On Oahu's lush windward side, across the street from the green majesty of Kualoa Ranch, sits a cone-shaped offshore island called Mokolii — more commonly known as Chinaman's Hat for its curious shape. Most will just stop to snap photos, but with some effort you can explore one of the most popular natural features of the island.
Chinaman's Hat lies about a third of a mile offshore of Kualoa Beach Park, which has beautiful views of the coast and makes a perfect picnic spot, but it's not much for playing in the water. Shallow and plentiful reef makes swimming a challenge, whether high or low tide.
Going slowly around and over reef, you can swim, paddle, boat, or even walk out (during low tide) to the island. Once there, you'll find a short hike and a couple of small, sandy beaches. (Photo: Hawaii Tourism Japan.)
The hike to the top of Chinaman's Hat is short but strenuous, steep and heavy with brush and sharp lava rocks. But you'll be rewarded with amazing views at the top. On a clear day, the sun will shine down on the aquamarine water, creating a dazzling contrast against the green, rain-filled valleys in the distance.
The reef surrounding Chinaman's Hat is full of marine life, and worth circumnavigating with snorkeling or diving gear. A little forewarning: you may see hammerhead sharks around there, or even in the shallow water on the way over to the island. Attacks from these sharks are so rare as to be nonexistent, but you can minimize the risk further by not wearing flashy jewelry, don't swim if you're bleeding, don't splash around awkwardly and don't go in the water if it's murky (typically after heavy rains). I've been to Chinaman's Hat a few times over the years and have never seen them.
After you've hiked and explored the waters, you can rest on the beaches there, which are admittedly small but aren't rocky like Kualoa Beach.
Recommended for this trip: Reef shoes to protect your feet from sharp rocks and fins if you plan to snorkel further away on the ocean side, where it's deeper and currents are strong. And don't forget a waterproof camera.