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    The Kona Side

    The majority of the kayaking and especially kayak tourism that happens on the big Island is on the West (or Kona) side. The reasons for this are the weather is more often dry, the winds are usually lighter, the coastline more kayak friendly and the snorkelling is far better.

     The site that is the most frequented is Kealakekua Bay which has some of the islands best snorkelling, it's an easy paddle (one mile each way across the bay), often has dolphins (you can kayak or swim in their neighborhood but don't stalk them, (sometimes they will come to you!) Kealakekua is also the spot where Capt Cook made the first Europeon discovery of the islands and where the natives eventually killed him so it does have a monument there with historical significance.

    A short drive south (5 miles) from Kealakekua Bay takes you to the City of Refuge (Honaunau). Immediately on the north side of the City of Refuge Park is a boat launch area and Scuba/Snorkel site called two steps. There is some nice coastline along here and great snorkelling. Paddling a mile south will get you to a cave that is possible to paddle inside if the waves are down. Be wary though, it's not worth destroying your kayak and getting injured on the rocks just to get a photo looking out of  the cave if there's any chance of a larger wave coming through.

     A longer drive south gets you to either Hookena or Milolii. Hookena is a nice beach with campground sometimes having dolphins. Milolii is a small fishing village and if you paddle south there are some beautful beaches, great snorkelling and again often dolphins.

      Between Town (Kailua Kona) and Kealakekua Bay is Keahou Bay which is a beautiful calm bay (most of the time) and has some beautiful coastline and excellent kayak fishing within easy paddling distance.

    North of Kona (and just north of the airport) is Kekahakai State Park. It's bit of a rough drive going in (but recent roadwork may have it again available to rental cars)  ending at a nice beach with a reasonable kayak carry to launch. A 3/4 mile paddle (or walk) north gets you to Makalawena which is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.

      Heading North the next beach acess (near the Cinder Cone) is Kua Bay where they recently opened a new paved road going in with improved parking and restrooms.

     A bit farther north is Kiholo bay, you can drive right in and launch off the beach. Note: the entry road is not marked but it is just south of the scenic viewpoint . It's beautiful bay which once housed a large hawaiian community. An ancient fishpond still exists. Be aware of the tradewind forecast when paddling here. If trades are forecast above 10-20 expect that severe offshore winds will likely occur. And even with a 10-20mph trade forecast, be aware that strong offshore winds could still be possible.

     Still heading North you come to the Hotels in the Hilton/Waikoloa Area. The beach is called Anaehoomalu and you can drop off your kayak gear within a reasonable walk of the beach (depending on how heavy your kayak is or whether you have a kayak dolly) and then go park your car farther away in the parking area. As with all these sites on the North side of Kona, conditions are most often beautiful but watch for above average trade forecasts which can produce violent offshore winds on occasion.

      In South Kohala, launch at either Puako Launch ramp or Kawaihae (by the canoe club). Puako has great snorkelling around to the left, and Wailea Bay is a short paddle around to the right. Paddling Northwest out of Kawaihae quickly gets you to deep water which is great for whale watching (during the winter months) or kayak fishing.

     Farther North is Mahukona which is a beautiful area but highly dangerous. The offshore winds venturi down off the mountain almost everyday. This would be the last paddling area I would recommend to inexperienced paddlers and more experienced paddlers should only be out with minimal trades forecast or in the morning and hugging the coastline. Don't take chances here. People have been lost (Read the story at the bottom)....

     All the way at the North end of the island and actually a bit around to the Northeast side is where the valleys start. this is one of  the most visually stunning parts of the island. Depending on the day, a person can kayak from Keokea Beach Park around to the right which will take you toward the valleys. This is best done with below average tradewinds and early in the morning as long as there is no high surf advisory for the North or Northeast coasts. If the winds do pick up (which you should expect) it will get rough with whitecaps and washing machine (type) wave action bouncing back off the cliffs. As long as your comfortable in rough water your return should be relatively easy with the wind pushing you back toward your starting point.

Mahukona Mishap: I caught this story on the News and in the next few days it went national and was on CNN. They somehow made it sound like this guy was a hero, maybe because it was a slow newsweek and he raised the level of news/entertainment that week.

      Anyway, the guy is paddling/kayaksailing up the South Kohala coast. He's been kayak/camping for a couple of days and makes his way up toward Mahukona. As he relates the story (and the reporters latched onto), he ran into a storm, extremely high winds which swept him out to sea. I can tell you I was paying attention to the weather on the days of his ordeal and the trade forcast was only 10-20 (which is standard). There was no storm but I wouldn't  dispute that he ran into high winds blowing offshore. He paddled/sailed directly into the windline which is there just about everyday with the exception of very light trade days.

      So making a quick U-turn might have got him back into the calm or onshore( reverse) wind direction but in any event he was tumbled out of his kayak numerous times. He didn't relate if he was able to get his sail down and furled or not. Eventually he realized he was in deep trouble and got out his cellphone and started calling 911. By the time they got out searching for him in aircraft he was telling the 911 operator that he believed he might be 20 miles offshore. They could not locate him and apparently he went through the night, still making calls to 911. The next day they were again in search mode looking farther and farther out. Trouble is the farther out one gets the wider the search area since the wind (or if he's still got his sail up) might take him farther off the line that they believe he was being blown..

       So either his cell phone went dead or he was too far for coverage. Finally they located him, 120 miles out!!! They got video from the rescue helicopter and at that time he was still sailing! which was only accelerating his progress away from the island.... He was sunburned and dehydrated but well enough to satisfy the news reporters.

     Same Year, Same Location. A local out in a small inflatable boat with 2hp motor. It was likely a similar story with not such a happy ending. The search was made but no trace was ever found. If the boat didn't sink it would be a terrible way to go.....