Exploring Mokoli'i Island (aka Chinaman's Hat)

12:15 PM

Mokoli'i island (meaning Little Lizard in Hawaiian) is a small islet just off the coast in Kaneohe, surrounded by pristine waters. It looks like the hat of a Chinese rice farmer, giving it the name Chinaman's Hat. While you can actually walk to the island during low tide, we chose to kayak the 1/3 mile there.

After researching, we found out that the back of the island has a tiny cove which was where we decided we would park the kayak.  We brought hiking shoes so we could climb to the peak and put all of our gear in waterproof bags and tied them down to the kayak. Be aware that if you decide to walk, you need to keep track of the tides so that you know when to leave the island. Please note, that hammerhead sharks are often spotted in the area, and while they are usually harmless, they are still wild animals and can be unpredictable so treat them, and any other creatures you come across with respect.

The Legend

While Chinaman's Hat is usually seen as a great photo opportunity for tourists and locals alike, it actually has a Hawaiian legend surrounding its mysterious presence. Pele, the volcano goddess, had a sister named Hi'aka who created the islet. Hi'aka sleighed a great no'o, or dragon, and laid his massive flukes down in the water to mark the battle.

Kayaking Out

Kayaking out there was pretty easy until we got closer to the backside of the island where the waves were a little rough and the rocks were sharp. We had to get out of the kayak and push it through the water to maneuver it onto the sand in the cove. It took us about 30 minutes to kayak to the island and then around to the backside.
Once parked, we scoped out the mini beach and found some cool, little tide pools had formed among the rocks, little fish darted through the tide pools, hiding from our shadows as we walked.The backside of the island was mostly rocky formations and small caves poked up from the waves.

Hiking to the Peak

We found a small trail through the brush and followed it as we walked up to the top of the “hat”. The view of the coast of O’ahu from the different points of the island was gorgeous; the Ko'olau Mountains looked so majestic from this vantage point. The trail is pretty steep and requires you to boulder some areas so I do not recommend bringing beginner hikers on the trail.
We probably spent about an hour on the island, mostly just taking photos. On our way back, we kayaked around the island the opposite we had come to get a 360 view of it. At this point, the winds were picking up and the water was more choppy so it took us longer to get back to Kualoa Regional Park.

After all these years of driving past that cute, little islet, I was so glad we got to finally explore it. While there is not much on the small formation, it was nice to have an entire island just to ourselves. The cove in the back made it feel like we had a private beach to relax on.

Please be safe and remember to pick up your trash so other can enjoy the beauty.

Alecia <3

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