7 Best Sights in East Molokai, Molokai

Alii Fishpond

Fodor's choice

With its narrow rock walls arching out from the shoreline, Alii is typical of the numerous fishponds that define southern Molokai. Many were built around the 13th century under the direction of powerful alii (chiefs), who were typically the only ones allowed to eat the harvest from the ponds. This early type of aquaculture, particular to Hawaii, exemplifies the ingenuity of Native Hawaiians. One or more openings were left in the wall, where gates called makaha were installed. These gates allowed seawater and tiny fish to enter the enclosed pond but kept larger predators out. The tiny fish would then grow too big to get out. At one time there were 62 fishponds around Molokai's coast. Visits are available via guided tours with Ka Honua Momona International with a recommended donation of $25 per person.

Halawa Valley

Fodor's choice

The Solatorio ohana (family) leads hikes through the valley, the oldest recorded habitation on Molokai. It is home to two sacrificial temples and many historic sites. Inhabitants grew taro and fished from 650 until the 1960s when an enormous flood wiped out the taro patches and forced old-timers to abandon their traditional lifestyle. Now, a new generation of Hawaiians has begun the challenging task of restoring the taro fields. Much of this work involves rerouting streams to flow through carefully engineered level ponds called loi. Taro plants, with their big, dancing leaves, grow in the submerged mud of the loi, where the water is always cool and flowing. Hawaiians believe that the taro plant is their ancestor and revere it both as sustenance and as a spiritual necessity. The 3.4-mile round-trip valley hike, which goes to Moaula Falls, a 250-foot cascade, is rated intermediate to advanced and includes two moderate river crossings (so your feet will get wet). A $70 fee per adult supports restoration efforts.

Halawa Beach Park

The vigorous water that gouged the steep, spectacular Halawa Valley also carved out two adjacent bays. Accumulations of coarse sand and river rock have created some protected pools that are good for wading or floating around. You might see surfers, but it's not wise to entrust your safety to the turbulent open ocean along this coast. Most people come here to hang out and absorb the beauty of Halawa Valley. The valley itself is private property, so do not wander without a guide. Amenities: toilets. Best for: solitude.

End of Rte. 450, Kaunakakai, HI, 96748, USA

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Kamalo Harbor

A natural harbor used by small cargo ships during the 19th century and a favorite fishing spot for locals, Kamalo Harbor is a quick stop worth making to take in the quiet calm and hang out with shore birds; look for the "Drive Slow" signs just before the highway bends. This area is also the location of St. Joseph's Church, a tiny white church built by Saint Damien of the Kalaupapa colony in the 1880s.

Puu O Hoku Ranch

A 14,000-acre private ranch in the highlands of East Molokai, Puu O Hoku was developed in the 1930s by wealthy industrialist Paul Fagan. Route 450 ambles right through this rural treasure with its pastures and grazing horses and cattle. As you drive slowly along, enjoy the splendid views of Maui and Lanai. The small Island off the coast is Mokuhooniki, a favorite spot among visiting humpback whales and nesting seabirds. The ranch is also a retreat center and organic farm, and it offers limited accommodations.

St. Joseph's Mission Church

At this small, white church, a quick stop off the highway, you can learn more about Father Damien and his work. It's a state historic site and place of pilgrimage. The door is often open; if it is, slip inside, sign the guest book, and make a donation. The congregation keeps the church in beautiful condition.

Waialua Beach Park

Also known as Twenty Mile Beach, this arched stretch of sand leads to one of the most popular snorkeling spots on the Island. The water here, protected by the flanks of the little bay, is often so clear and shallow that even from land you can watch fish swimming among the coral heads. Watch out for traffic when you enter the highway. This is a pleasant place to stop on the drive around the east end.Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; swimming.

Rte. 450 near mile marker 20, HI, 96748, USA