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Kona to Upolu Point (Through day 3)

Downwind past Puna To South Point (Day 9-12)

South Point to Kona (Day 13-16)

Upolu to Kapoho, Hamakua/Hilo coast (Day 4-8)                                         


Day 4 Kohala Lighthouse to Waimanu Valley:                                             Pololu Valley looking SE

      Easy 12 mile day . We spend time sightseeing around the offshore islands, one of which has a cave carved completely through it by the continuous assault of breaking waves. We hook up barracuda, losing more than we secure onboard, but plenty for dinner. We shoot all of our, on deck, film of the numerous waterfalls and 1000' near vertical walls, ascending up to 2000' at the rear of the valleys.

     Entering Waimanu valley the normally pristine black sand beach is missing, pulled offshore by the winter waves. Today the waves are small but breaking directly on the steep rocky beach. I ride a wave in, perfectly hitting the only spot with a tiny bit of visible sand left. Getting the kayak hauled up over the steep, round river rocks is another story and requires a Herculean effort.

 Waimanu Valley view from the hiking trail

     On Mik's turn he doesn't get in quite as straight and a larger wave is following him in. I instantly decide not too pull his kayak up (the following wave likely would have snapped off the rudder or worse) and shove him back out into deeper water with the following wave rolling the kayak over. Mik is pissed that I didn't haul him out and now we're both rolling around in the river rocks with a large fishing hook and lure dragging around somewhere nearby.


   The strong sideshore current, along with Mik's rudder being down, make it nearly impossible to get the kayak in a reasonably safe position to haul up. Luckily there are no inhabitants to witness our comedy routine and eventually we get ourselves and the kayak on top of the steep rocky beach.

     The only injury sustained is cuts around my ankles which, over the remainder of the trip, will fail to heal, causing the constant worry of infection which could sabotage our successful outcome. Looking back out, the waves are so small. I make a mental note to not take the small waves for granted as we land at the more difficult areas, otherwise our trip will be ending with one or two destroyed kayaks, like the kayak pieces we currently see strewn across Waimanu's rocky beach.                                                                       

                                                                                                                          Paddling up Waimanu River

      We explore the valley. There is some evidence of ancient Hawaiian Settlements. It is believed that King Kamehameha, born into a royal family beneath the Temple of War, was deemed a threat by a rival king and would be killed if found. As a young child, he was apparently hidden away in this series of valleys, similar I guess to Jesus being hidden from King Herod as a baby, so Kamehameha could grow up to fulfill his destiny of uniting (some would say conquering) the islands and Hawaiian people.

        Waimanu Falls

     Our next stretch will be our toughest upwind leg, 28 miles to the next good landing at Laupahoehoe if we're able to make it all in one outing. We're getting the NOAA weather forecast on our 2 meter ham radio The report is still great and Mik wants to push on tomorrow. I really wanted to stay an extra day to explore the valleys but Mik is right. If you believe in Hawaiian spirits, they have offered us a gift and it would be sacrilegeous to refuse it. Our philosophy Carpe diem (seize the day) has in this circumstance changed to Carpe Meteoroligica (seize the weather).

Day 5 Waimanu to Laupahoehoe (28 miles, 9 hours):

     On these upwind legs there will be no late starts. We are up at 4:30am breakfasting and packing. We're on the water well before first light. We pass, Waipio, the last of the seven major valleys. There are 100 or so residents now living in the valley.                                                      

                                                                                                                Wild Mules at the Waipio Launch

Wild horses in Waipio Valley


    Waipio valley in centuries past was a bustling Hawaiian community with 10,000 inhabitants or more, Taro farming being a major enterprise. When the Europeans brought disease which the Hawaiians had no immunity to, somewhere around 90% of the total Hawaiian population was wiped out. That combined with tidal waves, a dangerous 4wd road and a river that often floods are a few reasons why the valley is so sparsely populated (maybe 100 residents) today.

   Passing Waipio Valley, 25 miles of cliffy coastline ahead


     Mik used his last disposable water camera yesterday. I told him there were more incredible falls and scenery coming up and now he's mentally kicking himself in the rear multiple times every hour. This coastline, the Hamakua, meaning fighting stroke to windward is aptly named. It's usually brutally rough and our direction taking us against the grain should be the make or break section of the trip.


    Today is beautifully calm though, we come up to a protected bay and see humpback whales heading in our direction. We stop the kayaks and wait hoping to spot them as they pass by. To our astonishment, the whales surface only a few feet from our kayaks! We didn't plan on getting this close and are not as comfortable as we would have been if we were 100' away or more.

     We stay quiet and I snap photos while we have the opportunity. The mother whale is holding her calf balanced on her back, pushing it up to the surface, to get a good breath of air. They have stopped moving and for a short time give us a beautiful introduction to the Cetacean birthing process.

     We notice what looks like a large diameter rope off the back of the baby's tail and I realize that we are seeing the umbilical cord, still attached, and this calf was born just a short time before. The whales soon head North and we continue South, reflecting on our experience. It's amazing the emotions that erupt when in the presence of these magnificent mammals.

