Wet and wild: 5 aquatic adventures you must try in Hawaii

Surrounded by the Pacific, with crystal clear waters stretching for miles in every direction, the islands of Hawaii are the perfect aquatic playground. Here are 5 activities you must try

7 mins

1: Learn to surf on O‘ahu

Surfing at O’ahu (Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson)

Surfing at O’ahu (Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson)

Jumping on a surfboard and riding the waves in Hawaii is a must. The islands are the birthplace of the sport, getting swell from all directions and offering waves to suit beginners and advanced riders, 365 days of the year.

Lessons are available on almost every island. Beginners should head to Waikīkī Beach on O‘ahu. Waikīkī is renowned for its calm and gentle waves, providing the ideal conditions for first time surfers. With the help of expert instructors, beginners will experience the thrills and spills of surfing in no time, against the backdrop of one of the world’s most famous beaches. Hawaii Hot Spots Surf School provides group lessons or private one-on-one sessions.

More advanced surfers should head to Oahu's North Shore, home to some of the most famous breaks in the world including Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Haleiwa Beach Park.

2: Kayak down the Wailua River on Kaua‘i

Kayaking on Kaua’i (Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson)

Kayaking on Kaua’i (Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson)

The Wailua River offers the best kayaking experience in Hawaii. It is the second longest river on the islands and winds its way through the lush Wailua River Valley to the spectacular Ōpaeka‘a and Wailua Waterfalls, only reachable by kayak or hiking.

Make sure you stop to see Heiau, a National Historic Landmark that features the remains of several important structures including places of worship (heiau), places of refuge (puʻuhonua), and sites related to royal births. 

Kayak Kauai offers kayak tours down the Wailua River, from a five-hour guided tour to a remote bridal-veil fall, regarding as sacred by locals, to a shorter, family-orientated three-hour tour that ends with a dip in a idyllic water hole. They also rent out kayaks should you wish to explore the river at your own pace.

3: Swim with manta rays on the island of Hawai‘i

Manta ray in Hawaii (Hawai‘i Tourism Authority/Kirk Lee Aeder)

Manta ray in Hawaii (Hawai‘i Tourism Authority/Kirk Lee Aeder)

Manta rays are one of the largest fish in the ocean, and they thrive off the shores of the Island of Hawai‘i. The clear waters offer the opportunity to swim amongst them, one of the most memorable things you can do on your visit to the islands.

The best time to swim with manta rays is at sunset, when the creatures head to the surface to feed. A Hawaiian sunset is spectacular in itself, but spent in the company of these incredible fish, some over 20 feet wide, is an experience that will stay with you forever.

Fair Wind offer a cruise and manta ray snorkeling adventure most evenings, with the lights from your boat drawing these gentle giants towards you. Mantas are very peaceful – there are no teeth or barbs to worry about – and seeing them feed is like watching a beautiful underwater ballet. 

4: Snorkel around Hulopo‘e Bay on Lāna‘i

Colourful tropical fish (Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau/Kawika Singson)

Colourful tropical fish (Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau/Kawika Singson)

As you can imagine, the islands of Hawaii offer countless opportunities to snorkel, but Lāna‘i’s Hulopo‘e Bay is one of the best. With exquisite blue waters, gleaming white sands and tide pools, full of colourful creatures, including crabs, sea stars and limpets, Hulopo‘e Bay is hard to beat.

Keep an eye out for the spinner dolphins. They are frequent visitors to the bay and will probably come close to investigate what you are up to. Finally, after you’ve towelled down and packed away your gear, head to Shipwreck Beach, an eight-mile stretch of beach dotted with wrecked ships, including an historical and eerie 1940s oil tanker.

5: Take part in the great Paddleboard Race on Moloka‘i

Paddleboarding in Hawaii (Dreamstime)

Paddleboarding in Hawaii (Dreamstime)

Untouched and undisturbed, the beaches on Moloka‘i are regarded as some of the most beautiful in the islands. They are also amongst the most tranquil, although that serenity is tested each year during the annual Moloka‘i to O‘ahu paddleboard race.

First held in 1997, the race welcomes a huge number of solo and team competitors from around the world, creating a competitive and spirited atmosphere on the Ka‘iwi Channel. Billed as the world’s most challenging paddleboard event, the race is held every July and entry is open to all paddle boarders.

Keen to enter? Head over to the official website to find out how.

For more information about aquatic adventures in Hawaii, visit GoHawaii.com.

Main image: Couple paddleboarding in Hawaii (Dreamstime)

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