Chart your own kayaking adventure and explore some of the most surreal and hidden reefs Oahu has to offer. You will be kayaking and snorkeling at your own pace through the Kaneohe Bay and have a chance to see plenty of coral and maybe even some turtles. Kaneohe Bay's barrier reef creates perfect kayaking and snorkeling conditions. You will be amazed at the combination of mountain views and coral reefs that this experience has to offer.
*We make your Kaneohe Bay snorkel adventure a breeze. We'll help you get all set up with your kayaks and beach gear so you can start exploring the reef. We'll provide you with on-shore instruction, and helpful info.
On your Kaneohe Bay Coral Reef Self-guided Kayaking Adventure, we’ll get you everything you need to discover the hidden gem of Oahu’s Windward side both above the water, with views of the mountains and offshore island Mokolii (Chinamans’ Hat), and below the water, with an abundance of live coral reef home to sea turtles and fish.
This experience is all about snorkeling the reefs of Kaneohe Bay. If you just love paddling and scenic views but don’t want to be swimming around, check out our other self-guided experiences: Mokolii Kayak and Hike (Chinaman’s Hat) – Best kayak and hike adventure, Kahana River Self-Guided Kayaking Tour – Best all-around paddling experience
This Kaneohe Bay kayaking trip only takes about 3 hours. Of course, you can spend much longer out there if you were prepared, but we found that 3 hours was the sweet spot for the experience from the seamless kayak and gear delivery to exploring the bay with your kayaks and snorkel gear.
You will be launching the kayaks into Kaneohe Bay steps from where you meet us. You’ll meet us over at the Waihole Nursery and Garden Center parking lot and we’ll have your kayaks and gear all set and ready to go. We’ll send you all the meeting location details in your confirmation email, so no need to write this all down. We’ve got you covered!
Be sure you paddle all the way out of the bay you launch from to get to the reef. The launch location is very shallow and near a stream mouth, so the sandy bottom of the bay is very silty with no visibility. Once you are beyond the shallows, the water clears up and you will be on your way to Kaneohe Bay’s coral reefs!
Kayaking out the closest reef from the shore only takes about 15-20 minutes depending on conditions. The best snorkeling is along the edge of the underwater coral islands. From there, you have the choice to swim with the provided snorkel gear and floating kayak leash or keep padding around the reef. The other reefs are not too far north and south of you.
If you are a fan of movies like 50 First Dates, You’ll recognize the location where they filmed the “Hukilau Cafe” and Waikane Pier scenes off to the left about 15 minutes kayaking north of the launch location (please don’t land on the shore over there, it’s private property). The Koolau mountains surrounding you scream Jurrasic Park. It’s not hard to imagine a giant brachiosaurus lumbering through the jungle gnawing on some monkeypod tree leaves.
Basically, whatever kayaking route you choose, you’ll have an amazing view of the windward coast and if you follow our instructions, you’ll get a glimpse of the best snorkeling reef Oahu has to offer.
You can often see sea turtles out here on the reef, but it’s not guaranteed. We don’t want to set your expectations too high, but from our experience, there is a large population of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles that live around the perimeter of the reef and we actually had to reduce the amount of sea turtle photos we included on this activity listing. On a more humorous note, we encountered a civil complaint from a visitor to a local beach who was appalled at the volume of what they thought was dog droppings on the beach. Turns out, there are actually so many sea turtles in the reefs of Kaneohe Bay that the turtles were the actual culprit.
We conveniently provide a floating kayak leash so you can tow your kayaks behind you as you snorkel as opposed to dropping to a kayak anchor which can easily damage the reef; even when used by experienced professionals. Adventure responsibly. The reef is beautiful, but don’t touch it. You will hurt it and it will hurt you. Coral reefs are sharp and highly abrasive to your skin. Cuts received from contact with coral often get infected because coral is alive, so keep your distance.
The best time to kayak in Kaneohe Bay is in the morning and at low tide. If you are an early riser, you can snag our 8 am or 9 am slot. On perfect days, the ocean is calm and you can see through it like glass, but it’s not always like that. Ocean conditions change with the tides, winds, and weather, so please keep that in mind. Days with less wind and lower tide will give you better visibility while you are snorkeling.
Kaneohe bay is a remnant of a massive volcano caldera that collapsed, leaving epic cliffsides that form the Koolau Mountain Range and a protected bay surrounded by Hawaii’s only barrier reef. This barrier reef helped create a refuge for underwater islands of coral to form. You will have the chance to kayak out to these coral reefs and if you are feeling adventurous, put on some snorkel gear and hop into the water. Please look, don’t touch. The reef is a combination of millions of microscopic living things and has taken thousands of years to grow this large and beautiful. It just takes a few flipper strokes to undo hundreds of years of growth. If you aren’t into getting in and out of your kayak on the ocean, the coral reef is clearly viewable from the comfort of your kayak. You even often spot turtles cruising near your kayak.
Ocean conditions can change quickly and kayaking can dangerous. That said, Kaneohe bay is one of the safest kayaking locations. We advise children over 12 years old to do this tour, but younger children may join the tour, especially if the conditions are nice. Since it’s on the windward side of the island, it’s almost always breezy in the afternoons. During the summer months (End of May – beginning of Sept) conditions are calmer and more predictable and the area is much more accessible.
If there are storms or high winds we will notify you as soon as we know and can re-schedule your kayaking trip or offer a full refund.
Feel free to check out our Cancellation Policy for more info.