December 5, 2017

Mokes, Oahu + How to see the Mokulua Islands :: beach. hike. kayak. oahu hawaii.

Mokulua islands: Mokes Oahu Hawaii

If you’ve spent some time planning for your Hawaii vacation on Oahu, there’s a good chance you’ve seen an image of these islands.

The Mokes of Lanikai

These are the Mokulua islands. They are also referred to as the Mokes. They are located off the coast of Lanikai and Kailua on Oahu.

You can take a guided kayak tour to the islands.

Here are some more adventure activities on Oahu.

Side note!
If you'll be snorkeling on your next vacation, consider wearing these types of UV swim shirts. Also see about what to pack for Hawaii for hiking, snorkeling, and more essentials! And for Hawaii vacation ideas, see the best things to do in Oahu that will give you Hawaii vibes!

Na Mokulua: Two islands

Na Mokulua is the more official term for the Mokulua islands. The meaning of Na Mokulua in the Hawaiian language is the two islands.

And at one time long ago, these islands were connected to the area now known as Lanikai. But today, they are separate islands as a result of erosion.

Mokulua Islands: The Mokes from Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu Hawaii.

Map of Lanikai and Kailua

For a bit of a visual, see this Lanikai map below for the relation of the Mokulua islands to Lanikai and Kailua. It’s an interactive map, so click on the icons to see what’s there. You can expand out the Oahu map to have a look where Waikiki and Honolulu are too.

For easier planning for your time in Hawaii, have a look at another Oahu map too that includes lots of ideas for things to do in Oahu!

Mokulua Islands: Lanikai map with the Mokes, Oahu Hawaii

How to see the Mokulua islands

Well, the simple description of how to see the Mokulua islands is… to head to Lanikai! 😉

But beyond that…

There are 3 common ways you might choose to have the Mokulua islands be a part of your Hawaii vacation for a perfect instagram moment!

  1. Lanikai Beach
  2. Lanikai Pillbox Hike
  3. Kailua kayak rental

1. Lanikai Beach

A visit to Lanikai Beach is probably the easiest and least strenuous way to make a half-day activity out of seeing the Mokes. This beach has been named one of the best beaches in the world.

Mokulua Islands: Clear view of Na Mokulua from Lanikai Beach in Oahu Hawaii

How about some swimming with that famous backdrop?!

Mokulua Islands: Clear view of Na Mokulua from Lanikai Beach in Oahu Hawaii. With some snorkeling!

If you’re looking to have a bit more of an adventure on Oahu, there are also 2 more ways to see the Mokulua Islands. One way is to see the islands with a sweeping landscape view from above. (Hiking!) And the other way is to see the islands up close and personal. (Kayaking!)

2. Lanikai Pillbox Hike

The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is probably the most famous hike in the Lanikai and Kailua area. The popular version of the hike is pretty much a straight hike up that takes you to the pillboxes. The pillboxes are basically an oceanfront view of the Mokes from above.

You can make your hike longer by going the full distance of the Kaiwa Ridge Trail. Once you get to the first pillbox, the trail then starts to head inland away from the ocean. Making it to the first pillbox will get you the closest view to the Mokulua islands. Heading further out on the trail will get you to see a wider landscape of the area with the islands!

The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is probably one of the best hiking trails in Oahu because of the amazing views. It’s one of the many ridge trails in Oahu, which means you’re basically walking on the top of the mountain range for most of the trail. You have ocean views in one direction, and mountain views in the other direction! See more pictures of the Lanikai Pillbox Hike!

Here’s a pocket guide to the best short hikes on Oahu.

Mokulua Islands: View of the Mokes from the Lanikai Pillbox Hike and Kaiwa Ridge Trail in Oahu Hawaii.

3. Kailua kayak rental

If you’re feeling even more adventurous than hiking, you may also want to consider kayaking to the Mokulua islands!

Well actually, you’d be kayaking to just one of the islands since only one of the islands allows for public access. The north island, called Moku Nui, is the island you would kayak to, while the south island, called Moku Iki is off limits. Also to note, the Mokulua islands are home to bird sanctuaries.

If one island isn’t enough, you can also stop by Popoia Island on your way to the Mokulua islands from Kailua. Popoia Island also has a bird sanctuary. Head back up to the Lanikai map to see where Popoia Island is located.

Although you want to have a reasonable amount of fitness before attempting to kayak from Kailua to the Mokulua islands, this kayak trip is generally considered to be beginner-friendly. But if you are a beginner to kayaking and you aren’t confident in your kayaking skills, it’s best that you head out on a calm day. If the waters are choppy, it can not only make for an unpleasant experience, but it could become dangerous too. In general, this makes summer a better time for beginners when it come to kayaking around Kailua.

For your kayak rental, you’ll rent your kayak, watch a video to help you with basic kayak skills, then you’ll be on your way to the ocean! And “on your way” first means that you’ll be given a cart so that you can walk and roll your cart to the water. And then you can get into your kayak and really be on your way paddling to the Mokes!

Or, if you’d rather have a guided kayak tour to the Mokulua islands for safety reasons, you can do that too.

This picture below is at Kailua Beach. In the distance you can see the yellow kayaks if you look closely. This is near where your journey towards the Mokulua islands and Lanikai will begin!

Mokulua Islands: Kailua Beach near Kailua kayak rental to start kayaking to the Mokes and Lanikai in Oahu Hawaii.


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There are affiliate links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, I may receive a commission.

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Swimwear for snorkeling and beach

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see more:
- What to wear hiking
- Snorkeling essentials for Hawaii
- What to wear on a cruise formal night

more Hawaii travel tips:
-- Oahu travel planning map
-- 3 day Oahu itinerary
-- 2 week Oahu itinerary
-- Best short hikes on Oahu with amazing views
-- Big Island travel planning map
-- 7 day Big Island itinerary
-- Best beach hikes on the Big Island with amazing views