Moku Nui: The Ultimate Kayak Destination

Moku Nui and Moku Iki
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Moku Nui: The Ultimate Kayak Destination

I have a friend from the mainland visiting me this week, and the number one thing that she wanted to do was go kayaking. I had just the place in mind. We drove to Kailua Beach Adventures in Kailua, rented a kayak, and paddled to Moku Nui, one of the Mokulua Islands off the coast of Lanikai Beach.

Come along as I share all about this great adventure to Moku Nui, and how you can see it for yourself when you’re in Hawaii. 

Getting There

We started our day by packing our dry bag. We brought water, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, a waterproof camera, sunscreen, and our IDs and credit cards. In the car, we left towels so we could dry off right before getting back in the car.

We got to Kailua Beach Adventures right as they opened, at 8:00 am. We were among the first people there. I was glad because we were able to purchase our rental quickly. 

Safety First When Visiting Moku Nui

After we had purchased our kayak, we watched a short safety video. I appreciated this because the video showed you exactly how to get the kayak into the water, how to paddle, and how to land on shore safely. It also shows you what to do if your kayak tips over.

The video also showed the four different destinations you can kayak to from Kailua Beach.

The first option is to go to Flat Island. Flat Island is a bird sanctuary, so you can only walk around the perimeter. The rest is roped off, but it is still a nice trip.

The most advanced kayakers will opt to kayak to Moku Nui, the larger of the two islands known as The Mokes off of the coast of Lanikai beach. No one is allowed to kayak to the smaller island on the right, Moku Iki.

For a shorter paddle that ends in a beautiful destination, you can also kayak to Lanikai Beach.

And for beginners, there is an option to go into a small channel in Kailua.

The video explains each of these options. It explains who would be best suited for each option and the route that you can take to get to each one.

After the safety video, we also had to watch a video about Hawaiian monk seals. A monk seal recently gave birth to a pup and has been resting and nursing the pup on Moku Nui for the past four weeks. Volunteers stay with the monk seals all day to ensure that people keep their distance. Because monk seals are endangered, it is crucial that people stay away from them and listen to the volunteers. Volunteers rope off areas to ensure their safety.

Moku Nui

Getting to Kailua Beach

After we had watched the videos, we got our life jackets and our kayak. The kayak is on a dolly so that you can roll it out of the shop and down to the beach.

You have to take it kind of far so that you are out of the way of swimmers, but the video explains exactly where to go. It’s pretty easy to get the kayak down to the beach because of the dolly. There is a little bridge where people leave their dollies, and then they take the kayaks into the water.

Kayaking Moku Nui

We got the kayak into the water, hopped on, and immediately started paddling out. There is a lot of coral in the ocean, and it can get pretty shallow, so you have to follow the path that the video provides. Otherwise, you might hit the coral.

As we were paddling, we saw about 4 or 5 Hawaiian green sea turtles! It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in Hawaii. We saw them swimming on the surface and sticking their heads out of the water to breathe. I only saw one other kayak out as far as I could see, and we kept pointing out sea turtles to each other. I felt like we had the entire ocean all to ourselves. It was an incredible moment.

When we got close to Moku Nui, we made sure to land by the red flag. The red flag signaled that monk seals were resting on the beach. It also showed us where it was safe for our kayak to land so that we would be far enough away from the monk seals. A volunteer from the Hawaii Marine Mammal Alliance was there, and she gave us instructions and helped us land our kayak.

If there’s not a monk seal present during your trip to Moku Nui, you likely won’t encounter a volunteer on the island. 

Bonus Sighting: Monk Seals

After kayaking to Moku Nui, we saw a monk seal and her pup laying on the beach.
After kayaking to Moku Nui, we saw a monk seal and her pup lying on the beach.

The beach on Moku Nui is pretty small. So, as soon as we got out of our kayak, we saw the mom and the pup resting on the beach.  The volunteer had already blocked off an area for them to rest so that no one else would. She told us that monk seals are one of the most endangered animals in the world. Only 1400 monk seals remain, so the work that these volunteers do is critical.

Since we had left Kailua early in the morning, we were the second group of kayakers to enter Moku Nui. There were only 5 of us on the entire beach.

It was a surreal experience to witness a monk seal and her pup playing around and cuddling. After a little while, they went into the water to play. We watched them for a few minutes and ate our lunch.

After a while, the pup went into the water. The concerned mother soon followed. As they swam around the water, the volunteer adjusted the area that people were allowed to bring their kayaks onto.

Soon, they came back on shore, and the volunteer roped off a new area for them again. It was so peaceful and quiet with just a few other people around.

Headed Home

After about an hour, Moku Nui started getting crowded. The beach is pretty small, and my friend and I wanted to give the monk seals a chance to rest. We also wanted to give other people a chance to see them. So, we put our kayak in the water and headed back. The hardest part of the whole day was getting the kayak back into the water at Moku Nui because the waves were a little bit rough at that point.

The way back was a little bit easier because the wind was on our side. As we pulled up back onto Kailua Beach, I turned around to see a sea of yellow kayaks. I was so glad that we went early in the morning! There was such a difference in the number of people kayaking.

Your Trip to Moku Nui

Kayaking to Moku Nui was an incredible morning. If you are up for a kayaking challenge, I highly recommend renting a kayak in Kailua. Hawaii Aloha Travel can help recommend beaches, kayak tours, and rental shops for your vacation. 

Here are a few tips for your trip to Moku Nui:

  • Only go paddle to Moku Nui if you are an experienced kayaker and familiar with the water. And be sure to talk with experts or your rental shop about the best route there. 
  • Go early in the morning for the best conditions and to beat the crowds. 
  • Wear lots of sun protection, like reef-safe sunscreen, long sleeves, and a hat. 
  • Bring water and snacks with you. 
  • Keep your distance from any marine life, like sea turtles and monk seals. 

We can’t wait to hear all about your adventures paddling to Moku Nui or Lanikai Beach, or simply hanging out on the shoreline and admiring the islets from afar.