For an island that’s only 28 acres, Coconut Island has a grandiose history that belies its tiny size. Originally used by Native Hawaiians for traditional fishing and farming, this palm-covered islet in Kane’ohe Bay would eventually be purchased by Christian Holmes—heir to the Fleischman yeast fortune. In addition to expanding the island’s size from 12 to 28 acres, Holmes built everything from a saltwater swimming pool complete with a slide and diving board, to a private residence with outdoor bars and a collection of exotic animals.
After Holmes’ death in 1944, troops stationed at Kane’ohe Marine Base would use the island as a recreation retreat between their tours of duty. It would be purchased by another private family, host a long list of celebrities and future or former presidents, and even feature on the opening scene of the TV show, Gilligan’s Island. Today, Coconut Island is a research base for the University of Hawaii, and while a select handful of marine biologists are allowed to access the island, the coral outcropping is otherwise closed to the general public. The snorkeling, however, is some of Oahu’s best, and kayaking tours from Kane’ohe Bay allow visitors the chance to splash and swim in the turquoise waters offshore.
The island itself is closed to the general public, but snorkeling is possible nearby with kayaking tours.