If Oahu is “The Gathering Place” then the Kaneohe Sandbar is “The Drunken Gathering Place”. Can you have fun there without drinking? Probably. I’ve never tried it I wouldn’t know. I can only offer my opinion based on my (unreliable) perspective.
And from my perspective, there is no better place to spend a Saturday, Sunday, Holiday, work day, or Martin Luther King day, than the Kaneohe sandbar. It’s a mini island paradise right off the coast of another island paradise. It’s lightly policed, although now more than it’s ever been before, remote but still close enough to not have a creeping anxiety that you might get stuck, and it causes people to throw inhibition to the wind and act uncomfortably nice to each other. I feels like a vacation from your responsibilities, even if it’s only for a few alcohol soaked hours. The vibe is unmatched.
How to Prepare
You can get there on a SUP, swim, or, if you’re rich, jetski or ride your boat. But, if you’re most people on Oahu, you have a military friend with a boat license who can rent pontoon boats at Kaneohe Bay. Planning your day is surprisingly easy. Park at the Safeway in Kaneohe, pack up your cooler with plenty of food, beer (cans only!), and liquor (in hydroflasks!), get 2-3 military friends (or one with an Astro van), then start making the runs to the Kaneohe Marine base. If you only have 3 friends going, you’re there! If you’re having a party (and you should be), it could take 45 mins+ to shuttle everybody to the base. Stop bitching, it’s worth it.
Getting to the Sandbar
The trip out to the sandbar is one of the best parts. You get a full panoramic view of the windward side of the island and koolau mountains. Take it in now before you wipe those memories out. I would also advise you to have the Bluetooth blasting at this point to set the tone.
The trip there. Or back. I don’t remember.
Looking back at Kaneohe Military Base
The view on the other side is way better
At the Sandbar
Then, set your anchor next to like minded people (not families, don’t be a dick), and find creative ways to consume alcohol in the middle of the ocean. My favorite is flip cup on a SUP. FLIP SUP.
FLIP SUP (trademark pending)
I’ve honestly never had a bad time here. Well, other than that one time I participated in a chicken fight with a younger Canadian girl and had my girlfriend at the time almost tackle me to stop it. Most people thought it was all in good fun but she wasn’t happy with the fact that “Her VAGINA is on your NECK” (her words). Or the time 2 of our friends lost their boat licenses because of how lit we were docking the boats. Or the time our smaller, ditzier military friend almost crashed as she was leaving the harbor. Or that one time it rained was pretty shitty too. But that drama would’ve happened anyway. The Sandbar isn’t to blame for that.
He lost his license right after this lol
Why do I love this place so much? Aside from the binge drinking, I associate it with the amazing group of mainland transplants that became my Ohana, and led to me staying on the island for 3+ years. These trips were our “Gathering Place”. Every weekend, like clockwork, we’d meet at the beach, at a bar, and countless other places and activities on Oahu. But the sandbar always gave us the best times. At the time, it felt like being in the honeymoon phase of a relationship with 25 people simultaneously.
I vividly remember having a moment of clarity during one of our sandbar trips. Enjoy this moment. We all won’t be friends forever, and people are constantly coming and going on this island. This is a temporary thing and you need to enjoy it.
The memories from the sandbar keep me warm when depression is trying to shit on my day. To me, it’s proof that the people who come in and out of your life don’t do so by chance. You attract them with the energy you put out. I needed friends, a support system, people I could confide in and share the Hawaii experience with. People to distract me from a deteriorating relationship. Everybody needed new friends for their own reasons, and that need brought us all together. I owe a lot to this group of people. It was one of the few periods in my life where I was happy more than I was sad.
I vividly remember trying to savor certain moments because, as a pessimistic person, I knew this wouldn’t last. The group hadn’t known each other long enough to develop any resentment or tension. That came later. Now, our makeshift Ohana is fractured into different factions and tribes all across Oahu. While I still have unhealthy amounts of love for the people I alluded to in this post, we inevitably drifted apart. New jobs, moving, families, marriages, new relationships, broken relationships, nothing that good lasts forever. We spiraled off into different directions as people usually do. It’s still all love when we get together.
I grew into a much better, stronger person and started to try and manage my depression and anxiety instead of letting it eat away at me. I can be happy without drugs, I can get through the bad times without completely breaking down, I can make new friends and build a new life, I don’t have to live in constant misery. I can build a future instead of just trying to survive on a daily basis.
I’m not sad that our Ohana drifted apart, I’m happy I didn’t take them for granted.
Words of Advice
- Bring the party with you – things get boring real quick if it’s you and two friends sitting in the middle of the ocean.
- Don’t be obnoxious – Don’t start fights or be needlessly reckless and ruin it for the rest of us. Just have fun and handle your alcohol.
- Be cool on the ride back – Don’t look all blackout when you dock the boat. Remember, you’re on a military base.
- Bring multiple Bluetooth speakers – It’s a long day and it’s even longer without music.
- Bring a shit bucket – Just in case. Unless you want everybody to see your logs in the ocean.
I only have a handful of friend photos but like 10 good pics of the shit bucket. I am the worst at documenting things.