Kayaking is an easy way to explore the ocean—and Oahu’s natural beauty—without much effort or skill. It offers a vantage point not afforded by swimming or surfing, and a workout you won’t get lounging on a catamaran. Even novices can get in a kayak and enjoy the island’s scenery.

The ability to travel long distances can also get you into trouble. Experts agree that rookies should stay on the windward side. Their reasoning is simple: if you get tired, break or lose an oar, or just plain pass out, the onshore winds will eventually blow you back to the beach. The same cannot be said for the offshore breezes of the North Shore and West Oahu.

Kayaks are specialized: some are better suited for riding waves while others are designed for traveling long distances. Your outfitter can address your needs depending on your skill level. Sharing your plans with your outfitter can lead to a more enjoyable—and safer—experience. Expect to pay from $35 for a half-day single rental to $139 for a guided kayak tour with lunch. Some kayaking outfitters also rent stand-up paddleboards .

Equipment, Lessons, and Tours

Go Bananas. Staffers make sure that you rent the appropriate kayak for your abilities, and can also outfit your rental car with soft racks to transport your boat to the beach. (Racks are included in the rental fee.) You can rent either a single or double kayak. The store also carries clothing and kayaking accessories and rents stand-up paddleboards. (There's a second location in Aiea, which is closer to the North Shore.) 799 Kapahulu Ave., Kapahulu, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96816. 808/737–9514; www.gobananaskayaks.com. From $35.

Hawaiian Water Sports. With an emphasis on teaching ocean safety, this multifaceted outfitter offers guided tours with instruction on tours to the Mokes and Flat Island. Fully guided 90-minute and 3-hour tours include instruction and equipment rental. Experienced paddlers can also rent a kayak and venture out on their own on either a single or double kayak. The company also rents windsurfing equipment, surf and bodyboards, snorkel equipment, and stand-up paddleboards. Discounts are available if you reserve online. 171 Hamakua Dr., Kailua, Hawaii, 96734. 808/262–5483; www.hawaiianwatersports.com. Rentals from $29, tours from $74.

Kailua Beach Adventures. One of the best places for beginners to rent kayaks is Kailua Beach, and Kailua Beach Adventures has an ideal location just across the street. The company offers two- and five-hour guided kayak tours (the longer tour includes lunch, time for kayaking, and time for the beach). More adventurous visitors can rent a kayak (double or single for a half or full day) and venture to the Mokulua Islands off Lanikai. You can also rent snorkeling equipment, stand-up paddleboards, and bikes. (Discounts are given if booked online.) Kailua Beach Shopping Center, 130 Kailua Rd., Kailua, Hawaii, 96734. 808/262–2555; www.kailuasailboards.com. From $59 for rental; $139 for tours.

Surf 'N Sea. This outfitter is located in a rustic wooden building on the beach, so in minutes you can start paddling on a single or double kayak. Keep in mind that these plastic boats are great from spring to fall, but winter weather can be hazardous for even veteran kayakers. Their proximity to a protected stream makes kayaking in any sea conditions possible.This company also offers just about any surf-related activity you can imagine on the North Shore in addition to kayaking. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, Hawaii, 96712. 800/899–7873; www.surfnsea.com. From $60 for a full-day rental.

Twogood Kayaks Hawaii. The outfitter offers kayak rentals (single or double), lessons, and guided tours. Guides are trained in the history, geology, and birds of the area. Fully guided kayak excursions are either 2½ or 5 hours and include lunch, snorkeling gear, and transportation to and from Waikiki. For those who want to create their own itinerary, owner Bob Twogood also offers custom "Elite" tours. 134B Hamakua Dr., Kailua, Hawaii, 96737. 808/262–5656; www.twogoodkayaks.com. Rentals from $60, tours from $115.