CHINAMAN’S HAT, OAHU: KAYAK & HIKE
Chinaman’s Hat, 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 is easily spotted from the scenic route to and from the North Shore along Kamehameha Highway.This small vegetated landmark got its name because it resembles a traditional rice picking hat.
Whenever we take the scenic coastal route to the north shore we always point out this landmark and often even stop at Kualoa Regional Park to have a rest on the beach or to eat lunch. One of the first times that Jackson showed me this adorable little islet we talked about how cool it would be to hike to the top of it.
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.
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The ride out was lots of fun. We enjoyed many laughs and even a few excited squeals as the swells splashed us around. We also had a few stressful moments when the kayak would nearly scrape along the coral (there are places where the water is extremely shallow so watch where you’re paddling!) At this point the clouds also opened up and let the sun shine through, adding to the experience.
It took about 15-20 minutes to reach Chinaman’s Hat. 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 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.
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!