A geographic icon, Mokoli’i Island (aka Chinaman’s Hat) is a must-see when you travel along the beautiful Windward Coast of Oahu. Seen in movies (50 First Dates) and on postcards, this island is named for its shape, which resembles the straw hats Chinese immigrants once wore.
On a beautiful summer day, my sister and I rented a car and drove up towards the North Shore, hitting the Dole Plantation and the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice along the way. We enjoyed some shopping, shaved ice, and delicious Thai food at Haleiwa Eats Thai, stopping only to apply copious amounts of sunscreen for the rest of the day’s beach hopping journey along the North Shore and Windward Coast.
My biggest goals were keeping the rental car safe (beach parking lots are crowded and infamous for petty theft), hitting the beach, and getting a great view of Chinaman’s Hat. Fortunately, we did all of the above. We got in some beachcombing, some pictures, some sun, and some very hot feet as we worked our way south.
There are many parks along the coast with various facilities – we didn’t have a hard time finding a restroom or a place to picnic. The drive on the Windward side has the amazing feeling of being in untouched nature (high green mountains to the right and the ocean to the left) while being close to civilization (you won’t have a hard time finding a nice, small gas station to fill up your rental).
We finally arrived at Kualoa Regional Park, a beautiful (and long) recreation area with a lawn, a beach, and a stunning view of Mokoli’i. We took some pictures and looked for shells on the beach. There were families enjoying the day, and since it’s such a large beach, it didn’t feel the least bit crowded.
Although we didn’t even think about it at the time, I’ve read online that the daring soul can make it out to the island (walking at low tide, swimming, or by kayak) for hiking, climbing, or enjoying its beaches. There isn’t much official word that I could find, so I would say that you would be at your own risk (strong currents and other ocean dangers). For me, it was enough to spend time at the safer side of the beach, enjoying the island breezes and stunning view.
Easy to get to, Kualoa is right off of the Kamehameha Highway. Don’t miss it the next time you’re on Oahu!
Read more about the current conditions at Kualoa at HawaiiBeachSafety.org.