Kayaking to the Mokes on Oahu

Kayaking to the Mokes on Oahu was my favorite thing I’ve done on my two trips to Oahu. Na Mokolua, better known as the Mokes, is located just off of Oahu on one of the most gorgeous beaches on the island, Lanikai Beach. It’s an incredible day trip or half day with the best that Hawaii has to offer.

In this post, I’ll outline everything you need to know about kayaking to the Mokes including getting there, options for kayaking, what to bring, what to do while there, and how to prepare ahead of time for the trip.

Table of Contents

Photo by Ava W. on Unsplash

Getting There

The Mokes are actually called Nā Mokulua in Hawaiian, meaning ‘the two islands’. The Nā Mokulua Islands are located on the east coast of Oahu. From Waikiki, it takes about 35-45 minutes to drive there, there are also companies that will take you there on a day trip with pick up from Waikiki (more on that later!). It’s a great stop on your way to North Shore as well.

The closest beaches are Lanikai and Kailua. One great way to see the islands is to hike up to Lanikai Pillbox where you’ll have an amazing view of the islands. They are 0.75 miles off the coast of Lanikai and around 2-2.5 miles off the coast of the launch in Kailua.

Kayaking out to the Mokolua Twins (the Mokes) from Kailua Beach takes about 1 hour. There’s plenty of parking at this beach and you can place the kayaks into the water directly from this beach making it easier to transport the kayaks.

Kayaking out to the Mokolua Twins (the Mokes) from Lanikai Beach takes about 30 minutes. You will need to find a parking spot in the neighborhood and carry your kayak down to the water. Be careful when parking here as it is all street parking and they will ticket and tow if you park in the wrong place.

I recommend going to Lanikai Beach early if you’d like to go with this option. Lanikai is known as one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu and has awesome snorkeling as well. We chose to hang out on Lanikai Beach for the morning, then kayak to the Mokes in the afternoon. Would highly recommend this!

What to Bring

Kayaking out to these islands is not a long journey, but it’s important to be prepared for ocean kayaking! Here are some items to bring:

Kayaking Options

There are two main options for kayaking to the Mokes. You can either rent a kayak full day/half day or go on a tour.

Tours typically last half a day (5 hours) and will include a guide to take you out to the island and teach you about the history of the islands. Here are some options for your trip.

If you have never sea kayaked before, I recommend the trip with a guide. If you’re athletic and have kayaked before, I think you will be okay to go independently.

Renting your own kayak comes with two options – half-day or full-day rentals. Depending on the swells and how long you want to spend on the island, you can choose an option that works for you. We found a half day to be enough time for us.

We chose to rent a kayak ourselves through Windward Watersports. Not only was it far cheaper than a tour, but we found the directions for kayaking to be easy and the island is small so not difficult to navigate around. Windward Watersports gave us great directions on how to get there and what to expect! They had dry bags and everything we needed for a great trip.

The kayak rental is $100 cheaper (give or take) and a great option for those who feel comfortable visiting the Mokes alone!

About the Mokes

Nā Mokulua is considered a protected bird sanctuary, Mokulua Islets Seabird Sanctuary. The island landing permit allows paddlers to visit Moku Nui (the north island) and walk on the shore. You must have a permit to land on Moku Nui. Make sure if you decide to rent your own kayak that you also get your permit. The permit costs $3 per person and allows you to land your kayak on the island.

The smaller island, Moku Iki, is off-limits for people to visit.

Kayaking to the Mokes

Once we were all set and arrived on Lanikai Beach, we head out onto the water. Lanikai is stunning. During your kayak trip you’ll be looking at mountains, coral reefs, crystal clear blue water, and of course the islands in front of you. I’ve gotten to kayak some beautiful places, but this truly was special. Being out on the ocean and being able to look back at the shore is always a great change of perspective.

It took us about 30 minutes to get out to the island. The weather was in our favor and there were minimal waves, but depending on the time of year you go, there could be large waves so plan ahead for the weather.

As mentioned, you can only kayak to Moku Nui. Do not kayak all the way around the island, the waves on the ocean side can get very large and dangerous. You cannot kayak to Moko Iki.

Landing on the island was a bit of a challenge for us. Because of the time of day, there was a sharp drop off on the beach and there were several people swimming along the shore. The combination of waves and people on the shore made it tricky, but we were able to do it without needing any help.

What to Do While There

The Moko Nui is a small island, but still has plenty to do to occupy your time! Since it is a volcanic island, it’s covered in sharp, jagged rocks except for on the small beach area where you first land your kayak. You’ll want to wear good shoes for being in the water and hiking around on the island if you decide to venture off the beach. More ideas below!

Queens Bath

This shallow saltwater pool is around 8-foot deep and was once used by the royalty of Hawaii as it was thought to have spiritual healing powers. The pool has an extra high salt content and so you can easily float in the water without any effort. You can jump into the water and float just like royalty!

We found the hike around this side (take a right around the beach) of the island to be very beautiful as well. You’ll be looking out over the island of Moko Iki and the mountains of Oahu as you hike. The island is also full of volcanic rocks making lots of beautiful tidepools along the way.

Cliff Jumping

Around the other side, (left) of the island on the very back is Sharks’s Cove. This is a popular spot for cliff jumping but can be difficult to get to if the waves are large. We LOVED this part of the island and found it to be incredibly beautiful.

It was not easy to get to like the Queen’s Bath. You have to time your hiking around the island based on waves as they crash onto the path to get there. As might be able to tell from the pictures, you’ll need to go over rocks near the waves all the way around. I only advise going here if you have the right shoes, are a confident swimmer, and enjoy an adrenaline rush!

This is also a popular snorkeling spot and you can see some really big fish in this area, as well as sharks. I did say this is for the adventurous!

Wildlife Spotting

As a bird sanctuary, you’ll find birds of all kinds on the island, but there’s lots of chances for spotting other types of wildlife too. Monk seals are known for hanging out on the island, sadly we didn’t see any! You can also snorkel here and see fish, turtles, and more right off the beach.

The way back to the beach is just as beautiful and can be more challenging. It took us a bit longer to kayak back than to get there because after all the swimming, hiking, and kayaking we’d done earlier, we were getting tired!

Final Thoughts on Kayaking the Mokes on Oahu

Kayaking the Mokes turned out to be the best part of our second trip to Oahu and I’d do it again in a heartbeat! It’s hard not to have a great time when you’re out on the blue waters of such a stunning place.

Kayaking to the Mokes on Oahu should be on everyone's bucket list for Oahu. Beautiful beaches, wildlife, and adventure await!
Kayaking to the Mokes on Oahu should be on everyone’s bucket list for Oahu. Beautiful beaches, wildlife, and adventure await!

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