     At 18 miles into our day, we anchor the kayaks and stop for a rest, swimming in through a nasty shorebreak onto the rugged rocks. We believe the long mileage will be easier if we take a break. In the afternoon we continue covering our remaining 10 miles.

Laupahoehoe Point on a normal windy day

        The clouds deepen and the rain starts, the headwind is light as we view the unmistakable protrusion of the flat but rugged Laupahoehoe Point that juts out from the seemingly unending miles of cliff. We round the rugged point and pull into the nicely protected boat launch area. We walk our stuff up a short 50 yards to a beautiful campsite in a public park with showers for once!

                                                     Memorial listing the tidal wave victims

    We camp just yards from the memorial that marks the spot where fourteen schoolchildren and their teachers (on a field trip) had their lives extinguished on April 1st 1946 as a tidal wave roared onto this coast with no warning. We are only two days short of the anniversary of the tragedy. Day after tomorrow the memorial will again be covered with many flowers and leis remembering those that were lost.

Day 6 Laupahoehoe to Hakalau

     Sporting tired muscles from our long paddle yesterday we are more than happy to have our easiest day yet, only 10 miles! We soon arrive at Hakalau Valley and we both surf perfectly up onto the beach and set up camp in a beautiful valley with freshwater stream.

     I am sleeping soundly in our tent when a couple walk by and along the beach area. Mik goes out to introduce himself and share our story. It turns out he is talking with the new owner of Hakalau Valley! This semi-secret spot has long been a local picnic area and camping hideaway.

     It turns out that the new owners have gated the entrance to discourage camping but are still allowing the public to park outside, walk in and enjoy the beach area.

     The owners enjoy hearing our story and are happy to allow us to camp in their spectacular valley. We catch a ride as they head out so we can get to a phone and make a few calls to let the outside world know that we are ahead of schedule and staying healthy.

(Kawaihae Breakwater on a happening kayak surf day!)

April 1 Day 7 Hakalau to Hilo (Richardson's Park) 15 miles

     We are again out at dawn, packing the kayaks in the dark. We inadvertently miss packing the anchor that had been lying in the deep grass. During the night the swell picked up and after a challenging paddle out through dangerous surf conditions neither of us is volunteering to go back for it.

    We head for Hilo and the rare reverse trades are again picking up. On this side of the island they call them Maui winds (blowing from Maui) and amazingly what should be one of the tougher sections of our voyage, we are flying downwind covering the 15 mile leg in only 3 hours.

     Coming in through the surf at Richardson's park, Mik snaps off one of his Nico-crimps on his stainless steel cable controlling the rudder. His right rudder now useless, the bungee holding the left puts him in a strong left turn and has him flirting with a large lava rock. Thinking quickly he retracts the rudder and is successfully able, after a few choice words, to glide into the calm lagoon. We land on a quiet black sand beach at only 9:30am.

     Hilo has been ravaged by Tidal Waves twice during the past century. April 1946 (same one that hit Laupahoehoe) and the last one (in 1961) reduced the Hilo ocean front to rubble. Since then the bayfront was not rebuilt and is now a large public park. We call a taxi and hit the Wall Mart, Safeway and hardware store to get supplies for the remainder of the trip, to repair the rudder cable and set up an alternate anchor so we'll again be able to anchor offshore and swim in, if needed, onto difficult coastline.

Day 8 Hilo to Pohiki (29 miles)

       Out at dawn in stormy conditions. Anyone knowing the weather here will understand we are lucky dogs. The Maui winds (reverse trades) are continuing to push us East. We pound into a crosswind getting past the first point until we are able to turn downwind. I'm pretty sure we could find a camp spot somewhere along this 29 mile leg, but with the strong tailwinds we feel obliged (Carpe meteorologica) to take advantage of the rare conditions. We cross the fairly deep and long bay on a straight line staying well offshore and finally round Cape Kumakahi (the islands easternmost point), spotting the only shark (about 6 feet long) of our trip just before entering Kapoho Bay.                                                          The Kapoho Hot Ponds

     This bay has spectacular hot ponds and we stop for a welcome jacuzzi. We've covered the last 25 miles in only 5 hours. It's low tide and the pond is separated from the ocean by dry rocks. In the pond (about 300 yards long) we find about 30 turtles gathered in small groups around the volcanically heated vents, looking very much like health club members, each monitoring a hot jet, after a moderate workout. The water is crystal clear and we get some great underwater photos while enjoying the 90+ degree water.

     We consult our chart and find that an additional 4 mile paddle will get us to Pohiki, our next good camp site, so off we go riding the winds of hope to Pohiki. We have now covered over half the miles (by far, the more difficult half) of our Big Island circumnavigation. We are now confident that barring any major problems, (infection around my ankles now being my constant worry), we should be successful in our circumnavigation attempt.

Kona to Upolu Point (Through day 3)

Downwind past Puna To South Point (Day 9-12)

South Point to Kona (Day 13-16)