Molokai

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Molokai - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Alii Fishpond

    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.

    Kamehameha V Hwy., Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $25 per adult, Reserve online
  • 2. Halawa Valley

    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.

    Eastern end of Rte. 450, Hawaii, 96748, USA
    808-542–1855

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $70
  • 3. Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour

    Mount a friendly, well-trained mule and wind along a thrilling 3-mile, 26-switchback trail to reach the town of Kalaupapa, which was once home to patients with leprosy who were exiled to this remote spot. The path was built in 1886 as a supply route for the settlement below. Once in Kalaupapa, you take a guided tour of the town and enjoy a light picnic lunch. The trail traverses some of the highest sea cliffs in the world, and views are spectacular. Only those in good shape should attempt the ride, as two hours each way on a mule can take its toll. You must be at least 16 years old and weigh no more than 250 pounds; pregnant women are not allowed. The entire event takes seven hours. The same outfit can arrange for you to hike down or fly in. No one is allowed in the park or on the trail without booking a tour.  Currently closed in order to protect residents from exposure to COVID-19. Call 808/567-6088 for updates.

    100 Kalae Hwy., Kualapuu, Hawaii, 96757, USA
    808-567–6088

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $209
  • 4. Palaau State Park

    One of the Island's few formal recreation areas, this 233-acre retreat sits at a 1,000-foot elevation. A short path through an ironwood forest leads to Kalaupapa Lookout, a magnificent overlook with views of the town of Kalaupapa and the 1,664-foot-high sea cliffs protecting it. Informative plaques have facts about leprosy, Saint Damien, and the colony. The park is also the site of Kaule O Nanahoa (Phallus of Nanahoa), where women in old Hawaii would come to the rock to enhance their fertility; it is said some still do. Because the rock is a sacred site, be respectful and don't deface the boulders. The park is well maintained, with trails, camping facilities, restrooms, and picnic tables.

    Rte. 470, Kualapuu, Hawaii, 96729, USA
    808-567–6923

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 5. Papohaku Beach

    One of the most sensational beaches in Hawaii, Papohaku is a three-mile-long strip of white sand, the longest of its kind on the Island. There's so much sand here that Honolulu once purchased bargeloads of the stuff to replenish Waikiki Beach. A shady beach park just inland is the site of the Ka Hula Piko Festival, held each year in May. The park is also a great sunset-facing spot for a rustic afternoon barbecue. A park ranger patrols the area periodically.  Swimming is not recommended, except on exceptionally calm summer days, as there's a dangerous undertow.Amenities: showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; walking.

    Kaluakoi Rd., Maunaloa, Hawaii, 96770, USA
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  • 6. R. W. Meyer Sugar Mill and Molokai Museum

    Built in 1877, the fully restored, three-room sugar mill has been reconstructed as a testament to Molokai's agricultural history. It is located next to the Molokai Museum and is usually included in the museum tour. Several interesting machines from the past are on display, including a mule-driven cane crusher and a steam engine. The museum contains changing exhibits on the Island's early history and has a gift shop. Currently (and for the foreseeable future) the museum is home to an incredible photography exhibit that showcases the people of and life in Kalaupapa; attending the exhibit and speaking with docents is a great way to learn more about the community if you aren't able to visit. Be sure to step into the gift shop for some unique, locally made items.

    Rte. 470, Kualapuu, Hawaii, 96757, USA
    808-567–6436

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $5 (cash only), Closed Sun.
  • 7. Church Row

    Standing together along the highway are seven houses of worship with primarily native-Hawaiian congregations. Notice the unadorned, boxlike architecture so similar to missionary homes.

    Rte. 460, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA
  • 8. 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, Hawaii, 96748, USA
  • 9. Kalaupapa National Historical Park

    For 100 years, this remote strip of land was "the loneliest place on Earth," a beautiful yet feared place of exile for those suffering from leprosy (now known as Hansen's disease). Today, visitors to Molokai's Kalaupapa Peninsula, open every day but Sunday, can admire the tall sea cliffs, rain-chiseled valleys, and tiny islets along the coast. The park tells a poignant human story, as the Kalaupapa Peninsula was once a community of about 1,000 people who were banished from their homes in Hawaii. It also recounts the wonderful work of Father Damien, a Belgian missionary who arrived in 1873 to work with the patients. He died in 1889 from leprosy and was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2009. Mother Marianne Cope, who continued St. Damien's work after his death, was canonized in 2012. Today there are about eight patients still living in Kalaupapa—now by choice, as the disease is treatable. Out of respect to these people, visitors must be at least 16 years old, cannot stay overnight, and must be on a guided tour or invited by a resident. Photographing patients without their permission is forbidden. There are no public facilities (except an occasional restroom) anywhere in the park. Pack your own food and water, as well as light rain gear, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Currently closed in order to protect residents from exposure to COVID-19. Check with the National Park Service ( nps.gov/kala) for updates.

