SUP in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Kona Bay, Kailua-Kona by Robert Linsdell

Why SUP?

Stand Up Paddle Boarding, or SUP, has been around for centuries but it has never been as popular as it is now. Being rooted in Hawaiian culture, Big Island, Hawaii is the perfect place to learn how to paddle board or hone your skills in the surf.

Kailua-Kona, HI

If you plan on staying anywhere on the West side of Hawaii, your travels will surely bring you through Kailua-Kona, HI and to Kailua Bay. Having been seat of the government for the Kingdom of Hawai’i in the 19th century, to a small fishing village in the mid-18th century, to the bustling tourist stop it is today; Kailua-Kona (just Kona or K-Town for short) has gone through significant changes over the past 100 years. One thing that has been a constant has been the calm ocean conditions; some locals even refer to it as “Lake Kona”, especially in the summer months when the swells are smallest, depicting how easy going the ocean can be.

Alii Drive

Alii Drive by Mariusz Jurgielewicz

What to Expect

Surf conditions within Kailua Bay are a microcosm of the Leeward side of the Big Island and greater Kona area. Surf within the bay is typically flat and is perfect for paddlers of all experience levels. Flanked by the Kailua Pier to the north and the Royal Kona Resort to the south, paddling on Kailua Bay offers a unique and picturesque view of K-Town that would be otherwise difficult to achieve. Depending on how fast you paddle, you could make it across the bay anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour – it’s really up to you and how you want to experience it.  We’d recommend taking your time, enjoying the sites, and appreciating your time standup paddle boarding in Kailua Bay. Though calm, afternoon winds tend to move in around 2PM. This can add some unwanted wind chop and make paddling difficult, especially on an inflatable SUP. We’d recommend get out early and often to experience everything Kailua Bay has to offer.

Optimal SUP Conditions: Year round, any swell outside of larger winter swells.

Best for: SUP touring, endurance and yoga

2015 02 27 Morning Walk and Kona 020

Morning Walk and Kona By Blake Handley


There are a multitude of businesses that provide daily and hourly rates for SUP board rentals. Some tourists from the mainland (a.k.a. mainlanders) tend to gravitate to a storefront with a more permanent presence, like Boss Frog, or Pacific Vibrations Surf Shop, while others prefer a more “local” feel by renting from one of the smaller SUP shacks setup along Ali’i. In fact, one of the more popular businesses, Kona Boys, conveniently sets up shop right on Kailua Pier. You can rent a SUP and be out on the water in a matter of minutes. Rental rates range anywhere from $10 per hour to $40 per hour but daily and weekly rates are usually available too.  $10 seems pretty cheap but remember – you get what you pay for. We’ve seen SUP boards that rent for less than $10 an hour being held together with duct tape and glue. Make sure you examine the boards before you take them out.

Alii Drive at sunset

Alii Drive at sunset By Peter Forster

Kailua Kona is a “must-see” destination on the Big Island and is a perfect place to SUP. Mellow ocean conditions combined with easy access to SUP equipment rentals makes Kona an ideal location to take in while on a paddle board. To make the most of the Big Island, remember to slow down, take a breath, enjoy the sites and live with Aloha!

Ali'i Sunset

Ali’i Sunset By Peter Liu Photography

This is a guest post by the Stand Up Paddle Board Guide, a blog dedicated to providing high-quality, unbiased reviews of SUP boards, paddles, and accessories, travel tips, and expert advice to paddle boarders of all experience levels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.