Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 3 - Captain Cook)

Kayaking across Kealakekua Bay

Slowly but surely, our sleep cycle is getting more steady - we are still somewhat jetlagged, waking at around 6:30AM - but at least we are going to sleep around 8-9PM, so we are getting plenty of sleep time.

On this day, we decided to kayak across Kealakekua Bay to the marine sanctuary known as Captain Cook (named after the monument on the far side of the bay where Captain Cook was killed by the native Hawaiians). We started off with breakfast at one of my favorites - the “Buns in the Sun” bakery and deli. They have a full breakfast menu and also offer great sandwiches for lunch.

This particular morning I had the Kalua Pig with eggs and hash browns along with a POG (passion fruit/orange juice/guava juice mixture). DE-LISH! We also grabbed some sandwiches to go (2 x Kalua Pig sandwiches!) and put them in our soft-cooler filled with ice. The cooler was also jam-packed with snacks for the kids. I’ve starved out there at Captain Cook before and did not want to take the chance again today (especially with kids).

Next, we were off to rent our kayaks. I’ve rented my kayaks from the same person at the same store as long as I can remember (at least since 2001) - that is a Hawaiian fella by the name of “Eva” at Aloha Kayaks in the small town of Honalo, just south of Kailua-Kona. They always treat me like family and also offer me the Kamaaina rate. Today was no different, they helped load both kayaks on the roof rack of the Explorer and the various accessories that we’d need like paddles, straps, seats, etc. Then, off we went driving down the winding road to Kealakekua Bay in South Kona.

I’d recently read an article in the local (Big Island) paper that said that the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) will be cracking down on kayakers to Captain Cook and requiring permits starting in late February 2010… more to follow in another blog post.

Upon arriving at the wharf at Kealakekua Bay I noticed it busier than I’d ever seen in the 9+ years that I have been kayaking to Capt Cook - the wharf was clogged with kayaks, droves of tourists, and people off loading gear and milling about in a bizarre mix of tour guides, local bystanders, DLNR officers, and passengers/kayakers. There was little car ettiquette too as we quickly got boxed in from behind by some clueless driver/visitor. The point here is to unload the heavy stuff (kayaks) near the edge of the wharf, then park your car and walk back to your kayak to load it/prepare your gear.

We quickly downloaded the kayaks from the roof rack and placed the keikis (kids) into the kayaks for safe keeping as we prepped the gear and slathered sun block on ourselves - there is not a speck of shade while kayaking the mile+ across the bay; and once across, there is but a little bit of shade at the edge of the lava rocks.

We secured our gear on our kayaks by using the bungie cords that were built-into the kayak fore and aft cargo sections. Make sure everything is latched down or tied to the kayak - just in case the kayak tips on water entry or while kayaking! Remember things like designer sunglasses, swim fins and masks SINK to the bottom of the ocean!

Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii

View to the South, Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii

Finally, we were ready to launch the boats. First, I helped my friend and his son into their kayak as they shoved off the wharf and paddled through the surging water. Each kayak will have a long bow line that you hold to keep the boat from being pushed by the waves all the while the first person is lowered / climbs down into the kayak. Lastly, the second person (in a tandem kayak) gingerly slides down and onto the kayak being careful to stay stable and on the middle of the boat. Then start paddling and avoid the rocks! We ended up getting a little help launching our boat and then off we went towards the tall white obelisk across the bay (Captain Cook’s Monument).

The paddle is an easy one - the waters (like this day) are usually calm and winds slight (towering cliffs surround the bay on three sides). If you are lucky and early, you may see Spinner Dolphins swimming in the bay - we’ve spotted pods of a dozen+ with babies and all! As we approached the monument, again I was stunned to see the higher than normal level of traffic - at least 4 different zodiac boats, two large charter catamarrans and dozens (yes DOZENS) of kayaks in the water and moored on the lava rocks nearby.

With a young 4 year old on board my kayak, I knew that we needed to take things easy. However, it did not stop me from enjoying the paddle across and as we approached the monument (above a very nice coral reef ledge) I eased over the side of the kayak with my snorkel gear on and while holding the bow line of the boat in one hand, I snorkeled (pulling the kayak next to me). I even was able to hold my underwater camera and snap a few photos. Eventually my son became curious enough to want to slide into the water next to me (still wearing his PFD) and don snorkel gear to get a look-see of the splendid underwater life below. After a while of this, we finally maneuvered to the cove where all the other kayakers had dragged their kayaks ashore (just to the left / west of the monument).

Snorkeling at Captain Cook, Kona

Snorkeling at Captain Cook, Kona

This cove was formed by dried lava formations and the ground is both very slippery and very sharp. On more than on occassion we have slipped and/or cut ourselves here (that is why we brought a very robust first aid kid on this day). Put on footwear BEFORE you disembark from your kayak at the cove. Any of the lava rocks that are covered with green algae are EXTREMELY slippery - watch out and walk as if you were on egg shells.

The area around this cove is dominated by many small tide pools. Each one a completely vibrant eco-system. As we explored the large tide pool next to us, we saw two small (baby) moray eels and many fish (including several lizard fish). The kids were very excited - just like their experience at Richardson Beach tide pools, they were close to the fish and could really observe.

There is a short trail that takes you from the edge of this cove to the Capt. Cook monument area where you can see the obelisk and the sea wall. While standing on the sea wall, you can see all the way down to the reef below you because of the exceptonal clarity of the waters here.

We also did some snorkeling in the immediate cove area (semi-protected, shallow, and less rocky). The kids really enjoyed this and got very comfortable in the water. We had a picnic under the shady trees - finally a break from the direct sun! The Kalua Pig sandwiches hit the spot! The kids had pretty big appetites too - from all the outdoor activity. Alas as the sun continued to shine hot on our backs and faces, it was time to depart the cove and return to the wharf. We did one last pass over the reef with the kayaks as I snorkeled adjacent them. I finally slid back into my kayak and began paddling back to the far shore. About halfway back the long day, hot sun, and waves nudging the kayaks rocked the kids in both kayaks right to sleep! We made it back to the wharf and quickly exited the water as many kayakers were in line much like planes circling for landing at O’Hare Airport.

Then it was a quick load of the kayaks and gear back in the truck and a short ride back to the kayak rental place. It was a great day - saw a ton of great things in and underwater and…. no one got sunburnt!

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Related Posts:

  1. Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 5 - Green Sand Beach)
  2. Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 4 – Waipio Valley)
  3. Big Island Adventures with Kids (Part 2 - Hilo/Hamakua)
  4. Question - Renting Kayaks at Captain Cook
  5. Kayak to Captain Cook

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