Popoia Island: Everything You Need to Know

Just a quarter mile off the shore of the famous Kailua Beach lies Popoia Island, also known as Flat Island. Want to make your way out to this little piece of paradise? Here’s everything you need to know!

Popoia Island Opener

What Is Popoia Island?

Popoia island is a flat, four-acre island just off the shores of Kailua Beach. Today, Popoia Island functions as a bird sanctuary for wedge-tailed shearwaters. Technically known as Popoia Island State Bird Sanctuary, these shearwaters use the island as a place to lay their eggs until they hatch.

For the ancient Hawaiians though, Popoia Island functioned as a fishing shrine. Local fishermen would bring a part of their catches to the island to offer to the Hawaiian gods in order to bless them with good catches in the future. In other words, Popoia Island has been an important place for a while – both in the past and in the present.

Where is Popoia Island?

Popoia Island is just a quarter mile away from the shores of Kailua Beach Park on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii. Parking for the island is the same as the parking for Kailua Beach.

Popoia Island Sam Duncan Photography
Photo Courtesy of Sam Duncan Photography

How Can I Get to Popoia Island?

Because Popoia Island is an island, you can’t drive or walk to it. There are, however, a few different ways to reach the island.


One of the easiest ways to reach the island is by kayak. If the conditions are right (check the surf before you go!), the quarter of a mile to the island will just breeze on by.

When you reach the island, be sure to leave your kayak on the little sandy part of the island, in order to not disturb the bird eggs on the rest of the island. Kailua Beach Adventures, Twogood Kayaks, and Hawaiian Water Sports are all places to rent kayaks in Kailua.

For many kayakers, Popoia Island isn’t their final destination. Rather it’s just the first stop on their journey to the Mokulua Islands (Na Mokulua), which is one of the coolest kayaking adventures on Oahu.

*Note: if you do plan on kayaking to Popoia Island, you will need to pay an additional $3 landing permit fee.

Stand-Up Paddle Board

The second way to reach Popoia Island is by stand-up paddle boarding. On most days, the conditions at Kailua Beach are perfect for stand-up paddle boarding, as the water is usually quite calm. Kailua Beach Adventures, Twogood Kayaks, and Hawaiian Water Sports are all places to rent stand-up paddle boards in Kailua.

*Note: if you do plan on paddling to Popoia Island, you will need to pay an additional $3 landing permit fee.


While you can swim to Popoia Island, this method is not recommended. Even though the island is only a quarter of a mile away, the currents and the strength of the ocean can sometimes be deceiving. That said, if you are a seasoned ocean swimmer, you can swim to reach Popoia Island.

If you do plan on swimming to Popoia Island, be sure you’re equipped with all of the best gear, including swimwear, goggles, reef safe sunscreen, and maybe even some fins.

Kailua Waters

What Can I Do on Popoia Island?

You’ve got a few different options.

Walk Around the Island

One popular thing to do on Popoia Island is to simply walk around the perimeter of it. (You can’t walk to the middle of the island, as it is blocked off in order to protect the shearwater eggs.) That said, it is a breezy, relaxing walk.

Check Out the Birds (and Their Eggs!)

As you’re walking, you may get a glimpse of these shearwater birds and their eggs, so keep your eyes peeled!

If you do happen to see some bird eggs, be sure to leave them alone! After all, Popoia Island is a protected bird sanctuary, so this is where the birds are supposed to thrive.

Have a Picnic

If you want to do something a little different on Popoia Island, consider having a picnic. Pack up a towel to sit on and some food, strap them into your kayak, and unload them when you reach the island. You can be sure that your picnic won’t be disturbed.

*Local Tip: if you’re coming from Waikiki, Tucker and Bevvy is a fantastic place to get picnic food. Or if you’re looking for something in the Kailua area, stop by Kalapawai Market.


Looking for other activities to do near Popoia Island? Here are 23 other amazing activities to do in Kailua, Hawaii.

Have you ever been to Popoia Island? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

Thinking about kayaking, paddle boarding, or swimming to Popoia Island on your trip to Oahu? Pin this post for later!

A Local's Guide to Popoia Island, Oahu, Hawaii #oahu #hawaii #kailua #popoiaisland

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One Comment

  1. I swam out there today. It was okay getting out, but the swim back required summoning my inner resources. Because of the current, you will swim much more than 1/4 mile each way. I’d only recommend this to a confident swimmer who can swim a mile in a pool. The water is fairly shallow (though not enough to touch the bottom for most of the swim) and safe feeling. The temperature stays warm the whole time and gets really warm right around the island. The current is manageable but tiring. Thanks for describing the swim on your blog!

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