Hawaii is easily one of the most gorgeous spots in all of America. People from all over the world visit its sun-kissed shores to be pampered in world-class resorts and relax on its golden sandy beaches.
But if you’re looking to get a little more active, Hawaii has some amazing opportunities for water sports… it is the home of surfing after all. For paddlers, there are some incredible stretches of coastline that could make this you best kayaking vacation yet.
One island, in particular, will have fans of sea kayaking spoiled for choice; we’re talking about Maui of course!
With so many heaven-on-earth locations, deciding where to paddle in Maui can become overwhelming. You could do them all, but my guess is that you’re not that fortunate to call Hawaii home, and you’ll be pushed for time during your holiday.
That’s why we’ve done the legwork for you. We’ve rounded up five of the best places to go kayaking in Maui, so you can maximise fun, reduce stress, and get more paddling done. Enjoy!
Our Top Kayaking Destinations in the Beautiful Maui
1. Makena Landing
Nestled in South Maui, the beauty of this unspoiled coastline is astounding. Feelings of gratefulness will be rushing as you soak in the sun and marvel at the stunning Haleakala mountain and the Western Maui ranges in the background.
Launching off from Makena Landing puts you right into the heart of a tropical paradise. Paddle a little further, and you’ll reach the famous Turtle Town. And as the name would have you believe, these majestic creatures are everywhere.
Pack your snorkel gear into your bag first, because you’ll be kicking yourself if you forget it. When you get the chance to break the surface, you’ll be in awe of the spectacular reefs teeming with fish, and you’ll love getting up close with the Green Hawaiian Sea Turtles.
Several tour companies offer guided tours around Turtle Town and the nearby Five Caves. Certified guides with an abundance of marine knowledge will accompany you on your trip, and provide insight into the areas beauty.
Makena Landing is easy to get to, and there are parking and bathroom facilities at the launch.
The sea is usually calm, but as with all kayaking spots in Maui, the early riser will get the best kayaking as the wind can pick up in the afternoon.
2. Honolulu Bay
The undisturbed beauty of Honolulu Bay is mesmerising and definitely worth a visit. Spectacular views of Moloka'i Mountain across the channel, as well as the unspoiled beaches on the nearby shores, make this paddle postcard perfect.
You’re actually getting two for the price of one here, as most tours of Honolulu Bay will also visit neighbouring Mokuleia Bay. The two beautiful bays are next to each other, and Honolulu literally means two bays.
It’s common to launch from nearby Fleming Beach, and then make the short paddle to Mokuleia Bay and then onward to Honolulu bay.
Honolulu Bay is where the magic awaits. The bay is in a conservation area that is kept in mint condition by local authorities. There is great visibility when snorkelling, so you’ll have clear views of colourful coral, tropical fish, and the resident turtles. If you’re lucky, you may even spot spinner dolphins or a manta ray which are known to frequent the area.
If you’re a beginner sea kayaker, you’ll need to stick to the guided tours during the calmer summer months, as the surf and high winds introduce complexity and an element of danger not suitable for unskilled paddlers.
3. Molokini Crater
Up for a challenge? If you’re not just looking to kick back during your holiday, paddling out to Molokini is an adventure that will test your endurance. It’s a 7-mile round-trip, not including any paddling you do around the crater, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit for paddling and have sound technique to take this challenge on.
Paddling across the vast open stretch of water to the crater is best done when the waters are still, which means tours take off before sunrise. For making the effort, you’ll be rewarded with a glorious sunrise as the sun breaks over the peak of Haleakala.
Once you reached the moon-shaped island, there’s the opportunity for whale spotting, and you may also be treated to dolphins putting on an acrobatic display.
Molokini is also world renowned for the magnificent landscape below the surface. There are plenty of snorkelling opportunities, so make sure you bring your gear with you.
If the weather permits, you may be able to paddle around to the unsheltered part of the crater and view the jagged cliff face scarred by wind and sea erosion. Witnessing the power of Mother Nature close up is quite astounding.
The Molokini Crater tour is called “the challenge” for good reason, and it’s not for the faint hearted or anyone lacking stamina. But for those that do make the trip, this is an adventure of a lifetime that will leave you with memories you’ll treasure.
4. Hanakao’o Beach Park
The kayaking on offer here isn’t all that epic, but it is great for getting the whole family out on the water. Nicknamed “canoe beach” by the locals, Hanakao’o is an easy kayaking spot with good accessibility and an easy launch off the golden sandy beach.
It’s slightly remote which is part of the attraction, and you’re more likely to find resident kayakers here than tourists. The locals prefer Hanakao’o Beach as it escapes the hustle and bustle and the herds of tourists that go through all the well-known areas.
It’s well-protected and very calm for the most part, providing the ideal conditions for the kids to find their balance and practice their strokes in relative safety – although never out of reach of an experienced paddler. And while it is relaxed, you need to be prepared for the swells and high winds that tend to come through later in the day.
Tours don’t operate here, so make sure you remain vigilant. Don’t paddle too far out, wear your PFD, and always kayak in a group of experienced sea kayakers familiar with rescue practices if you do plan on going further afield.
Combining kayaking with sunbathing and a picnic on the beach will make for a super fun family day out.
5. Coral Gardens, Olowalu
Lying not far from the shore at Olowalu, exists the beautiful coral gardens, home to schools of tropical fish and plenty more marine animals.
The waters around the coral are very shallow at points, but the guides there know the area well enough to navigate through the coral with a blindfold.
Snorkeling in the forest of coral formations is a must if you want the full experience. The underwater world here is dreamlike, and you’ll be hypnotized by the every-coloured fish and swaying reef plants. Crystal clear waters provide near perfect visibility.
The “turtle cleaning station” is a favourite part of the Gardens – turtles park up in the reefs where the fish get to work removing the algae from their flippers and shell.
The only thing that has the potential to spoil this trip is the wind. Getting lost in the enchanting underwater forest may only be available at calmer times of the year, or for paddlers experienced in choppy waters.
It’s also worth noting that if you schedule your trip between December and April, you have a good chance of spotting the whales that rest near Olowalu.
With amazingly clear waters, spectacular mountain backdrops, and up-close-and-personal experiences with nature on offer, it’s easy to see why Maui is such an attractive destination for paddlers. There are many guided expeditions available that cater for both beginner kayakers and old sea dogs.
The guides are knowledgeable, friendly, and go above and beyond to make your day magical. When you hit the waters, you’ll understand why they’re so upbeat – Maui is gorgeous, and kayaking around the island is a dream job come true for these instructors.
And best of all, you can combine your kayak tour with snorkelling for an awesome day of adventure.
For relaxation and world-class kayaking, two weeks in Maui is just what the doctor ordered.