A casual cruise across crystal clear waters to Na Mokulua Islands before we explored the beauty of the larger island, Moku Nui.


Disclaimer: Aloha Canoe Adventures provided us with a complimentary trip to Na Mokulua Islands.

Our journey to Na Mokulua Islands

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 Aloha Canoe Adventures for a day trip paddling out, to explore Na Mokulua Islands.

I had never been in an outrigger canoe but today we were going to paddle to Moku Nui, the island on the left. Our guide, Alika, from Aloha Canoe Adventures was born and bred in Kailua and grew up racing outriggers on Oahu. 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.

na mokulua islands

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.

Alika 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.

na mokulua islands

As we cruised towards Na Mokulua Islands, Alika 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 the 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.

mokulua islands

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 Moku Nui, one of the Na 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.

na mokulua islands

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 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.

cliff jump mokulua islands

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. While there is a huge cliff jump on the back side of the island it is quite dangerous so we left that one for another day.

yoga mokulua islands

yoga mokulua islands

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.
photogaphy mokulua islands

The journey back from Na Mokulua Islands

Our roommate Just thought that it would be an appropriate time to bring out his T-Rex costume and let’s be honest, when is it not appropriate. 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.

mokulua islands kailua

Just had decided it would be a good idea to paddle back to Kailua in the T-Rex costume which gave many of the kayakers and stand up paddle boarders a huge laugh as they passed us. It wasn’t until we arrived back to Kailua that everyone on the shore began to stare at our outrigger canoe led by a giant dinosaur. As we slid onto the shore, many people came rushing up to Just asking for photographs.

From launch to landing the trip took around four hours but Alika was happy to let us stay longer on Moku Nui if we wanted. It felt great to have a tour guide who was totally focussed 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.

mokulua islands

Disclaimer: Aloha Canoe Adventures provided us with a complimentary trip to Na Mokulua Islands.

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