Question - Difficulty in Kayaking Kona

We received the following question by email:

We are looking at doing the “Kayak the Sea Caves Near Honaunau” as that looks like loads of fun, and we will be doing the Captain Cook trip as well…based off your recommendation of that as well. Anyways we just want to make sure that a trip like this doesn’t warrant a large amount of “open water” type kayaking experience. We have kayaked in Florida, but not on the ocean, are pretty fit (our past-time is spent climbing mountains in land-locked Colorado) and we just want to make sure that we don’t head out and find ourselves in large, crashing waves and having a sphincter-puckering time. I figure that obviously conditions can change, but in general is this an overly difficult kayak trip requiring quite a bit of experience?




Matt, rest assured, these two kayaking trips- Sea Caves at Honaunau and Captain Cook - are safe adventures.  I’ve spent a lot of time kayaking the Big Island, but like you, I have also kayaked a lot in Florida (Gulf of Mexico, intercoastal waterway, etc.).

Captain Cook is an easy kayak - Kealakekua Bay is almost always a flat body of water, with steep cliffs to the east and very few winds or waves coming from the west.  If you launch your kayak early enough, you have a good chance to spot some Spinner Dolphins in the water with you.  We’ve done this kayak trip countless times, including one time heavily laden with four SCUBA tanks and gear and two paddlers, and most recently with kids age 4 and 3.  You will love this trip and will possibly be the highlight of your time on the Big Island.

The paddle to the Honaunau Sea Caves takes you outside of Honaunau Bay and around the point to the next cove - but the waters here in South Kona are usually calm.  At worst, you may encounter strong winds that simply make it a tougher paddle (not unlike a windy Florida afternoon).  At no time should you feel like you are out in the Pacific’s open water.

For both trips, make sure you bring your snorkel gear and spend plenty of time exploring the coral reef at both locations.  The best part about kayaking yourself instead of taking the charter tour is you are on your own schedule.

As always, get a good weather forecast the day prior, paying particular attention to the surface winds and if there are any small craft advisories.  Then, once you are at the launch point, take a good look at the shore wave breaks and winds once more before starting your paddle.

The only paddle that I have done where I felt a bit “exposed” was the paddle from Kailua Bay to Pawai Bay on a high wind day (my two friends puked their guts out after our dive!)

Feel free to post follow-up questions below.

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