Observations of semidiurnal surface currents in the Kauai Channel, Hawaii, are interpreted in the light of the interaction of internal tides with energetic surface-intensified mesoscale currents. The impacts on internal tide propagation of a cyclone of 55-km diameter and ~100-m vertical decay scale, as well as of vorticity waves of ~100-km wavelength and 100–200-m vertical decay scales, are investigated using 3D ray tracing. The Doppler-shifted intrinsic frequency is assumed to satisfy the classic hydrostatic internal wave dispersion relation, using the local buoyancy frequency associated with the background currents through thermal-wind or gradient-wind balance. The M2 internal tide rays with initial horizontal wavelength of 50 km and vertical wavelength of O(1000 m) are propagated from possible generation locations at critical topographic slopes through idealized mesoscale currents approximating the observed currents. Despite the lack of scale separation between the internal waves and background state, which is required by the ray-tracing approximation, the results are qualitatively consistent with observations: the cyclone causes the energy of internal tide rays propagating through its core to increase near the surface (up to a factor of 15), with surfacing time delayed by up to 5 h (~150° phase lag), and the vorticity waves enhance or reduce the energy near the surface, depending on their phase. These examples illustrate the fact that, even close to their generation location, semidiurnal internal tides can become incoherent with astronomical forcing because of the presence of mesoscale variability. Internal tide energy is mainly affected by refraction through the inhomogeneous buoyancy frequency field, with Doppler shifting playing a secondary but not negligible role, inducing energy transfers between the internal tides and background currents. Furthermore, the vertical wavelength can be reduced by a factor of 6 near the surface in the presence of the cyclone, which, combined with the energy amplification, leads to increased vertical shear within the internal tide rays, with implications for internal wave-induced mixing in the ocean.