Kayaking To Chinaman’s Hat (Mokolii Island)

Chinaman’s Hat is a common sight for those visiting the Windward side of Oahu. This little islet is located in Kaneohe Bay and is about 1/3 of a mile offshore of Kualoa Regional Park. The small hat-like island is easily accessible via kayak, however, some people choose walk to the island. Yes, at low tide it is typically shallow enough for you to walk to. We chose to kayak.

Note: For those of you thinking of swimming and/or walking to island or hiking to the top, please be aware of the dangers involved. In 2011, two Army soldiers drowned while walking to the island. That same year, a Canadian fell and died while hiking on the island. In 1982, a few students got in trouble while walking to Mokolii island and a chaperone passed away trying to rescue them. That said, take every precaution, including, but not limited to, knowing the times for high and low tide, and wearing a life vest.

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My GoPro caught the moment when we flipped over.

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We rented our kayak from Go Bananas on Kapahulu and pushed off from Kualoa Regional Park at around 1pm. Using a three-person kayak, we were able to reach Mokolii in about 30 minutes. It was a much faster affair compared to our kayak journey to the Mokulua Islands. Of course, we didn’t reach the island without incident. We flipped over once, and, upon landing at Mokolii noticed that Ryan had installed the kayak seats backwards. Oh well, at least the error was corrected for our journey back to Oahu.

The hike to the top of Chinaman’s Hat is a short. It’ll take about 15-20 minutes. The trail started just off of the point from where we landed. On this previous trip to Mokolii by Marvin et al., they seemed to have landed to the left of where we did. There is some minor rock climbing involved. I was wearing slippers (flip-flops), which was less than ideal. I had to take them off for the rock climbing portions for gripping purposes. Novice hikers might feel a bit uncomfortable with the two sections that require climbing. These two sections, though short, are no joke. It’s very possible to slip and fall here.

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The views from the top of Mokolii Island are breathtaking. There’s no other way to put it. You’ll have an unbelievable 360 degree view. From the top of the hat, you get a great look at the mountains that provide the backdrop for Kualoa Ranch. These are the same mountains that you see in parts of Jurassic Park.

On the kayak trip back, we flipped over once again, about 100 feet or so from shore. We simply walked the kayak in from that point. Two older haole ladies were sitting in lawn chairs on the beach and snapped pictures of us. If you’re reading this (and you’re probably not), send me those photos! They also chuckled as we tried to carry that heavy three-person kayak back to our car.

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Explorers: Coty Gonzales, Ryan Salvador, and Joel Sabugo.

Total Distance: 1/3 mile from Kualoa Regional Park

Total Time: About 30 minutes to kayak from Kualoa Regional Park. About 15 minutes to hike to the top of the island.

Chinaman’s Hat Tips: 

  • Be knowledgeable of times for low tide and high tide.
  • Wear a life vest if kayaking/walking to the island.
  • If walking/swimming to the island, wear water/reef shoes. It’ll save your feet a lot of pain.
  • Bring a dry bag to keep your electronics safe. We flipped over twice, and our DSLR’s would have been fried had it not been for the dry bags.

Directions to Kualoa Regional Park: The park is located at 49-479 Kamehameha Highway.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.

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