Molokaʻi is the fifth largest of the main Hawaiian Islands.
Molokaʻi was first settled around 650AD by peoples most likely from the Marquesas Islands. Later migrants likely came from Tahiti and other south Pacific islands. Although Captain James Cook sighted Molokaʻi in 1778, the first European sailor to visit the island was Captain George Dixon in 1786. The first significant European influence came in 1832 when a Protestant mission was established at Kalua'aha on the East End of the island by Reverend Harvey Hitchcock. In the late 1800s, King Kamehameha V built a vacation home in Kaunakakai and was responsible for the planting of over 1,000 coconut trees in Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove.
Kalaupapa, located on an isolated peninsula on the northern side of Molokaʻi, was the site of a leper settlement from 1866 to 1969. Thousands of men, women and children living throughout the Hawaiian islands diagnosed with Leprosy (also known as Hansen's Disease) were forcibly exiled to the colony by the Hawaiian government and legally declared dead. They were not allowed to leave the settlement or have visitors and were forced to live out their days in this isolated settlement. There are no active cases of leprosy on the island, but there are some patients who chose to continue to live in the settlement after its closure.
1 Kaunakakai, is a small but the largest town on the island, one of two small ports on the island. Sometimes it is considered to be the "capital" of Molokai, but officially the whole island is in the County of Maui.
Molokaʻi is distinguished as the longtime residence of Father Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and Mother Marianne Cope of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Syracuse, New York, both of whom have been canonized Roman Catholic Saints for their treatment and care given during the 19th century to sufferers of leprosy in Kalaupapa.
- 1 Molokaʻi Airport (MKK IATA Sometimes listed as Ho'olehua, which is its physical location) (about 5 miles outside of the town of Kaunakakai), ☏ . The airport has two runways that accommodate commuter/air taxi and general aviation activities, as well as some military flights. There are multiple daily flights from Honolulu on Pacific Wings for $29 each way or on IslandAir. Pacific Air's primary aircraft is a 9 passenger, 1 engine Cessna Caravan. Seats on Island Air range from $30 on up. The airport is .
- Island Air, ☏ . All islands
- Mokulele Airlines, ☏ . All islands
- Pacific Wings, ☏ . Maui, Kalaupapa & Oahu only.
- Paragon Air, ☏ . Maui & Oahu only.
- 2 Kalaupapa Airport (LUP IATA) (Kalaupapa National Historical Park).
There used to be a ferry between Molokaʻi and Maui, but it stopped service October 27, 2016. Daily from Lahaina to Kaunakakai, Molokai. $85 round trip.
The island is about 17 miles long and 10 miles across. A rental car is necessary to get around.
Many of the sights and beaches are spread out across the island so a car or tour bus is the best way to get around.
- Molokaʻi Car Rental, Molokaʻi Airport (MKK), toll-free: . Car rental rates and information. Discount rental rates for fully equipped current model cars on Molokaʻi. MKK Airport location.
- Alamo Rent A Car, Bldg #2 Airport Loop, Hoolehua, HI 96729, toll-free: . MKK Airport location.
For shorter distances, mules and horses are another option.
- Kalaupapa Lookout, Pala'au State Park (Highway 470 North to the end). Striking views of the north shore of Molokai, the world's highest sea cliffs reaching 1,700 feet - and the Kalaupapa Peninsula. Informational plaques about Father Damien and the Kalaupapa Leper Colony.
- 1 Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Site of forced isolation from 1866 until 1969 of people from Hawai'i afflicted with Hansen's disease (leprosy), a disease shrouded in fear and ignorance for centuries. Public access to this community is very limited because of regulations safeguarding privacy. State law requires all individuals to secure a permit to enter. You can hike, ride, or fly down to Kalaupapa.
- Molokaʻi Museum and Cultural Center, Kalae Hwy, Kualapuu, ☏ . M–Sa 10AM–2PM. Reservations suggested for hikes, mule treks and tours. Adult $2.50, Child 5–18 years $1;.
- Phallic Rock (Pala'au State Park at the end of Highway 470). 200 yards from the Kalaupapa Lookout, at the base of Nananhoa Hill, is the six-foot high Phallic Rock. Throughout the ages, barren women would bring offerings and spend the night at this site in hopes of conceiving a child. Women still come here with their offerings and pray for fertility. A beautiful ironwood forest surrounds this area, coating the ground with its long needles and creating a mood of peace and spirtuality.
- Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, Highway 460 about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of Kaunakakai.
- 2 Papohaku Beach (Follow Kaluakoi road to Papohaku Beach Park). Hawaii's longest white sand beach. Three miles long and you'll rarely see anyone else on it. Very dangerous rip currents and shore breaks. Do not swim here unless the ocean is absolutely, positively, flat & calm. Beach Park has restrooms, showers and fresh water.
- Kapukahehu Beach - aka Dixie Maru Beach (Kaluakoi Road to Pohakuloa Road until it ends in a cul de sac). Cresent beach in a small cove. Favorite of residents & visitors. Safe swimming almost always. However, large winter surf can create dangerous shore break. No facilities.
- Kephui Beach (Kaluakoi Road to Kepuhi Place, then Ke Nani Kai condos drive). A very nice beach that is a favorite surfing spot. Dangerous when winter surf is up, usually safe for swimming in the summer. No facilities.
- Pohaku Mauliuli Beach - aka Make Horse (Kaluakoi Road to Kakaako Road to Lio Place). A great spot for a summer get-away. Dangerous when winter surf is up, usually safe for swimming in the summer. The Keawe trees near the beach provide comfortable shade. No facilities.
