Kayaking to the Mokes is one of the top activities on Oahu and is great for all ages. A casual cruise across crystal clear waters to Na Mokulua Islands on either an outrigger canoe or a kayak is simply an incredible day-trip and a great way to explore the ocean of Oahu, Hawaii.
KAYAKING TO THE MOKES (MOKULUA ISLANDS)
In this blog post, I will share with you everything you need to know about Kayaking to the Mokes, also known as the Mokulua Islands. I’ll go through the best tour, kayak rental options, how long it takes, difficulty, the best time of year, and what to see when you arrive at the Mokes.
WHERE ARE THE MOKES (MOKULUA ISLANDS)
The Mokulua Islands are located on the east coast of Oahu. The closest beaches are Lanikai and Kailua. The best viewpoint of the Mokes is from the Lanikai Pillbox Hike. The drive to reach Lanikai takes about 35 minutes and then you will need to kayak out to the Mokes taking 45 minutes. I’ve pinned the Moko Nui Island on the map below so you can get an idea of where it is located on Oahu.
BEST RENTAL CAR COMPANY IN HAWAII
BEST KAYAKING TOUR TO THE MOKES (MOKULUA ISLANDS)
This small-group kayak tour lasts for 5 hours with round-trip transportation and lunch. From Waikiki, you will ride a van to Kailua Bay for half an hour. Once you arrive there, you will be provided with complete gear before the briefing. You can either choose a self-guided tour in which you will be briefed with the safety measures before you begin on your own or select a guided tour with a small group tour with a professional guide.
Both options give you the enchanting feeling and give you a chance to meet new friends while exploring Kailua Bay’s pristine and turquoise waters while watching sea turtles feeding on the rich corals of the bay.
You’ll be paddling from Kailua Beach to Mokulua Islands, Flat Island, and Lanikai Beach where you will have your picnic lunch. You can opt to kayak-surf, snorkel around, or simply just go for a swim. The best thing about this tour is they provide you with dry bags, shower amenities, and lockers for your stuff. One of the top-rated tours on Oahu!
Click Here to check the rates and availability of this tour on the booking website
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO KAYAK TO THE MOKES
This question depends highly on the weather conditions. I advise you to only kayak to the Mokes on a calm day. If it’s nice and calm with low winds and easy swell, you can kayak to the Mokes in 45 minutes. On a day with higher winds and rougher swell, it can take you up to 1.5 hours. You don’t need to be a great paddler, these are average times for tourists who might have kayaked a few times throughout their life and are in decent shape.
HOW FAR IS THE KAYAK TO THE MOKES FROM KAILUA
The total distance to reach the Mokes from Kailua is 2.4 miles (3.8km). This means it will be 4.8 miles or 7.6km for the full round-trip. Launching from Lanikai makes the journey much shorter but all of the kayak rental shops are in Kailua.
BEST TIME TO KAYAK TO THE MOKES (MOKULUA ISLANDS)
The morning is the best time to kayak to the Mokes. You will usually have calmer waters and also avoid the strong heat that is already hitting hard by 10 am. It’s great to at least reach Moko Nui before the sun is in full power. If you set off relatively early, you can be back for lunch in Kailua, which has lots of great cafes and restaurants.
OUR JOURNEY TO THE MOKES
Standing on the shore of Kailua beach, the sunlight reflects off the ripples of the crystal clear water. We are huddled together on the sand as we look out across the ocean towards two islets known as Na Mokulua (meaning “the two islands” in Hawaiian) or the “mokes”. We were joining an outrigger canoe for the day for a day trip paddling out, to explore Na Mokulua Islands.
Today we were going to paddle to Moku Nui, the island on the left. After a quick safety brief, we put all of our cameras and gear in the dry bags provided and slowly launched our six and four-man canoes from the Kailua Beach Park shore. Taking an outrigger is much the same as kayaking to the Mokes it really just depends on the exact type of adventure you want to have. I’ve done both and the experience was similar.
Being out on the ocean and being able to look back at the shore is always a great change of perspective and this was no different. The crystal clear waters were painted with a backdrop of the Koolau’s, which is a stunning mountain range that extends almost the length of the entire island.
Our guide taught us the correct racing technique for paddling but ensured us this was a casual cruise to take in the sights. As we paddled our way into the open water, the clarity allowed us to see the bottom of the ocean. There were several Hawaiian Sea Turtles spotted during the paddle and extensive coral draped the ocean floor.
What are my favorite pieces of gear for the beach?
There are three pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a beach adventure. These are three items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my beach essentials.
- Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a must for travelers. It hardly takes up any room and dries in seconds.
- Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack: The beach can be a great place to ruin your precious gear so having this ultralight dry sack for cameras, phones and valuables mean you have a safe place to store everything.
- GoPro Hero 12: The best and easiest way to capture your underwater and snorkeling adventures.
As we cruised towards The Mokulua Islands, our guide shared traditional Hawaiian stories about land formations and how different landmarks were named. We also learned that Moku Nui, which is only .75 miles off Lanikai is actually a 225-foot volcanic cone, which is a bird sanctuary for shearwaters.
The islands are a popular subject for photographers who combine palm trees and crystal clear water to capture their take on paradise. Na Mokulua Islands are the centerpiece of the amazing view from one of the best sunrise hikes on Oahu; the Lanikai Pillbox Trail. Here is a photo I captured from the trail on a beautiful morning in March 2016.
The paddling itself was relaxing as we kept a comfortable pace. I had imagined it would be much more tiring but we reached the shore of Moku Nui in less than 20 minutes after taking off from Kailua.
EXPLORING MOKO NUI, ONE OF THE MOKULUA ISLANDS
Moku Nui can often be crowded with kayakers and explorers, especially on weekends and public holidays. Luckily we went on a weekday when the weather was slightly overcast, which meant, for the most part, we had the entire island to ourselves.
We began walking around the side of the island to find the Queen’s Bath, a small tide pool just deep enough to jump into. As we made our way along with the rock piles we saw a number of shearwaters in their nests. They seemed very familiar with humans and allowed us to get very close to take a photo although they are behind a roped-off area to protect them and their habitat.
A jagged cliff face, small tide pools, and the Queen’s Bath face the vast ocean in what is a truly magical place. We could have spent hours relaxing here but instead, we decided to jump into the tide pools.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
There is one smaller jump of about 4 meters into crystal clear water, which was super fun and pretty safe. However, if you clamber up the cliffside there is one epic jump. I shot this snap of my friend making the leap from way up high. You can see the reef below but the gap to land in isn’t massive.
As we walked back around to the front of the island where we had left our canoes we could see a ferocious storm brewing over Kailua and it was headed our way. The sky was darkening by the minute, yet we were still in the warm sunshine. These contrasting conditions made for some epic photos.
PADDLING BACK TO KAILUA FROM THE MOKES
Our roommate Just thought that it would be an appropriate time to bring out his T-Rex costume. The storm did finally hit us on the island but it passed after a small rain shower and some moderate wind. We messed around for a while longer before launching off into the ocean and heading back towards Kailua.
From launch to landing the trip took around four hours but our guide was happy to let us stay longer on Moku Nui if we wanted. It felt great to have a tour guide who was totally focused on our experience and you could tell he wanted everyone to go home happy and full of stories to tell.
This would be a great day trip for a group of friends or a family. You can really push this adventure in a more extreme direction by jumping into tide pools and catching waves on the outrigger canoes or you can enjoy a calm, relaxing paddle and have a wander around the island. Whatever your style is, the scenery is amazing and as always, it is hard not to have a great time when you are out adventuring in Hawaii.
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 with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
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
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU
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