Sailing and Kayaking O‘ahu’s Leeward Coast

From the water, the leeward coast is nothing less than spectacularly beautiful. Its rugged coastline, a combination of white sand beaches, rock and reef outcroppings, and jagged cliffs, is only complemented by the deep valleys lying in succession all the way up the coast. Sea kayaking affords a perspective unmatched and unobtainable by land, far from the spiderweb of power lines over the neighborhoods and the bustle of Farrington Highway. In addition, the crystal clear water runs from turquoise to deep blue, and humpback whale-watching is at its best on this side of the island during their annual stay from November to March.

As the trade winds rise over the Wai‘anae Range, they create pristine conditions for ocean activities. Calm nearshore waters afford easy paddling and more abundant ocean life. You can enter the water from Tracks, at the south end of the leeward coast, but be prepared to deal with small waves along the shore. From here, you can explore the jagged cliffs and find small pockets of sand only accessible from the water. Sheltered Poka‘i Bay in Wai‘anae is perfect for launching the kayaks. For the best views of the valleys, put in at Makaha, Makua Beach, or Yokohama Bay, but only if the surf is flat, which is more likely to occur in summer.

Sheltered Poka‘i Bay in Wai‘anae is perfect for launching kayaks.
Sheltered Poka‘i Bay in Wai‘anae is perfect for launching kayaks. Photo © Marlon Bu, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.
Map of the Leeward Coast of O‘ahu
Leeward Coast of O‘ahu

West Oahu SUP (84-1170 Farrington Hwy., 808/954-2091, 9am-5pm daily) rents single-rider kayaks for $25 hourly, $50 full day, and $175 per five-day week. They rent two-person kayaks for $25 hourly, $60 full day, and $215 per week. They also rent roof racks or tie-downs for $10.

If you prefer to charter a catamaran and let someone else do the navigating for you so you can focus on taking in the sights, Wild Side Hawaii (87-1286 Farrington Hwy., 808/306-7273) has three tours that leave from Wai‘anae Small Boat Harbor: Morning Wildlife Cruise is a three-hour nearshore cruise with snorkeling, spinner dolphin swims, and seasonal whale-watching for $115; Best of the West is a 3.5-hour tour with dolphin swims, whale-watching, and tropical reef snorkeling with a maximum of six guests for $195 per person; the Deluxe Family Charter is a mid-morning three-hour cruise focusing on hands-on learning about Hawaii’s marine creatures with dolphin swims, snorkeling instruction, and whale-watching for $175 adult, $145 child. They also have a full-day cruise departing from Honolulu to the leeward coast for $335.

Eo Waianae Tours (2101 Nuuanu Ave., 808/538-9091) has morning and afternoon west side catamaran tours with snorkeling and kayaking. Adults $115, children ages 5-12 $95, children ages 4 or younger $45. They also offer transportation from Waikiki.

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