Paddleboarding is one of the most fun ways to get out, be active, and enjoy an afternoon on the water.
Part of this charm comes from the unique perspective that paddleboarding offers on all that nature has to offer. There are plenty of beautiful places to paddleboard, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a destination as beautiful as Hawaii.
Hawaii has it all, and then some. Pristine white sand beaches? Check. Crystal clear water? Check. Abundant sea life to observe? You bet.
Of course, Hawaii is huge, and it’s virtually impossible to see everything there is to enjoy in a single trip. But if you know where to go, it’s much easier to make the most out of your time exploring Hawaii.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the 22 best spots in Hawaii to go paddleboarding. From O’ahu and Maui to the Big Island and beyond, we’ve covered them all, so let’s dive right in!
If surfing is more your thing than paddleboarding, why not take a look at our guide to the best surf spots for beginners in Hawaii?
- The Best Paddleboarding Spots on O’ahu
- The Best Paddleboarding Spots on Maui
- The Best Paddleboarding Spots on The Big Island
- The Best Paddleboarding Spots on Kauai
- The Best Paddleboarding Spots on Molokai
The Best Paddleboarding Spots on O’ahu
The island of O’ahu is perhaps the most famous of all the Hawaiian islands. Here, you’ll find Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, and some of the best dining, entertainment, and nightlife opportunities in Hawaii.
In O’ahu, you’ll also find plenty of incredible locations for paddleboarding. Whether you’re hoping to take in postcard-worthy views, mingle with sea creatures, or break up a day relaxing on the beach, O’ahu offers so much to paddleboarders. Below, we’ll cover the best spots.
It’s almost as if Lanikai Beach was thought up in a paddleboarder’s dream as the holy grail destination for paddlers. Its location on the coast makes Lanikai an ocean beach with no shore-breaking waves.
The water is often glassy-still and a gorgeous aqua color. Perhaps best of all, Lanikai Beach offers a small slice of serenity from the business of the rest of the island.
Reaching Lanikai Beach by car or bus is touchy at best, as there’s limited parking in the area. In fact, paddling in from Kailua Bay represents the best way to get to the beach. Launch your SUP from Kailua Beach Park or any of the other beaches to the north, and you’ll be at Lanikai after a scenic 30-40 minute paddle out.
Waikiki is perhaps the most popular destination in all of Hawaii, and it’s known for luxury shopping, five-star resorts and dining, and some of the best sunsets Hawaii has to offer.
The city is only a short drive from Honolulu Airport, and you can go from baggage claim to paddling through crystal clear waters in an hour or less.
Waikiki Bay’s popularity means you can expect crowds year-round, so it may not be ideal if you’re searching for peace and quiet. But, if you don’t mind a crowd, Waikiki Bay is truly beautiful, and its calm waters are perfect for beginners and seasoned paddlers alike.
Ala Moana Beach Park
A favorite retreat among locals, Ala Moana Beach Park borders on Waikiki Beach, and it’s a bit quieter than its more famous neighbor but no less beautiful.
About 500 feet offshore, a coral reef helps to lay down the surf, providing paddlers with a massive stretch of flat waters that are begging to be enjoyed.
The park recently underwent major renovations to restore the beach, and more renovations are planned to make the park even more beautiful. So, there’s never been a better time to check out Ala Moana Beach Park.
Pua’ena Point Beach Park
In the center of O’ahu’s north shore lies Pua’ena Point Beach Park, one of the most popular surfing destinations on the island. It’s also a great spot for paddlers and anyone looking to soak up some sun on the beach.
Don’t be surprised to have company, as green turtles are known to bask on this sunny beach, too.
The coastal waters are relatively flat here, making it a solid spot for beginners and experienced paddlers alike.
If the shoreline looks familiar, you may recognize it from the hit show “Lost,” which filmed numerous episodes here.
