Off Oahu's Beaten Track
Further up the Windward coast, near the surfing meccas of Oahu's fabled North Shore, Goat Island is a lush pancake of lava rock swarming with wildlife both aquatic and airborne. Indeed, the center of the island is a restricted wildlife refuge because of the ground-dwelling birds raising young there.
This islet is another easy low-tide hike across a reef. You can get to the access point from the Malaikahana state campground, also on the Kamehameha highway circling Oahu. The walk out over the reef to the island takes about 15 minutes. On our recent visit, we found the trip shorter than the hike out to Chinaman's Hat.
Sitting off a perpetually windswept stretch of coastline, Goat Island rewards visitors with a wild, natural atmosphere and a trove of hidden treasures for children to discover. First, there's the beacha gorgeous sandy crescent studded with coral formations and water shallow enough for kids to snorkel in. Then there's the restricted center of the island, covered with high tufts of sea grass that shelter myriad seabird nests. Though the state has protected this interior habitat as a wildlife refuge to discourage human feet from trampling the nests, you can still observe the birds' constant comings and goings from the perimeter of the island.
Finally, as my kids discovered, the south shore of the island is an enormous tidal shelf dotted by pools teeming with life. There are urchins, sea cucumbers, colorful fish, and crustaceans in abundance, all readily available for careful examination by small hands (preferably under adult supervision).
One note of caution: the waves crashing into the lava shelf make it doubly important to plan a hike out to Goat Island at low-tide. During high tide the surf can wash over the shelf completely. Regardless of the tide, you can hike the entire shoreline of this unusual island in 20 minutes or less.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication