Sheltered within 32 miles of fringed reef on the southern shore and three miles of white sand on the western shore, Molokai retains much of the flavor of "Old Hawaii." Ancient fishponds, the world's largest sea cliffs and a 250-foot jungle waterfall seem nearly untouched by time. Hiking, kayaking and extraordinary snorkeling open a window into the rich beauty and pristine environment of this small island, so close to neighboring Maui and Oahu, and yet far enough away to preserve tradition....and tranquility.
For a certain traveler, Molokai isn't just another Hawaiian island; it's the only island. People who enjoy Molokai aren't looking for a commercial luau, fancy shops, big resorts and the company of tourists. They go there for another reason altogether - serenity, empty beaches and wild outdoor beauty. They go to hike, kayak, bike and ride horses. Molokai is a perfect destination for families looking to reconnect without the distracting hustle and bustle. For couples, the quiet charms of Molokai allow the focus to stay on each other.
People also come to experience Hawaiian culture at ancient sites, like the enormous temple platform called Iliiliopae Heiau, and in the rock wall fishponds that line the island's South Shore. They are celebrated in down-home community festivals for Aloha Week, the winter Makahiki season and the annual Ka Hula Piko Festival commemorating Molokai as the birthplace of hula.
For a small island, 38 miles long and 10 miles wide, Molokai contains amazing natural wonders. Along the North Coast, the world's tallest sea cliffs plunge over 3,000 feet to the crashing surf below. In the summer months, experience this sight by sea on a charter boat. The South Shore is sheltered by the largest reef system in Hawaii. Kamakou Preserve is a mountain forest that's home to endangered native plants and rare birds.
Though Molokai isn't sophisticated, it offers a range of places to stay. These include small-scale hotels, seaside condominiums, bed and breakfast cottages and secluded home rentals. With only about a dozen restaurants from which to choose, there's still a good variety, from local fare to fine cuisine, served Molokai-style.
KAUNAKAKAI: Molokai's "capital" town sits in the center of the island. Its long wharf forms the island's main harbor, where you'll find charter boats for fishing, snorkeling, whale watching and touring the cliffs and canyons of the "backside." The town's commercial strip is one block of a quaint paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town of the 1930s. It is so unassuming that first-time visitors keep driving around the block looking for the real stores. Yet Kaunakakai has everything you'll need, including groceries, hardware, a pharmacy, a gourmet wine and spirits shop, an art gallery, a gift shop and the Kanemitsu Bakery, whose bread is world-famous. The road uphill from here passes farms and eventually the dark green orchards of Coffees of Hawaii, which welcomes visitors with a tour, a gift shop and a snack bar. You can also visit the Molokai Museum's R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill, an 1878 structure restored to operating condition. Nearby, Purdy's Natural Macadamia Nuts farm offers tours of its 80-year old orchard. The road ends at Palaau State Park and a cliff-top lookout with heart-pounding views of Molokai's North Coast.
EAST MOLOKAI: Driving east from Kaunakakai along the coast, follow the twisting, tree-shaded curves around small beaches and coves. Maui and Lanai are visible across the channels. This is one of the more scenic drives in all Hawaii, so you'll want to stop every now and then to experience the beauty of nature. As you wind around the eastern point, the road passes through the slopes of Puu O Hoku Ranch, a great place for horseback riding and retreats. The road ends with a dramatic flare, dropping into Halawa Valley and depositing you on the beach. Halawa is a classic Hawaiian "cathedral valley;" steep-walled, lush with jungle and the 250-foot Mooula Falls at its head.
WEST END: Western Molokai boasts some of the largest and least visited beaches in the state. Papohaku Beach is the most popular with its three miles of white sand and a grassy park for picnicking and camping. With many condominiums, the West End is the nearest Molokai gets to a resort area. Set in the hills above the coast is the hamlet called Maunaloa. While here, stop in at the Big Wind Kite Factory for a bit of fun and whimsy.
