The best stretch of sand in Kaneohe Bay is out on the middle of the sea. That’s where the sandbar, or “Sunken Island” emerges during low tide, and its sugary white sands are like a floating cay that was made especially for you. Kayaking to the sandbar is one of the most popular activities on the Windward Side of Oahu, and while the beaches along the shoreline aren’t great for swimming, the protected waters make the perfect spot for paddling, boating, or kayaking.
In addition to the sandbar, five islands poke above the turquoise, reef-fringed waters. The tallest of the islands—Chinaman’s Hat—rises 200 feet from the northern edge of the bay and offshore of Kualoa Park. Known to Hawaiians as Mokoli“i, the island resembles a large straw that seems to be floating on the surface of the water. While there may or may not be a Chinese man underwater (according to local legend), one thing that’s found on the Kaneohe seafloor is tens of thousands of sea urchins—imported by scientists to help stave off the growth of highly invasive algae. While the water around the sandbar offers nice swimming and has a soft, sandy bottom, much of the shoreline is rocky, slippery, and potentially covered in urchins. A better bet is to stay in the kayak and enjoy the view of the mountains, which explode from the shoreline with a rugged fury, their peaks outstretched toward the clouds.
Kaneohe Bay is on the island’s eastern shore about 30 minutes from Waikiki. Morning hours offer calmest conditions for paddling, swimming, and boating, and check the tide charts for low tide for the best time to visit the sandbar. Private boats and charter boats can be rented in Kaneohe, and kayak rentals are offered in the neighboring town of Kailua.