Because of its large population and that it welcomes more visitors than the other islands, Oahu offers a wide range of activities that are easily accessible.

One such activity is cruising out to the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar, a favorite for locals and visitors alike.

Enjoy prime snorkeling at the Kaneohe Sandbar
Enjoy snorkeling and sunbathing at the Kaneohe Sandbar

The Kaneohe Sandbar is a popular spot because of its unique location and the panoramic view it provides. While standing in knee to waist deep water out in the middle of the bay, you get a breathtaking view of the rugged Ko’olau Mountains.

Also in view is the often photographed Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli’i Island) and the southern ridge of Ka’a’awa Valley.

If you’ve seen the hit TV show Lost, or Blockbuster films like Windtalkers, Tears of the Sun, 50 First Dates, Jurassic World and many others then you’ll probably recognize the mountains to the north of the bay.

The stunning Ko'olau Mountains rising above the Kaneohe Bay
These mountains served as the backdrop in many TV shows and films including Lost and Hawaii Five-0

Choosing a Private Charter

While there are many shared tours that go out to the Sandbar, the best way to go is by private boat. A private boat charter gives you more flexibility and privacy to enjoy your day at the Kaneohe Sandbar.

Most of the shared charters operate one time per day, whereas the private boat charters offer morning and afternoon cruises. So private boat charters allow you to better plan your day at the sandbar.

A day at the sandbar makes for a perfect day in paradise
Fun in the sun at the Kaneohe Sandbar

Private boat charters out to the sandbar also allow you to customize your day on the water.

If you have food allergies, you can request a special menu. And if you’re celebrating a special occasion, some private boat charters allow you to bring flowers or cake on board.

The private boat charter you choose will depend on what kind of day you want to have at the Kaneohe Sandbar.

You can choose from a sailing Hobie catamaran, a luxury speedboat, or a deluxe ocean pontoon. Each option includes lunch and snorkel gear. It’s just a matter of choosing the vessel that fits your budget and your needs.

Hobie Cat Sailing

Getting out to the Kaneohe Sandbar in a Hobie Cat is a unique experience. A Hobie Cat is a sailing catamaran made to hold up to four passengers. If you have a larger group, however, you can charter a second Hobie Cat and take eight people.

Hobies are fast and small, but they can still hold all of your snorkel gear! So you can enjoy this unique sailing experience and still explore the sandbar and reefs in the Kaneohe Bay.

Hobie Cats are a fun way to sail out to the sandbar
Sailing on a Hobie Cat is family friendly & adds a touch of adventure to your vacation

Kamaaina Kayak and Snorkel Eco-Adventures is one of the only commercial Hobie Cat rentals on Oahu.

On this sailing and snorkeling tour you can also learn the basics of sailing and assist the crew on the voyage out to the sandbar. The crew will go over the basics before you set sail and then you can sit back and enjoy the ride or assist with the rigging.

The Hobie Cat Sandbar & Snorkel Tour

The first stop will be the Kaneohe Sandbar, but on the way you’ll sail past Coconut Island.

This small island served as the deserted island in the TV show Gilligan’s Island. You won’t see Gilligan or the Skipper, but you might see small hammerhead sharks or sea turtles.

At the sandbar you can enjoy swimming and sunbathing in shallow waters, taking in the view, and looking for sea turtles.

The water is so clear you can sometimes see the turtles just by peering into the water. After enjoying fun in the sun at the sandbar, you’ll sail over to the snorkel spot.

The barrier reef protects the Kaneohe Sandbar and provides calm waters

Snorkel locations will depend on the ocean conditions on the day of your private charter. However, you can be sure that you will snorkel at one of the reefs in Kaneohe Bay, home to numerous species of marine life.

Swimming, snorkeling, and sailing will most likely work up a good appetite. The tour will end with a fresh Hawaiian BBQ lunch. Enjoy lunch on dry land back at the He’eia State Park where you’ll also have access to the park restrooms and showers.

Luxury Private Charters

If sailing isn’t your thing and you prefer speed and luxury, a speedboat or deluxe pontoon is the way to go. Both of these vessels are available through Captain Bruce so the amenities are the same and if you have a group of 6-12 you can charter both boats.

A luxury speedboat cruise through paradise
Relax on a luxury speedboat in the Kaneohe Bay

Hurricane, the luxury speedboat, is a single hull deck boat that comfortably accommodates up to six passengers. While the deluxe pontoon, Fun Chaser, is slightly larger the capacity is still set to six passengers for extra comfort.

These luxury charters can be customized to fit your interests. You can spend the entire allotted time at the sandbar, or snorkeling at the reef, or you can do both.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion you can also arrange to have flowers or a cake on board.

Take a ride on the deluxe pontoon in Kaneohe Bay
The deluxe pontoon is more spacious and provides more room for sunbathing

Speaking of cake, you’re probably wondering what the lunch will be like. On the Hurricane and Fun Chaser you can look forward to fresh fruit and veggies, salad, fried chicken, masubi (rice) rolls, along with sweets and chips.

Alcohol is not included, but you’re welcome to bring your own as long as it’s not in a glass bottle.

These luxury private charters are perfect for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.

One of the added benefits to choosing the speedboat or pontoon is that there’s plenty of room for lounging and sunbathing on the boat.

If someone in your group is not comfortable in the water but still wants to enjoy the cruise and the view, they are welcome to stay on the vessel.

Private Charter Comparison Table

In case you’re still having a hard time deciding which boat is right for you, check out the comparison table below:

Boat Type Boat Capacity Tour Duration Inclusions Price
Hobie Cat 4 3 hours Transportation*, lunch & snacks, snorkel gear, dry bag $796.00*
Speed Boat 6 3 hours Transportation*, lunch & snacks, snorkel gear $900.00*
Deluxe Pontoon 6 3 hours Transportation*, lunch & snacks, snorkel gear $1,200.00*

*As of June 2020 all transportation is suspended until further notice due to COVID-19

*All prices are as of June 2020

Your day at the Kaneohe Sandbar is sure to be a highlight of your Hawaii vacation no matter which vessel you choose. Or if you’re kama’aina, a day at the Kaneohe Sandbar is the perfect stay-cation and a great way to reward yourself after a long work week.

Soak up the sun and the stunning views, and let nature rejuvenate your mind and body at Oahu’s best kept secret.