- Hale O Lono Harbor & Beaches (Maunaloa Highway (460) to Maunaloa town. Take the first right, drive 7 miles). Several beaches on the west side of the harbor; Hale o Lono Beach, Kanalukaha Beach, Kapukuwahine Beach, Kahalepohaku Beach and there is Halena Beach on the east side. Dangerous when winter surf is up, usually safe for swimming in the summer unless there is a south swell running. Exercise caution year-round. No facilities.
- One Ali'i Beach Park (follow Kam V Highway to about mile 3.3). Long, flat beach, nice sand. Safe wading anytime. Great for small children. Restrooms and showers, Pavilion and fresh water.
- Kakahai'a Beach Park (Kam V Highway east to mile 5.4). A roadside picnic area with narrow beach. Safe wading year round. No facilities.
- Kamalo Wharf Beach (Kam V Highway east to mile 10.1). Nice beach at the old Kamalo Wharf site. Usually safe for wading/swimming year round. No facilities.
- Puko'o Beach (Kam V Highway to about mile 15.8). Short, flat beach about 50 yards long. Safe swimming when ocean is calm or no south swell. No facilities.
- Kumimi Beach - aka Murphy Beach (Kam V Highway east to mile 20). Molokai's favorite snorkel spot, a lovely point of golden sand and calm water. No facilities.
- Sandy Beach (Kam V Highway past mile 21. Sandy Beach is right on the road.). Small, white sand, cresent shaped beach. No facilities.
- Kawili Beach - at Halawa Bay (Kam V Highway to the pavement's very end in Halawa Valley). A fairly long curved beach with nice sand. Restrooms in the Halawa Park.
- Mule rides
- Ironwood Hills Golf Course, ☏ . A historic 9-hole plantation-style course on the lush hillsides of cool and tranquil Kalae in central Molokai. Uneven fairways, small greens, towering eucalyptus trees, and dramatic elevation changes make Ironwood Hills as challenging as it is beautiful.
- Molokai Fish and Dive, ☏ . Activities including scuba, reef snorkel, ocean kayak, whale watch and sport fishing adventures.
Moaula and Hipuapua Falls are located on private land above Halawa Valley. The path is not well marked and you will need a guide to obtain permission and lead you to the falls. Both falls can, however, be viewed from multiple lookouts along Highway 450. Moaula Falls is a double-tiered fall which drops a total of 250 feet into a pool at the bottom. Native flowers, mangoes, ginger, ha'u trees and ancient taro patches line the hike.
- Halawa Falls Cultural Hike, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hike to Halawa Valley's spectacular 250-foot Moaula Falls with cultural guides and learn the ancient history of the many archaeological sites you see along the way.
- Waterfall Adventures, ☏ . Guided tours through trails once used by ancient Hawaiians. Spectacular views of waterfalls, rivers, and an ecological arboretum. Trails for advanced, moderate or light hikers and backpackers.
Kaunakakai is not a tourist shopping mecca. In town itself you will find a couple grocery stores of the Mom and Pop variety. There is a drug store, ice cream store, health food store, and several sundry stores.
- Kalele Bookstore & Divine Expressions (KB&DE), 64 Ala Malama, Kaunakakai, ☏ . 10AM-5PM. There is free coffee, maps, information & Wi-Fi readibly available.
- Purdy's Nut Farm, Lihi Pali Dr, ☏ . Learn how macadamia nuts are grown and crack your own.
Do not look for the typical fast food in Kaunakakai or, for that matter, on Molokai. There is one single Subway Sandwich shop, the Molokai Pizza Cafe and the Molokai Drive-In. Hotel Molokai is right on the water front and offers a full menu with special local entertainment every Friday evening. For a special experience try the Kanemitsu's Bakery. People wait in line for their Hawaiian bread and cream pies are renowned.
- Coffees of Hawaii, Kualapu'u (Farrington Rd & Kalae Highway). Sandwiches & baked goods.
- Kualapu'u Cookhouse, Farrington Rd & Uwao Street, ☏ . Country cafe - full menu, nightly dinner specials.
- Kanemitsu's Bakery, 79 Ala Malama Ave, Kaunakakai, ☏ . Serving breakfast only.
- Paddlers Inn, Kaunakakai (Makai side of Hwy 450 at Mohala Street), ☏ . 11AM-9PM daily. Restaurant & bar - full menu.
Hotel Molokai is a great place to relax with your favorite drink, listen to the entertainment and watch the waves. In the distance you can see Lanaii.
Molokaʻi vacation rental options include the three west end condominium choices, Paniolo Hale, Ke Nani Kai and Kaluakoi Villas. Two other condo options are Molokai Shores in central Molokaʻi and Wavecrest Resort on the island's east end. There are a few bed & breakfast and other unique choices.
- Hotel Molokaʻi, 1300 Kamehameha V Hwy, Kaunakakai, ☏ . Features open-air, oceanfront bungalows located on Kamiloloa Beach. Pet friendly suites are available. Amenities offered include a swimming pool, an oceanfront restaurant and on-site spa facilities.
- Private beach houses and bungalows are available on the west end and along the fringing reef of Molokaʻi east end.
There are two state parks on this island which allow camping. Both have showers and bathrooms.
- Papohaku Beach Park.
- One Ali'i Beach Park.
- Papapa Plantation, 241 Papapa Place Maunaloa, ☏ . $375 (4 people).