Kayaking in Big Island
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
The leeward west coast areas of the Big Island are protected for the most part from the northeast trade winds, making for ideal near-shore kayaking conditions. There are miles and miles of uncrowded Kona and Kohala coastline to explore, presenting close-up views of stark raw lava rock shores and cliffs, lava tube sea caves, pristine secluded coves, and deserted beaches.
Ocean kayakers can get in close to shore—where the commercial snorkel and dive cruise boats can't reach. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for adventure, such as near-shore snorkeling among the expansive coral reefs and lava rock formations that teem with colorful tropical fish, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and more. You can pull ashore at a quiet cove for a picnic and a plunge into turquoise waters. With a good coastal map and some advice from the kayak vendor, you can explore inland, where you might find ancient battlegrounds, burial sites, bathing ponds for Hawaiian royalty, or old villages.
Kayaking experiences can be enjoyed via a guided tour or on a self-guided paddling excursion. Either way, the kayak outfitter can brief you on recommended routes, manageable currents, and how you can help preserve and protect Hawai‘i's ocean resources and coral reef system.
Equipment, Lessons and Tours
There are several rental outfitters on Highway 11 between mile markers 110 and 113. There's also one unofficial stand at the shore, at the house on the corner just across from the parking lot. After you've loaded your kayak onto the roof of your car, follow the 2-mi road down the rather steep hill to the parking lot below. There are usually local guys who will set up your kayak and get you into (and out of) the water; tips of between $5 and $10 are encouraged, expected, and appreciated.
Aloha Kayak Co.. This outfitter is one of the few that is permitted to guide tours to the stunningly beautiful Kealakekua Bay, leaving from Napoopoo, including about 1½ hours at the Captain Cook Monument. The 3½-hour morning and afternoon tours ($99) include snacks and drinks. Local guides tell about the area's cultural, historical, and natural significance. You may see dolphins, but you must watch them from a distance only, as this is a protected marine reserve. Keauhou Bay tours are also offered: a four-hour morning tour for $89, a 2½-hour afternoon version for $69, and a two-hour evening manta ray tour, $89. Kayak rentals are $35 for a single, $60 for a double, and $85 for a triple. Stand-up paddleboard lessons at Keauhou Bay cost $75. 79-7248 Mamalahoa Hwy., across from Teshima's Restaurant, Honalo, HI, 96750. 808/322–2868 or 877/322–1444. www.alohakayak.com.
Kona Boys. On the highway above Kealakekua Bay, this full-service, environmentally conscious outfitter handles kayaks, body boards, surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkeling gear. Single-seat a double kayaks are offered. Surfing and stand-up paddling lessons are available for private or group instruction. Tours such as their Morning Magic and Midday Meander include two half-day guided kayaking and snorkeling trips with gear, lunch, snacks, and beverages. Kona Boys also run a beach shack fronting the King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel and are happy to give advice on the changing regulations regarding South Kona bay usage. The town location offers Hawaiian outrigger canoe rides, SUP lessons, and rentals of beach mats, chairs, and other gear. 79-7539 Mamalahoa Hwy., Kealakekua, HI, 96750. 808/328–1234 or 808/329–2345. www.konaboys.com. Tours from $99; kayaks from $47; surf/paddle lessons from $75. 75–5660 Palani Rd., Kailua-Kona, 96740.
Ocean Safari's Kayak Adventures. On the guided 3½-hour morning sea-cave tour that begins in Keauhou Bay, you can visit lava-tube sea caves along the coast, then swim ashore for a snack. The kayaks will already be on the beach, so you won't have to hassle with transporting them. The cost is $68.50 per person. A two-hour, dolphin-spotting tour costs $35 per person. Kayak daily rental rates are $25 for singles and $40 for doubles. Stand-up boards are $25 for two hours. If you want a lesson, it's $60 including the board (two-person minimum). End of Kamehameha III Rd., next to Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/326–4699. www.oceansafariskayaks.com.
Pineapple Park. Affiliated with a hostel with locations in Hilo, Kona, and Mountain View, Pineapple Park's Kealakekua location rents kayaks for $50 for a single and $65 for a double. The rental price includes paddles, life jackets, bags to keep all your gear dry, and harnesses to strap the kayak to your car. 81-6363 Mamalahoa Hwy., Kealakekua, HI, 96750. 808/323–2224 or 877/800–3800. www.pineapple-park.com.
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