Kayaking to and hiking Chinaman’s Hat is one of my favorite things to do on Oahu. To get to the island you can kayak, paddleboard, swim, or paddle through relatively shallow and usually super clear water. During low tide you may even be able to walk all the way to the island!
The hike is short but breathtaking. There are some technical parts and the views of the bright-blue water and Kualoa mountains are outstanding. From the top you can see as far south as the Mokes in Kailua.
To get there, park at the Kualoa Beach Park—there’s a huge parking lot and it’s easiest to park at the very far end of the lot, that way you’ll be directly across from the island. There’s beach along the entire park so putting out is easy and the waves are usually very small. The kayak trip to the island will take 20-40 minutes depending on your strength and experience, paddle boarding obviously takes a little longer.
The best place to land on the island is slightly to the right of the side that directly faces the coast of Kualoa Beach Park. If it’s not high tide there is a small beach to land at and areas where you can pull your kayaks up higher to make sure a wave doesn’t take them out to sea.
You’ll see a clearly marked path that goes straight up and a less-visible path that circles to the right of the island. The path to the right is easier but both are doable. There are many different waves to get to the top and some involve rock climbing. There are many forks in the path and the easiest route is as follows: take the path that circles right at the beginning, then right at the first fork, right at the second fork, left, middle, then right. For the last section you will shuffle sideways to get past a boulder that juts out making little foot room on the path.
Getting to the top should take about 20-45 minutes. There’s enough room up there to explore a little bit, take photos, and check out the different sides of the island. It is an absolutely incredible view.
If you’re down for extra exploring, there is a tiny beach on the north side—you can get there by hiking around the west side of the island. There are some fun things to explore including a small cave with a hole in the wall and I’ve even seen a seal resting on the rocks. Be super careful swimming on this side as the waves can get very large and the current is strong.