The aptly-named Sunset Beach offers some of the best views of the dream-like sunsets Hawaii is so loved for. It’s also an excellent destination for paddleboarding. In the winter months, the waves further offshore can reach 20-feet, making it somewhat of a pilgrimage for the surf crowd. During the rest of the year, the relative calm of Sunset Beach offers the perfect conditions for SUP boarding.
Always use a leash and wear a personal floatation device when paddling here, as Sunset Beach is known for strong rip tides that can be very dangerous, especially for weak swimmers.
The Best Paddleboarding Spots on Maui
Maui is Hawaii’s second-largest island, and it’s home to some of the most gorgeous beachfront and iconic Hawaiian scenery you’ll find while you’re here.
The eastern part of the island is full of lush greenery, and the island enjoys some of the best weather in the world year-round.
Millions of travelers flock to Maui each year. While it’s thought of as an escape for the wealthy, all of the best things in Maui are free. For paddleboarders, there’s plenty to love, too. Here are a handful of the best paddleboarding spots on Maui.
This sheltered cove along the west coast of Maui is a serene escape where you can share the day paddleboarding surrounded by sea turtles and coral reefs that are teeming with marine life.
The land stretches out on either side of Kapalua Beach as if the island is trying to give the ocean a hug. For paddlers, this translates to flat, serene waters that are inviting for all skill levels.
On clear days, you’ll easily see the island of Molokai in the distance as you explore the clear waters of Kapalua Bay.
Makena Beach State Park
A white sand retreat on the southwest coast of Maui, Makena Beach State Park is an expansive paradise that has three beaches and a dormant volcano.
Each of the beaches offers something different, and all three are accessible from your paddleboard or by taking a short hike in the park.
Big Beach is most popular for bodyboarding, while Little Beach is smaller and offers calm waters ideal for paddleboarding. Paddle north, and you’ll find the black sands of Naupaka Beach, which is a serene place to relax after an afternoon of paddling. Want to visit the other black sand beaches in Hawaii? Our handy guide will tell you everything you need to know!
Nestled along the shoreline of Maalaea Bay, Kihei is a large town that offers plenty of fun in the sun, beachfront dining, resorts, and much more.
Kalepolepo Beach Park in the center of Kihei is the most popular paddleboarding destination, and it’s also home to the famous Ko’ie’ie fishpond that divides the shore from the waters beyond.
Kihei is a bit off the beaten path for most Maui visitors, but if you’re looking for a quiet retreat that’s home to an ancient fishpond, Kihei is well worth the trip.
The Maliko Run
If Hawaii is the destination for paddleboarders, then the Maliko Run is the holy grail. Land and sea conditions combine to provide paddlers with an incredible 10-mile run along Maui’s gorgeous north shore.
Drop in at Maliko Gulch and paddle the flat water towards the open ocean. Once you’re in the ocean, the wind will take you as you glide across the pristine ocean toward Kahului Harbor, where you’ll complete your ride.
There is plenty of shopping, dining, and other activities to enjoy once you arrive in the harbor.
A secluded getaway along the northeast coast of Maui, Napili Bay is quiet and tranquil and offers beautiful views of both land and sea. If you’re a beginner, you may want to steer clear of this spot, as wind and rain are common and can whip up at a moment’s notice.
On most days, experienced paddlers will revel in the conditions, which can be a bit more challenging to navigate than many of Maui’s other famous paddling spots.
Along the bay, you’ll find plenty of dining and entertainment options, as well as places to stay that are just seconds away from where you’ll launch your SUP.
The Best Paddleboarding Spots on The Big Island
Hawaii proper is the largest island in the Hawaiian Island chain, and people refer to it as “The Big Island.”
The Big Island is one of the world’s most geologically diverse places, and there are many wonders to explore both on land and beyond the shoreline. From Volcanoes National Park to colored sand beaches and monster waves for surfing, Big Island has it all.
While there’s so much to behold on land, one of the best ways to experience Hawaii is on your paddleboard, and we’ve compiled the spots you must check out below.
