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Honaunau Bay in Hawaii

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Today's paddling adventure began at my place where we loaded my Nissan pickup with three sit-on-top kayaks and assorted safety equipment and soft coolers for the trip. A final check on everyone's snorkel gear completed our preparations. Upon arrival at Honaunau Bay we found three-five foot swells and a light breeze. The sea conditions were not ideal for paddling close to shore to observe lava cliffs, sea caves and ancient lava tubes, but it was exciting to see these moderate sized swells pound the lava cliffs - exploding upward as they hit shore. We hurriedly unpacked the equipment and got it to the launch site.

A small harbor led to the open bay. A one-two foot swell was breaking over the shallows leading from the harbor mouth, providing a mini-adventure to begin our four our paddle. We neatly knifed through the waves and immediately found ourselves just outside a significant number of snorkelers that come from the adjacent "twostep" beach area. We passed on the snorkeling for now and put on the juice heading north. The waters inside the bay were easy swells that had us in a nice rhythm - moving rapidly out of the bay.

As we rounded the northern tip of the bay the sea suddenly became very confused - as the swells hitting the lava cliffs now were returned to sea and collided with the incoming swells. We paddled several miles in this "maytag" sea - enjoying the black lava coastline and swaying palms from about 1/4 mile from shore. We kept close attention to the ocean view as well to be sure we didn't miss any spinner dolphins or humpback whales that we might encounter. Although we weren't blessed with an encounter today, we also keep a close eye out for these wonderful travelers that oftentimes are found in these waters.

The return paddle was fueled with a tail wind and some growling stomachs... we were glad when we turned the corner into the bay and the seas were in a more harmonious disposition. We rafted our kayaks together and tore into lunch. Why the food is better tasting & more satisfying on these trips - I cannot explain. After drifting with the wind for half an hour and leisurely snacking on that last cookie - we packed things up and broke off to the lee side of the bay where again we rafted together before setting off with our snorkel gear into the 75 degree water. No temperature transition at all for us full figured guys - it was just like bathwater and the water clarity was good. Typically visibility is 100' or so - this is very, very good. They call these waters one of the largest salt-water aquariums in the world and for good reason. The abundance of sea life is wonderful. We must have seen a dozen or more different tropical fish. There is also a variety of corals and invertebrate life completing this delightful underwater world. While snorkeling we didn't notice the swells any longer - our focus was now strictly below the surface. It is surprising how little current there was considering the pounding of the surf outside the bay - but we were please with the lack of currents. We did encounter an endangered sea turtle or "honu" as known in the Hawaiian language. This one would never get flushed down anybody's toilet! It was about 2' long and maybe a foot wide with a neck as thick as a man's arm.

After we had warn ourselves out in the water and the skin on our hands became well wrinkled - we headed back to the kayaks and stowed our gear. Our sights were now set to return to our landing site. We noticed that the waves had either picked up or the tide lowered. It turned out that the tide had lowered and the waves appeared taller. We spent about five minutes assessing the wave conditions and considered our contingency plans for several scenarios. We paddled into the harbor mouth and found long gentle waves driving us in. Easy to control our direction in these benign waves, we commented on each others kayak surfing skills. It was the perfect end to a pretty darned nice day... Highly recommend kayaking on the Big Island of Hawaii.


Boat launch ramp and protected harbor. No food or drinks available at the ocean. Bathrooms available. Picnic tables available.


If you use the church parking lot - $2 donation per car.


Drive south on hwy. 11 from Kailua-Kona about 25 minutes. Drive west on hwy 160 then take a left turn toward the Place of Refuge National Park. Turn right just before the parking lot for the National Park. Drive about 1/8 mile and park along oceanfront.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Open Water/Ocean

Trip Location