Kayaking – Oahu

I love kayaking. Always have, hopefully always will. In the past month, I’ve been fortunate enough to go ocean kayaking twice; on the first occasion, I went on an actual guided tour, while the second time I just rented kayaks with a bunch of friends and we went exploring for a day. I want to share my experiences because I’ve realized that not nearly enough visitors to Hawaii consider a kayaking excursion as part of their “top things to do” list and I would argue that they are missing out on an amazing opportunity!

So, you may ask yourself:

Q: Why kayaking?

A: Because it’s SO MUCH FUN! On top of that, it’s a phenomenal workout, a great bonding experience with friends or family and one of the most unique ways to explore an area. Think of a kayak as an ocean bicycle. With a normal bicycle, you can ride all over – even places where cars can’t fit – and you can lock it up somewhere, walk around and then hop back on and move to another location at your leisure. Kayaks perform a similar function on water. You can paddle around, maneuver into little spaces where boats wouldn’t be able to get to, store it on the sand and hike around or even anchor it in the water and jump in for a snorkel.

Q: Where can I kayak on the island?

A: Well my experience so far has been limited to the east side (Kaneohe Bay and Kailua/Lanikai Beach area) but I know there are companies on all shores of the island that offer rentals and guided tours. I think for my next kayak adventure I’d love to check out the west side since there are usually dolphins over there. How cool would it be to paddle up next to a pod of spinner dolphins??

Q: What’s better, a tour or rental?

A: Depends, mainly on your own personality and skill level. Let me break it down:

Tour is best for:

  • First time kayakers
    Why? – This is supposed to be a positive experience – if you’re stressed out trying to figure out how to turn or which direction to go or why your kayak isn’t moving, I guarantee you will just get frustrated and this will not make for happy vacation memories. If you’re on a tour, your guide will provide instructions and can assist you with any problems. On the tour that I did of Kaneohe Bay, they even had sort of a backup option for you where if you got too fatigued from paddling, they could hook your kayak up to the back of their boat and tow you until you caught your breath. I kind of laughed when I first heard about it, but I totally ended up using it!
  • Anyone looking to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the area
    Why? – When I went on the tour, I learned so much that I never would’ve found out had I been on my own. My guide told us the history of the little island that we kayaked to, showed us the best places to snorkel, provided explanations of the different types of marine life we saw and just kept us entertained throughout with his own anecdotes. I live here and I didn’t know 80% of the information he shared. I can only imagine how interesting it would be for someone new to the island.
  • Anyone who wants the added benefits that come with an actual tour (aka a professional guide, transportation, water, snacks, lunch and all the other little extras like a dry bag, snorkel equipment, etc.)
    Why? – If you just do a rental, what you’ll get is a kayak, a paddle and a life vest. Tours provide a much more “all-inclusive” package. This can be very handy, particularly if you don’t have a car.

Rental is best for:

  • Really experienced, independent kayakers
    Why? – If you kayak all the time at home, or if you just really love to go off and do your own thing, a tour might feel a little too structured. Renting gives you the freedom to go where you want (within the boundaries set by the coast guard and whichever company you rent from, of course) and at your own pace.
  • Anyone who can’t afford a tour
    Why? – I think this one probably speaks for itself. I will point out though that the difference between a tour and a rental can be as little as $35 per person, so if you’re budgeting far enough in advance and you think a tour would be best for you, it’s definitely doable.
  • Anyone who needs more flexibility in terms of scheduling
    Why? – Tours tend to be in the morning only and they’re for a set number of hours. Rentals can be done just about any time during the day. So let’s say you’ve only got 4 hours free from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM. While there may not be any tours that run during those 4 exact hours, if you can get to the rental company location on your own, you can still have a great time kayaking within your schedule.

Alright, I think that’s probably enough info on kayaking. Now here’s a video I took while snorkeling during my Kaneohe Bay guided kayak tour. Again, I apologize for the quality (I still haven’t invested in a real GoPro) but it at least gives you a sense of what I saw:

And here are some great pictures from both of my kayaking excursions:

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Want to book a kayaking tour or a rental? Have questions about prices, times, availability or other ocean activities in Hawaii? Contact Elite Concierge at 808-971-1943 or web@eliteconciergehawaii.com


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