At Kahalu’u Bay, paddlers will be delighted by crystal clear waters, bountiful sea life, and mostly calm conditions that paddlers of all skill levels can enjoy.
Look below the surface, and you may be able to spot parrotfish, eels, yellow tang, and other aquatic species enjoying the relative calm of this protected bay.
The beach is relatively quiet, so you can usually find yourself a spot in the Kahalu’u Bay Park lot. There are showers, bathrooms, and other amenities on-site, and a lifeguard is on duty from 9-5 pm.
This gorgeous sheltered bay offers paddlers an opportunity to immerse themselves in local history while enjoying a leisurely paddle through the crystal clear waters.
Kealakekua Bay is the site where the first westerner made contact with the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. There’s also a small temple shrine to the Hawaiian god Lono on the park’s east side.
The waters here are calm, with light winds that give paddlers a gentle push toward their destination. Tropical fish are abundant within the coral reef they call home.
The black rocky outcroppings along the coast contrast beautifully with the lush greenery of the shore, making Kealakekua Bay one of the Big Island’s most beautiful paddling destinations.
If you’re looking to explore the rich history of the Big Island, Keauhou Bay offers some of the best opportunities to do so. This historic beachfront has been popular for over five centuries, and it was initially a home for royalty.
The area is teeming with historic sites, and many locals believe that spirits protect the area, which may explain why multiple major building projects in the area have fallen through.
The beach park offers ample camping, and it’s open until 11 pm, which is much later than most of the local parks. When you’re done paddling for the day, hit the waters and observe the bountiful sea life. Keauhou Bay is a famous snorkeling destination.
Kukio Beach on Big Island’s northwest coast is a rocky retreat favored by sea turtles and paddlers alike. The beach itself doesn’t offer great opportunities for paddleboarding. The shoreline is full of jagged lava rocks, and sediment from the seafloor stirs up frequently, making for murky conditions.
Beyond the beach in Kukio Bay, paddlers can enjoy clear waters, abundant sea life, flat water, and a gentle prevailing wind that makes it a joy to paddle through the area.
Reed’s Bay is an excellent stop for Big Island paddleboarders thanks to the shelter the cove provides where the bay meets the island near Reed’s Bay Beach Park.
The sheltered waters offer calm, cool waters perfect for practicing your paddleboarding skills as a beginner or enjoying a relaxing day on the water as a more experienced paddler.
As the tide rolls in, the water gets a bit choppier and more challenging to traverse, so try and paddle around low tide if you’re worried about choppiness. If you’re headed to Reed’s Bay to paddle, bring a solid pair of water shoes with you.
The lava rock seafloor can be very unforgiving to bare feet, and a pair of water shoes will save you plenty of cuts and scrapes.
The Best Paddleboarding Spots on Kauai
What Kauai may lack in size, it more than makes up for in the rich culture and spirit of the small towns and villages that dot the coast.
Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, and it’s known as “the Garden Island,” which is a fitting moniker considering the lush greenery and green valleys that characterize the landscape.
There are ample opportunities to grab your board and head out on the water when you’re in Kauai. Here are a few of the must-see places you need to paddle.
Anini Beach is one of the northernmost beaches in Kauai, and it offers plenty of opportunities to paddle, surf, kayak, and so much more.
In terms of popularity, Poipu and Hanalei attract the lion’s share of people visiting Kauai’s beaches. Still, Anini Beach is every bit as beautiful and allows you to avoid the big crowds of Hanalei or Poipu.
Anini Beach is protected by Hawaii’s longest stretch of coral reef, and the reef helps to temper the seas. The sea conditions at Anini Beach are highly predictable, and almost any day is a great day to hit the water on your SUP.
The sea depth ranges significantly here. Areas with 3 or 4-feet of water can quickly drop to 100 feet or more, and rip currents are a concern, especially at high tide.
However, Anini Beach is considered one of the safest beaches in Hawaii, so most paddlers should have no issue dealing with the rip current. But, on especially choppy days, it may be best to steer clear, as this is usually when the riptide is at its worst.
