The (Nā) Mokulua Islands Paddle starts at the end of Lanikai, goes out to the Mokulua Islands (Twin Islands) and then turns back around to land in Lanikai again.
The Mokulua Islands are state seabird sanctuaries for the wedge-tailed shearwaters.
Conditions permitting, they are a fun day kayak or paddle if you want an exciting adventure. The Mokulua Islands have a calm & tranquil feel that make them one of the most beautiful places to paddle to on the entire island.
The best part is that you can hang out there for the day, pack a lunch, & even do some tide pool exploring, cliff jumping, or snorkeling. The Mokulua Islands (Mokes) Paddle is entirely an open ocean paddle with lots of reef, surf bumps & wind. People regularly paddle out to the spot just to surf in the channel between the two islands. Scout out the area & check conditions before heading out paying special attention to the wind.
The Mokulua Islands have a calm & tranquil feel that make them one of the most beautiful places to paddle to on the entire island. The best part is that you can hang out there for the day, pack a lunch, & even do some tide pool exploring, cliff jumping, or snorkeling. The Mokulua Islands (Mokes) Paddle is entirely an open ocean paddle with lots of reef, surf bumps & wind. People regularly paddle out to the spot just to surf in the channel between the two islands. Scout out the area & check conditions before heading out paying special attention to the wind.
Moku Nui (Big Island) & Moku Iki (Small Island) are the two “Mokes” & are both state wildlife sanctuaries patrolled by the DLNR (Department of Land & Natural Resources). Of the 2 islands, you are only allowed to land on Moku Nui and a permit is required.
|Time:||35 min – 45 min|
|Difficulty:||Intermediate / Advanced|
|Best time:||Early Morning|
|Permit Required||Yes. $3/ person|
During the time of the Hawaiians of old, the Mokulua islands were “kapu,” or forbidden for everyday people with only the ali’i, or Hawaiian royalty allowed on Mokunui and only certain Kahuna, or priests, allowed on Mokuiki. On the back side of Mokunui, there is an 8ft deep “Queen’s Bath” where it was said that the ali’i would bathe to increase their spiritual mana and be healed by the waters.
The Mokulua Islands Paddle starts in the neighborhood of Lanikai right near Kailua. Parking is highly regulated on the weekends, but there is lots of free parking in the neighborhood if you go early on a weekday. Just make sure you are respectful of the homes & do not obstruct any driveways and DO NOT PARK ON THE SIDE WITH THE BIKE PATH.
If you’re coming from Honolulu (everyone called it “town” here), take the Pali Hwy until you get into Kailua. Continue driving through town until you pass the beach park, & go over the hill into Lanikai.
If you’re coming from Hawaii Kai or Waimanalo, get on Kalanianaole Hwy until you reach the Pali or Kailua town. Follow instructions above for getting into the neighborhood.
Coming from Kaneohe or the North shore, hop on Kamehameha Hwy until it turns into the H3 in Kaneohe.
Address for GPS: 1277 Mokulua Drive, Kailua, HI 96734
All the parking is free in Lanikai or up the hill at Kailua Beach park. Parking on Mokulua Drive is not allowed on the weekends, so you’ll have to park in the public parking lot at Kailua Beach park unless you have friends in the neighborhood. They are incredibly strict about not parking or even unloading any gear in the bike lanes of the area.
Use one of the beach accesses to enter the beach, & start paddling! It may be helpful to walk farther down the beach so its more of a straight shot to the islands.
There are public restrooms at Kailua Beach park, & showers as well, but those are relatively far from the put in on the paddle so you’d probably want to just drive there. There are no public restrooms in Lanikai and no facilities. Paddling to the Mokuluas will take some time & you’ll want to hang out there for a few hours, so plan accordingly with food, water, supplies, etc.
- A life jacket or PFD is optional but not required
- Snorkel Gear is recommended
- Dry Bag
- Phone (For Photos!)
Cautions & Hazards
Kailua Bay is on the windward side of the island so they are regularly windy with tradewinds ranging from 15-25mph. As always, check the forecast before heading out! It also never hurts to bring along a partner — not just for safety purposes but you’ll want to have some memorable photos as well. Paddling to The Mokuluas are a very picturesque expedition.
