans Hat. This tour is a not-for-profit, with proceeds helping to fund Kama’aina Kids and He’eia State Park!
Book your kayaking tour: Kaneohe Guided Kayak and Snorkel Tour
GETTING TO CHINAMANS HAT ISLAND ON OAHU, HAWAII
There are a few different ways that you can get out to Chinaman’s Hat and when the tide is low enough, it’s even possible to wade out to it! If you decide to walk, be sure to bring some sort of floatation device (boogie board, surfboard, raft, etc.) as people have actually been stranded out there, not realizing how fast the tide can rise.
On a slightly overcast morning, we kayaked out from Kualoa Regional Park towards Chinaman’s Hat. While walking sounded like an adventure, I absolutely love kayaking and we got an amazing opportunity to do so when we were invited along on a trip, with some friends.
The ride out was lots of fun. We enjoyed many laughs and even a few excited squeals as the swells splashed us around. At this point the clouds also opened up and let the sun shine through, adding to the experience. At low tide, you can almost walk to Chinamans Hat Island but at higher tide, kayak or swimming is the best option to reach the island.
It took about 15-20 minutes to reach Chinaman’s Hat Island. We pulled the kayaks up onto the rocks so that they would be safe from the tide and also out of the way of others trying to enjoy the awesome views and experiences of this spot. Like most of the island’s other epic attractions, people visit on all days of the week, so you will definitely run into adventurers.
Once we were sure that the kayaks were secure, we grabbed our bags and began the hike to the top of Chinaman’s Hat. The trailhead is easy to find and the winding path is quite clear. Depending on the weather, the trail is either dusty and dry, or muddy and slick, which are both slippery conditions, so be sure to bring shoes that you can climb in. One person in our party broke their flip-flops and had to make do, by hopping up to the summit.
There are a few areas towards the end of the trail that require you to climb up the rocks but the hand and foot holds are easy to find. The hike to the top takes about 5-10 minutes depending on your speed and how well you navigate the steep rocks.
Once you reach the top of the hike you are greeted with breathtaking views of the expansive ultramarine Hawaiian waters and a gorgeous view of the beach and Kualoa Regional Park. The looming mountain range is a beautiful backdrop to the view. From the top, you can also see the different beaches and cliff lines of Chinaman’s Hat. On one rock formation, we spotted a Hawaiian Monk Seal sprawled out enjoying the sun.
After a few photos, we clambered back down the rocky trail and got back into our kayaks. Once we were sure we had all of our belongings, we leisurely made our way back to Kualoa Regional Park.
For this adventure, all you need are sturdy shoes, kayaks (or whatever mode of transport you use to get to Chinaman’s Hat), sunscreen and water!
If you decide to spend the day on Chinaman’s Hat just know that Kualoa Regional Park closes its gates around 8 so you will be locked in if you stay too late. Right across the street from Kualoa Regional Park is where we went Ziplining at Kualoa Ranch! Also, if you enjoy kayaking, check out my Outrigger Canoe Adventure to the Mokulua Islands!
Where to stay on Oahu
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island.
Why I recommend this hotel: It has its own private lagoon. While lots of people love the beach it is perfect for families. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries. There are no currents, waves or sea creatures to worry about. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach so don’t worry the beach is right there also.
Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.
Why I recommend this hotel: The Sheraton is always exceptional no matter the location but imagine you are leaning over the edge of an infinity pool, the ocean is below you and you turn to your left and watch Diamond Head crater in the distance. That’s where you will be at the end of each day, having a Mai Tai cocktail in your infinity pool. Later on, in the evening Rumfire is a great bar venue, which is actually part of the Sheraton. It is open to the public and is one of the best high-end venues on Oahu. It has a small dance floor but is mostly standing and seating areas for drinks, chats and good times.
Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.
Why do I recommend this hostel/hotel: This is the perfect hotel if you want location but are willing to sacrifice a pool and some luxury items to save up to $200 per night. All of the hotels in this area are minimum $300 per night and often much more. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway. Didn’t you come halfway across the world to swim in the beach!
Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.
Why I recommend this hostel: Unfortunately Waikiki and Honolulu, in general, are not cheap. You can grab a dorm room for under $35 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach. This location really is great. You are near a lot of attractions and can take public transport to a lot of great east coast beaches and hikes. It is the number one hostel in Waikiki and I’m sure you will meet other adventurers to go on hikes with!
Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.
Why I recommend this hotel: Disney Aulani Resort combines luxury accommodation with family fun. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind. The kids club and massage center are just among a few of the many activities included in your stay. Attend ukelele lessons, free fire-pit story-telling at night and more and more! Your kids will never be bored and the quality of entertainment and facilities is just beyond amazing.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY
A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?
Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018
The best Waterfalls: 11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII
The Best Hikes on Oahu: 10 BEST HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII
My favorite experience on Oahu: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII
The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU – THE BUCKET LIST