In a world of the “Washington Football Team” we’re surprised that media still refers to this windward side attraction as Chinaman’s Hat (more officially known as Mokoli’i Island). But after suffering injustices from pretty much every Pacific facing power, the Hawaiian islands are deservingly unapologetic. No matter what you choose to call it, this is one of the best attractions on the island of Oahu, even if you just enjoy it like most people do – admiringly from the sands of Kualoa Beach Park (across from Kualoa Ranch).
While the photos opps from the beach are boundless, braver souls put on some reef shoes and venture into the water during low tide to swim across. Is it safe? If you’re a good swimmer, yes. Even if you happen to come during low tide, winds and depth can change fast, so you do want to be comfortable in the ocean. If you’re not, simply bring a surfboard, SUP, or boogie and paddle across. There is a hammerhead shark breeding ground nearby, but they aren’t dangerous. There have been no documented bites or nibbles anywhere in the area for the last century. If anything the most concerning part about the crossing is the sharp reef for those who attempt to tippy-toe their way to the islet. Don’t do it. It’s not good for the reef, much less your feet. Lastly, be sure to swim along the straightest point between Kualoa beach and Mokoli’i. Do not approach it from an angle when departing for Mokoli’i, and when returning back after exploring. Not only is the distance mathematically shorter when swimming straight on, you won’t get swept away by the current.
As you approach, come ashore on the Kualoa-facing side of Mokoli’i. From there you can walk the circumference and explore. On the backside you’ll find a great little sandy area where you can kick back and sunbathe. You can climb to the peak (we do it all the time) from the Kualoa-facing side but this task is only for the surefooted. The uninitiated will need to bring sturdier footwear than reef booties or slippers. There are small indicators as you make your way up, including spray-painted arrows and small ropes, but don’t depend on the latter. If you’re not comfortable scaling a purely vertical volcanic wall – skip it. You’ll still be able to capture some incredible photos of the Kualoa mountain range from anywhere on the slopes of Mokoli’i.
View from the top of Mokol’i (@marcus_ocean)
There’s a small cove on the backside of the island
View of the Kualoa Mountains from Mokoli’i