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Kayak Routes on Oahu: Keehi Lagoon

Basic Information

  • Name: Keehi Lagoon
  • Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • More Information: Paddling Hawaii

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Overview

A kayak route that is very easy to access just outside of downtown Honolulu is Keehi Lagoon.  The lagoon is the body of water that separates the industrial area of Sand Island from the Honolulu Airport.  Considering how busy the area around the lagoon is, taking a kayak out into its waters is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Directions

Keehi lagoon is best accessed by the appropriately named Keehi Lagoon Beach Park right off of the Nimitz Highway.  From the highway make the turn towards the ocean on Lagoon Drive.  A short distance after the turn on to Lagoon Drive the turn into Keehi Lagoon Beach Park is visible on the left.  Once inside the park drive to the end of the paved road that circles through the park until it ends near the beach where a number of outrigger canoes are stored.

Parking

The Keehi Lagoon Beach Park can get very busy due to tennis tournaments and baseball games being held here.  However, there is a huge amount of parking and I have never had any issues finding a place to park.

Hawaiian Meaning

In the Hawaiian language Keehi means “shoe”.  I could not find why the lagoon was given this name. If anyone knows please share in the comments section.

Narrative

I recently had a couple of hours available to do some kayaking and decided to head over to the Keehi Lagoon Beach Park.  The park is a great location to access the Keehi Lagoon which is the body of water that separates the Sand Island industrial area from the Honolulu Airport.  The Keehi Lagoon Beach Park was pretty busy as I drove in, but I found a place to park near the beach.  From there I carried my Advanced Elements Convertible Inflatable Kayak to the beach.  The beach I discovered was not very nice with a few small stretches of sand and mostly a rocky shoreline:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

I found a patch of sand to begin putting my kayak together on.  It took me about 15 minutes to inflate my kayak and prepare it for my short trip around Keehi Lagoon:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

As I was inflating my kayak, I noticed two shady looking homeless males watching me.  Near the park is a major homeless settlement underneath the Nimitz Highway and it appears some of them made their way over to the park. Likely due to the nearby homeless population, Keehi Lagoon Beach Park has been where bloody syringes and needles have been found. This is why I recommend wearing shoes when walking around this beach.  I was pretty happy once I got out on the water and away from the two homeless males staring me down:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

The first thing I noticed after paddling out into the lagoon is how bad the water smelled.  I figured it must be because of all the pollution and human waste from the nearby homeless settlement.  However, after doing some research I later found out the lagoon has also been the site of previous sewage leaks.  From the beach park I paddled across the lagoon to some nearby islands:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Keehi Lagoon is filled with many small islands that much longer paddling trips can be undertaken to explore.  Due to time constraints I only had enough time to explore the group of islands across from the beach park.  As I paddled around the islands a constant reminder that I was in a major metropolitan area was the sound the of airplanes taking off from the nearby Honolulu International Airport:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Here is the view from the island looking back across the lagoon towards the airport:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Another frequent airborne presence was the sound the various tourism helicopters zooming over the lagoon after taking off from their business locations near the airport.  I even had the Magnum P.I. helicopter fly right over the top of me as I was paddling around the island:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

As I continued to paddle around the island I could see the Sand Island industrial area across the lagoon from me:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Behind Sand Island I could see downtown Honolulu and the ubiquitous Diamond Head Crater:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

I could also see the Keehi Marina on Sand Island that was backdropped by the volcanic cone known as Mt. Tantalus:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Mt. Tantalus is one of my go-to locations on the island to take my young kids hiking:

Best Hikes on Oahu: The Pu’u Ohia Trail

As I continued to paddle around the island I did notice that there was one landing spot that I could see from the water that was riddled with trash:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

I did not have enough time to land and explore the island by foot so I continued to paddle on around the island.  Fortunately the day I paddled in the lagoon the Ko’olau Range rising over Honolulu was visible:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

On the left of the below picture is the highest mountain in the Ko’olau Range, the 3,149 foot Pu’u Konahuanui.  Due to its two twin peaks Konahuanui is Hawaiian for “testicles”.  How many cities in the world can say they have a “Mt. Testicles” rising above their city?  Honolulu can.  Below Pu’u Konahuinui on the right of the below photo is the previously mentioned Mt. Tantalus:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Here is a closer look at Pu’u Konahuinui:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Another major peak I could see was Pu’u Lanihuli which is Hawaiian for “swirling heavens” likely because it is usually covered in clouds:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

After I finished rounding the island I could see the Keehi Lagoon Beach Park ahead of me:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Above the beach park I could see the massive pink colored Tripler Army Medical Center:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

The water was a little bit choppy as headed back to the beach park, but I made it back without incident:

Picture from Keehi Lagoon

Conclusion

I finished my 2-mile kayak trip within Keehi Lagoon in about an hour and a half.  When I got back to the beach park I began to deflate my kayak and pack it away in its bag.  As I packed the kayak I noticed that there was now only one shady looking homeless guy watching me.  I always made sure I had my kayak oar in easy reach in case this guy tried to start any trouble.  Most of the homeless people are harmless, but when it comes to drug abusers you never can tell what they will do.  Ultimately I was able to pack my kayak and return to my truck without incident.  However, the homeless people hanging out at this park is a definite negative for using this park.  The other negative is the smelly water.  The smell got better as I paddled deeper into the lagoon, but near the shore it was pretty noticeable.  These negatives is why I cannot recommend using the Keehi Lagoon Beach Park to people visiting the islands.  Considering the other much better kayaking areas on Oahu, I recommend leaving Keehi Lagoon to the locals.

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