While the rest of Hawaii grew up, the Island of Molokai strengthened its connection to history and native culture. In other words, its appetite for modern conveniences has remained modest. Roads are few, two-lane and generally empty. Molokai is a country town that continues to practice tradition, remaining uncrowded and undeveloped. Its small and friendly population (less than 7,500 people) has the option to live by growing small gardens and catching fish. If this appeals to you, call us to plan a visit to the enchanting island of Molokai.
When Hansen's disease was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha V banished all afflicted to the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north shore of Molokai. In 1873, Father Damien, a Belgian missionary, chose to leave the "outside world" to care for those who were exiled to this isolated peninsula. After 16 years of faithful service, Father Damien succumbed to the disease. In 2009, Father Damien was canonized as a saint for his selfless dedication, Also, Mother Marianne Cope, who came to Kalaupapa in 1888 to care for Father Damien and the residents and died there in 1918, was canonized in 2012. Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established in 1980 to preserve the memories and experiences of the people forcibly sent there. Hawaii State law requires all individuals to secure a permit prior to entering Kalaupapa National Historical Park. For general visitors, permits were available through a guided tour. Currently, there is no active permitted tour operator, and no tours are available at this time. Please check the NPS website for updates. You can also view Kalaupapa Peninsula from the 1,000-foot elevation of Palaau State Park. This 34-acre recreation area offers winding trails among eucalyptus and ironwood trees, as well as breathtaking views of Molokai's north coast.
One of the Hawaiians greatest engineering innovations was their use of aquaculture, namely stone and coral fishponds. Centuries ago, there were more than 60 fishponds on Molokai. Today, there are still several fishponds dating back to the 1300s on the South Shore of the island, including two that have been designated as National Historical Landmarks.
Did you know that there is a world-famous bakery on Molokai? Well there is, and anyone who's been there knows why. Kanemitsu Bakery was started almost 90 years ago by two brothers, Shigeo and Fred Kanemitsu, and it is still family owned and operated. A James Beard Award semi-finalist in the outstanding bakery category, Kanemitsu's served ono (delicious) breakfasts, lunches and a variety of baked goods, but it's their "hot bread" that entices people to line up at the bakery's back door to buy. The bread is split down the middle and you can order it with butter, several different jellies, cinnamon-sugar, and/or cream cheese, depending on how you like it. The time it goes on sale in the evening varies slightly, so give them a call before you go and ask them what time you should be there. The bakery is closed on Tuesdays.
Some of the best and freshest produce you can buy is available at Kumu Farms. Besides produce, the farm sells several other products and Etty is always happy to share cooking tips and recipes with you as well. The farm is open to the public Tuesday-Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove is an ancient Hawaiian coconut grove planted in the 1860s during the reign of King Kamehameha V and one of the last royal coconut groves in Hawaii. It's also an amazing place to enjoy a spectacular sunset view, as well as a great photo opportunity. There's always a chance of falling coconuts, so the best viewpoint is from the grassy area off Mauna Loa Highway.
Halawa Valley (Photo by Brooke Dombroski/HTA)
Whether you seek refuge from modern life or you want an unforgettable adventure, you’ve come to the right place. Molokai Shores urges you to unwind. Our cozy condominiums feature one and two-bedroom vacation homes that make life easy. Enjoy our oceanfront swimming pool, barbecue areas, free parking, free public WiFi, on-site hair salon, shuffleboard and laundry facilities.
Hotel Molokai is a genuine hideaway from all things mainstream. Located on Kamiloloa Beach and adjacent to Hawaii’s only barrier reef, you’ll find our Polynesian-style village of bungalows replete with kitchenettes and Wi-Fi. Molokai is known as the birthplace of the hula and deemed the “Friendly Isle,” Hotel Molokai is just five minutes from the island’s largest city, Kaunakakai.
Pu'u O Hoku Ranch is a family-owned organic ranch and farm, rustic retreat center and sublime getaway on the remote and tranquil east end of Molokai, just a short drive from the black-sand beaches of Halawa Valley. It has several options for accommodations, ranging from a lodge, ideal for large groups and retreats, to smaller cottages perfect for families or couples.