When the winter descends upon Hawaii, and the surf kicks up, paddlers head inshore to enjoy the calm and tranquility of Hawaii’s rivers.
Hanalei River offers the best opportunity to enjoy the beautiful island landscape. The river is responsible for irrigating much of Hawaii’s taro crops, and the local communities go to great lengths to preserve its natural beauty.
For paddlers, this means you’ll enjoy a lush green riverside as you paddle along the expansive river. Most start their journey at the mouth of the river, where it meets Hanalei Bay, and begin paddling from there.
Be sure to eat your Wheaties in the morning, as you’ll be fighting against the current on the first leg of your journey.
One of Hawaii’s largest rivers, and the largest on the island of Kauai, the Wailua River is the perfect escape for paddleboarders in the winter months.
If you’re hoping to get closer to nature on your trip, the Wailua River is a must-see. This 20-mile long river weaves its way from the top of Mount Waialeale in the island’s center to the Pacific Ocean on the island’s eastern shore.
On your trip, be sure to stop at each of the two gorgeous natural waterfalls the river feeds. You’ll also need to see Fern Grotto, a natural lava rock cave sheltered by local fern trees.
Residing in a sheltered cove on the southeastern shore of Kauai, Kalapaki Beach offers some of the island’s best opportunities to discover SUP boarding.
A rock wall at the head of the cove provides shelter for water sports and swimming, and boarders can enjoy glass-like waters through much of the year on Kalapaki Beach.
The beach park offers volleyball, bathrooms and showers, and plenty of opportunities to grab a bite to eat and watch the cruise ships coast by as they enter nearby Nawiliwili Harbor.
We discussed the Hanalei River just a few moments ago, but the bay it shares a name with is equally worthy of your enjoyment.
This half-moon-shaped cove is home to an expansive fishing pier, several streams, and the Hanalei River. The waters of Hanalei Bay are calm and tranquil for most of the year, and they’re perfect for paddling.
The bay is also home to several beaches, all within paddling distance, so this is the ideal destination if you’re hoping to sunbathe on the shore after you’ve had your SUP fix for the day.
The Best Paddleboarding Spots on Molokai
Even smaller than Kauai, Molokai is quiet by the standards of the other islands, and it’s one of the last remaining bastions of the “old” Hawaii. About 8,000 residents call Molokai home, and while it’s certainly a travel destination, it’s much quieter than the other islands.
Molokai offers a sharp contrast from the more tourist-centric destinations, but those who travel to this tiny island are rewarded with a lush tropical landscape that is truly the stuff of dreams.
Beyond the beach, Molokai also offers so many excellent paddleboarding opportunities. Here are a few of the best.
One of Molokai’s premier beach destinations, Papohaku Beach Park offers a pristine 10-acres of beachfront, sky blue waters, and white sand beach that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Beyond the waves breaking on the shore, Papohaku Beach offers calm offshore waters perfect for paddleboarding.
Since you’ll need to paddle out a way before you get up on your board, Papohaku Beach offers paddlers a unique perspective of the shore, and in the distance, you’ll be able to see the shores of Waikiki and the island of Oahu.
Along the rocky coast of Molokai’s western shores, Kepuhi Bay and Kepuhi Beach Park offer travelers and locals alike endless opportunities to enjoy the water and shores that Hawaii offers.
But, don’t let the clear blue waters and inviting atmosphere fool you; Kepuhi Bay can be a bit treacherous at times, especially for rookie paddlers.
Unlike many of Hawaii’s other beaches, Kepuhi Beach doesn’t offer the same geological protection from waves and currents. The waves can be fierce at times, and the current rips out toward the sea.
When conditions are less than ideal, it may be best to steer clear of Kepuhi Bay in favor of calmer seas.
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
Featured in Travel articles such as Travel + Leisure, TripSavvy and SFGate, you know you're reading some of the best vacation tips online.