Wave Action

In the islands, outrigger canoe paddling is more than a water sport; it’s an essential part of the history and culture.

In ancient Hawaii, the Makahiki season started in early November and lasted four months. It was a period for feasts, not war, when work slowed and people spent time with their families, playing games and repairing their canoes. This winter, why not have your own Makahiki and experience a Hawaiian outrigger canoe?

Hawaiians originally had wood wa‘a, or canoes, but you’ll navigate in a modern version made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. The ama, that distinctive side “arm” of the canoe, gives it tremendous stability. You’ll find outrigger canoe excursions that are suitable for small children and beginners, as well as challenging options for paddlers ready to push the limits of their stamina. Some tours even include snorkeling stops or whale watching, which peaks in Hawaii between December and April.

On O‘ahu, you can try an exhilarating near-shore specialty: outrigger canoe surfing. Wear a bathing suit, because you’re going to get wet as you race down the side of a wave. You can canoe-surf waves on Hawaii Island as well, in places like Kahulu‘u Bay.

Over on Maui, paddle out to pristine reefs like Coral Gardens to spy on green sea turtles and other marine life. Kaua‘i offers unique opportunities to try canoes on rivers (the Hanalei River and Wailua River), while Moloka‘i is home to the world’s most famous outrigger canoe race. The Moloka‘i Hoe brings teams from around the globe to a 38-mile route, crossing the treacherous Kaiwi Channel.

No matter which island you’re on, ‘E ‘E! (get in the canoe!).