Being on the windy side of the islands means that the trade winds commonly pick up in the late morning & blow hard through the early afternoon. Usually these winds blow directly against the shore though, so if you make it to the island, coming back is usually a breeze.
The beach where you need to land on the Mokunui is formed by wrap-around waves that clash together at the beach. This makes for a tricky landing. Try timing before sets and get off your vessel quickly when you reach the island. Be prepared to fall off!
There are lots of Kayak Tours that go out to The Mokuluas daily, but most of them are novice paddlers & are not a huge hazard.
Surf & Reef
The reef in Lanikai is alive and well! On days when the tide is low, you will need to avoid the coral reef. Generally, the water is clear enough that you can see right through it.
Always something to look out for while paddling or kayaking here. The Portuguese Man-Of-War is a polyp (actually more closely related to coral!) and are notorious on the windward side. Despite not actually being a jellyfish, the Portuguese Man-Of-War has long tendrils that have a nasty sting. If you get stung by one of these guys, rinse it in warm water and do not use white vinegar or urine!
Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters (‘Ua’u Kani)
These sea-faring birds seasonally nest on Mokunui and Mokuiki from late March till about the end October. They are monogamous birds who return to the same nest and the same mate year after year assuming that there is no problem with the single egg and hatchling each season. Spending most of their life out at water means that these birds have developed certain adaptations to help them survive for long periods without land. For instance, these birds have desalination glands, webbed feet, & can even turn off half of their brain while flying to get much needed rest. They nest in holes in the ground around the island. You can probably find them hidden underneath Naupaka or other plants on the islands.
Their Hawaiian name, Ua’u Kani, means “moaning petrel” in Hawaiian because of the low, eerie cooing sound that they make.
Hawaiian Rock Crab (‘A’ama)
The Hawaiian Rock Crab are usually black crabs that you might see scuttling on the tidal rocks. You’ll likely only see a glimpse of them because they have hundreds of hairs on their legs that can sense vibration. At night, these crabs will go on the island and molt their shells like snakes do. They behind an often perfect exo-skeleton of their bodies that a lot of people often mistake for being dead crabs.
Humpback Whales (Koholā)
On the backside of the island by the Queen’s Bath, if it is the migrating season for the humpback whales, you can often glimpse the whales breaching the water or see their blowholes in the distance.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
Lanikai’s reef means there is an abundance of food for honu paddling out and around the mokes. Keep your eyes open when your paddling and especially if you end up snorkeling by the island for a chance to see these little guys in action. Give them distance though, its illegal to harass or touch them!
Tips, Links & Other Resources
- If you are in the area & are looking for a short hike to do, check out the Lanikai Pillbox Hike.
- Looking to explore & snorkel through WWII era plane crash, check out the Lanikai Plane Wreck Site paddle to extend your paddle to the Mokes.
- Across the street from Kailua Beach Park is Buzz’s Steakhouse, a famous spot with delicious food and beer. The perfect place for cooling down after a long day paddle and having a drink or two with friends.
- Kalapawai Market is down the street too. They are a local store with snacks, homemade deli food, sandwiches, groceries and a large selection of dry goods.
- Cinnamon’s Restaurant is one of the best spots on the island for breakfast. Their Guava Chiffon pancakes are to die for. They are about five minutes away in Kailua Town. If you’re going on the weekend for brunch, be sure to call ahead because this place can fill up fast.
- If you are looking for renting a kayak or SUP, Kailua Beach Adventures is within walking distance of Kailua Beach Park and is perfect to get the gear needed to adventure to the Mokuluas. They also issue the permits necessary to get to the islands.
- Lanikai Brewing is a new microbrewery located in Kailua Town with some of the best local brews on the island of Oahu. Definitely worth a stop if you are headed back to Honolulu for the day.
Don’t forget to leave me a comment with your experience or knowledge below on the Mokulua Islands paddle! If you have a question, write it here or in the comments below!
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