    Hwy. 470, Kualapuu, Hawaii, 96757, USA
    808-567–6802
  • 10. Kaluakoi

    Although the mid-1970s Kaluakoi Hotel and Golf Club is closed and forlorn, some nice condos and a gift shop are operating nearby. Kepuhi Beach, the white-sand beach along the coast, is worth a visit.

    Kaluakoi Rd., Maunaloa, Hawaii, 96770, USA
  • 11. 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.

    Rte. 450, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA
  • 12. Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove

    From far away this spot looks like a sea of coconut trees. Closer up you can see that the tall stately palms are planted in long rows leading down to the sea. This is a remnant of one of the last surviving royal groves planted for Prince Lot, who ruled Hawaii as King Kamehameha V from 1863 until his death in 1872. The grove is planted on private property---visitors should observe from outside of the perimeter fence.

    30 Mauna Loa Hwy., Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA
  • 13. Kapukahehu Bay

    This sandy protected cove is usually completely deserted on weekdays but can fill up when the surf is up. The water in the cove is clear and shallow with plenty of well-worn rocky areas. These conditions make for excellent snorkeling, swimming, and body boarding on calm days. Locals like to surf in a break called Dixie's or Dixie Maru. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; surfing; swimming.

    End of Kaluakoi Rd., Maunaloa, Hawaii, 96770, USA
  • 14. Kaunakakai

    Central Molokai's main town looks like a classic 1940s movie set. Along the short main drag is a cultural grab bag of restaurants and shops, and many people are friendly and willing to supply directions or just "talk story." Preferred dress is shorts and a tank top, and no one wears anything fancier than a cotton skirt or aloha shirt.

    Rte. 460, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA
  • 15. Kaunakakai Harbor

    Once bustling with barges exporting pineapples, these docks now host visiting boats and the regular barge from Oahu. The wharf, the longest in the state, is also the starting point for fishing, sailing, snorkeling, whale-watching, and scuba-diving excursions. It's a nice place at sunset to watch fish rippling the water. To get here, take Kaunakakai Place, which dead-ends at the wharf.

    Rte. 450, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA
  • 16. Kepuhi Beach

    The Kaluakoi Hotel is closed, but its half mile of ivory sand is still accessible. The beach shines against the turquoise sea, black outcroppings of lava, and magenta bougainvillea blossoms. When the sea is perfectly calm, lava ridges in the water make good snorkeling spots. With any surf at all, however, the water around these rocky places churns and foams, wiping out visibility and making it difficult to avoid being slammed into the jagged rocks. Stick to the northern part of the beach to avoid as many of the rocks as possible. If the surf is too big for snorkeling, there's a nice bench up the path that lets you relax and take it all in. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; walking.

    Kaluakoi Rd., Maunaloa, Hawaii, 96770, USA
  • 17. Maunaloa

    Built in 1923, this quiet community at the western end of the highway once housed workers for the Island's pineapple plantation. Many businesses have closed, but it's the last place you can buy supplies when exploring the nearby beaches. If you're in the neighborhood, stop at Maunaloa's Big Wind Kite Factory. You'll want to talk with Uncle Jonathan, who has been making and flying kites here for more than three decades. There's not much in Maunaloa anymore, but it's not every day that you can see something this close to a ghost town.

    Maunaloa Hwy., Maunaloa, Hawaii, 96770, USA
  • 18. Molokai Plumerias

    The sweet smell of plumeria surrounds you at this 10-acre orchard containing thousands of these fragrant trees. Purchase a lei to go, or for $25 owner Dick Wheeler will give you a basket, set you free to pick your own blossoms, then teach you how to string your own lei. Whether purchasing a lei or making your own, it's best to call first for an appointment or to order your lei in advance.

    1342 Maunaloa Hwy., Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA
    808-553–3391
  • 19. Molokai Vacation Rentals

    Vacasa Vacation Rentals handles condo rentals across the Island. There is a two-night minimum on all properties. Contactless check-in is available at most properties.

    130 Kamehameha V Hwy., Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA
    808-460--4421
  • 20. One Alii Beach Park

    Clear, close views of Maui and Lanai across the Pailolo Channel dominate One Alii Beach Park (One is pronounced "o-nay," not "won"), the only well-maintained beach park on the Island's south-central shore. Molokai folks gather here for family reunions and community celebrations; the park's tightly trimmed expanse of lawn could almost accommodate the entire Island's population. Swimming within the reef is perfectly safe, but don't expect to catch any waves. Nearby is the restored One Alii fishpond (it is appropriate only for Native Hawaiians to fish here). Amenities: playground, showers; toilets. Best for: parties; swimming.

    Rte. 450, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748, USA

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