Frequently asked questions
Go Plenty Pupule
and be glad you did!
The Windward (Hilo) Side
On the Hilo side kayaking is bit more weather dependant than the Kona side. Also the coastline is far more rugged, very beautiful but with less landable locations if one is thinking about travelling down the coast.
Hilo Bay: This is definitely the safest of the East side Kayaking locations due to the protection offered by the outer breakwall. Launch at Hilo Bayfront or Reeds Bay. Kayaking up the Wailuku River a short distance to a regularly flowing waterfall is a possibility. The surf does break in front of the humming bridge when the waves are up. . Kayak surfing can be good here but the water is less than sanitary. Ingesting the water or having it enter any open sores here could be a problem...
Driving a few miles to the East of Hilo Bay takes you to a few launchable sites including Richardsons Beach Park. Richardsons can get high surf at times. Most of the time it has a lagoon and calm channel allowing easy access in and out but each day can be different. Surfers are often riding in front of Richardsons if the waves are up. Be careful with higher surf.
Heading NW toward the Hamakua coast is spectacularly beautiful with many miles of cliffy coastline and waterfalls. Unfortunately the cliffy coastline doesn't provide many launch or landing areas and the prevailing trade winds often blow hard enough that you better be careful not to end up on the downwind side of your launch point. Otherwise you might be committed to the next landable spot downwind which you should be aware of and how far that might be....
KoleKole Beach Park: often has waves breaking across the river mouth. In small surf kayak launch and landings can be accomplished with a bit of skill.
Hakalau: The access is currently open again( there was a locked gate for some time) and beach access is allowed. The launch/landing here is generally easier tha Kolekole. Beware of higher surf though, it can get dangerous. The wind is often strong and if you do go downwind be aware that your next exit along this cliffy coastline is Laupahoehoe, about 10 miles to the NW...
Laupahoehoe Beach Park: This area regularly gets extremely high winds especially in the afternoon. There is a protected launch ramp for easy access but I'd recommend only paddling here when the wind is light and always paddling toward Hilo so if the wind does pick up, it's a downwind run back to your starting point. Be aware that going NW has no landable point for 25 miles until you reach Waipio Valley which often isn't always an easy landing point in itself.
Waipio Valley : 4WD access only. The possibility of getting in or out depends on the size of the surf. There is no calm channel to get in or out. It's always through the surf so if it's small or one has an abundance of whitewater skills it might be relatively easy. Then again, if it's higher surf it may be impossible or extremely dangerous for all but the most accomplished watermen, and even they will probably have the smarts to wait for a better day or break out the surfboard when conditions require it.
South of the Hilo area: the next good kayaking site going South is Kapoho Bay but it's private access so unless you own a place or are visiting or renting there, access is a problem unless you have an offroad vehicle and know the rough lava road access from the lighthouse rd side...
Pohiki: This is a boat ramp with protected jetty. Good during lighter wind conditions which is most often mornings. It's also one of the best surf spots on this side of the island. During smaller surf getting in and out of the bay is easy. Higher surf can completely close the bay out with breaking waves, so again watch the conditions. Heading out of Pohiki stay toward the North. The prevailing trades blow toward the South here and you don't want to get commited to the Punaluu exit 51 miles to the South...
Punaluu: During lighter winds this can be a nice area to paddle. Turtles are everwhere near shore. Stay toward the North. The prevailing trades blow toward the South (See Below)
South Point Launch ramp: Probably the most dangerous place on the island. Don't even think about paddling it unless you're an extremely skilled kayaker and know the wind, weather and coastline of the Big Island. The possible hazards include being blown off the island and finding out what it's like to die of Sunburn and dehydration as you make your way (unsuccessfully) toward the Marqueses Islands, some 2,000 miles or so across the Pacific.
Just so you know I'm not joking about South Point, I'll relate a scary kayaking story I recently heard about. The story was told by a kayaker that on this day happened to be out in a power boat with fishing buddies, some six miles offshore along the South Point coast. The conditions were somewhat normal (for this coast) which on this coast means pretty bad with large waves and breaking whitecaps. On this day the clouds/vog/haze made it impossible to see back to land. One of the group was hooked up to a fish and the others were watching and waiting for the fish to be hauled into the boat. My kayaker friend telling the story says he caught a glimpse of color, quite a ways off to the side, dissapearing below the swells. He continued to watch and the color returned above the swells, he believed it looked like a kayaker and informed his buddies that an unlikely kayak was this far offshore in these conditions. The buddies had a hard time believing him but they kept watch until the fish was landed. Then it was on to the rescue mission where they came upon the kayaker who was seasick, disoriented and didn't have any idea of which way land was.
This was his lucky day. I'm told he was a Big Island local so take note if you're a visitor that certain areas can be dangerous for anybody. They loaded him and his kayak onboard and brought him back to shore. They found him soon enough that he quickly recovered from his ordeal and was fine by the time they reached shore. The power boats are extremely few and far between in this area and had he not been spotted, when he was, it is likely that he would have been carried another 50+ miles offshore during the night and never heard from again....