Kane‘ohe Bay, an 8-mile-long (13-kilometer) reef-protected inlet located on Oahu’s Windward Coast, stretches from the Mokapu Peninsula to Mokoli‘i island. It’s home to four other small islands plus the world’s largest saltwater sandbar, and is a breeding ground for hammerhead sharks. The bay’s calm waters are ideal for kayaking and canoeing.
While Kane‘ohe Bay isn’t great for swimming, the coral reefs surrounding Ahu o Laka—a beautiful sandbar about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from shore—are fantastic for snorkeling. Many tours include boat trips to the sandbar for picnics and exploration of the bay’s small archipelago, including Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli‘i) and Coconut Island (Moku o Loe). Some visitors experience the bay by kayak or canoe—with many guided tours of the area offering kayak rentals with instruction—or even by helicopter.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Kane‘ohe Bay is ideal for nature and outdoors lovers.
- A kayak or other boat is required to access the sandbar, which appears twice daily at low tide. Check a tide timetable to make sure you don’t miss it—and to avoid getting stuck.
- You can hike to the top of Chinaman’s Hat, but there is no defined trail so be prepared with good hiking shoes and drinking water.
- Kane‘ohe Bay is a nursery for scalloped hammerhead sharks. Snorkelers may encounter the shark pups, which like to swim in shallow water. Hammerheads don’t pose much risk to humans, but people are advised to leave the sharks alone and avoid swimming when they are present.
How to Get There
Kane‘ohe Bay lies northeast of Honolulu and Waikiki on Oahu’s Windward Coast. It is accessible by city bus and car, though traffic and parking can be time-consuming. Many bay tours include transport along with boat trips, kayak rentals, or other tours—which is helpful, as most islands and the sandbar are reachable only by boat.
When to Go
The bay is lovely year-round, despite a moderate rainy season from December through February. Hammerhead sharks give birth to their pups in May and June, when you’ll see more sharks in the area.
Visit a Local Marine Research Facility
The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology operates a research facility on Coconut Island (Moku o Loe). The center offers walking tours of the isle with opportunities to see observation tables for marine life, a shark enclosure, and coral reef research facilities.