Magical Molokai
Published Nov/Dec 2004

A sparsely populated paradise,
Molokai is one of Hawaii’s loveliest islands.
By Todd Outcalt

A longtime resident of Hawaii said it best: If you only visit one of the islands, you haven’t visited any.

This observation points out the amazing diversity of Hawaii, as each island, though helping to comprise our 50th state, also can stand alone in the uniqueness of its terrain, climate, shoreline and culture.

The individual beauty of these islands is recognizable as soon as one steps upon the sands of Molokai. A slipper-shaped island 37 miles long and 10 miles wide, Molokai is a sparsely populated (less than 7,000 residents) paradise poised between the busy gathering place of Oahu and the crystal shores of Maui. Often touted as the most Hawaiian of the islands, Molokai offers a rich diversity of terrain and relaxation that cannot be had at more frequented stops.

A special magic

Molokai, where the hula was born, shows its visitors warm examples of the aloha spirit. A day on the beach can be a soothing experience for body and spirit. A visit to this island can yield many unexpected rewards, especially if one is looking for a purer form of relaxation free of street congestion, large crowds or cramped beaches.

The centrally located Hoolehua Airport is the fastest way to gain access to the island. There’s also the daily ferry from the west side of Maui available for less than $50. After arrival, it’s best to allow the laid back spirit of this island to work its magic.

Beach enthusiasts should consider Waialua Beach on Molokai’s southeast side for gentle waves and plenty of snorkeling opportunities. Papohaku Beach on the island’s far west side is extremely popular with locals as well as visitors. Crowds seemed to be heaviest on the weekends and weekday afternoons. Other than those times, these beaches can become quite private with plenty of room to run or relax.

Exploring by car

By car, Molokai yields many other delights. Because the island is long and narrow with few residents, visitors will find driving to be much more relaxing and enjoyable than on neighboring islands. There are no stop lights on Molokai, and speed limits are considerably lower than on the mainland. Highways are in near mint condition.

Kaunakakai, Molokai's primary town, is one stop along the Kamehameha Highway (state Route 460) that offers a glimpse of the Hawaiian lifestyle. The main street is lined with small eateries, grocery stores and gift shops. Visitors also can fuel up their vehicles before continuing on the road.

Heading north on the Kalae Highway (state Route 470) leads to some of the more scenic views from the island interior. Stops along this road include the Molokai Coffee Plantation. Take the tour and try some free samples. Kamuela’s Cookhouse, a local eatery, is a good place for something to eat or drink before continuing on Route 470 to one of the most beautiful and famous sites on the island: Kalaupapa National Historic Park.

It was here that Father Damien in 1873 established a ministry at this isolated settlement for people inflicted with Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy. Read about Father Damien and the settlement at the Kalaupapa Peninsula overlook, which offers spectacular views of the village nestled between the ocean and majestic sea cliffs.

Visitors 16 and older can make the trek to the historic settlement on the back of a mule, on foot or by small plane. The captivating blue color of the ocean and the deep, verdant green of the sea cliffs rising out of the water are difficult to capture by camera or words, making a trip to the village by mule well worth the time.

Other island adventures

For those seeking more arduous adventures, try kayaking the North Shore Pali where views of the tallest sea cliffs are unrivaled. Kayaking on the island’s south side is growing in popularity because of dozens of fishponds built near the shore by inhabitants 700 years ago. This unique example of ancient “aquaculture” enabled islanders to capture and raise fish.

Molokai also offers two nine-hole golf courses, expansive ranch lands, deep-sea fishing and fantastic biking or hiking trails. From December to May, visitors may get a glimpse of humpback whales frolicking in the south shore waters.

For pure relaxation and the serenity that comes with the laid back spirit of this friendly island, you can’t beat Molokai, where you will feel the true spirit of Hawaii.

Todd Outcalt is a new contributor from Brownsburg, Ind.

Top: The North Coast of Molokai offers spectacular vistas.

Below: The Molokai Coffee Plantation offers tours. Molokai Visitors Association photos

Before You Go

For more information, contact the Molokai Visitors Association at 1-800-800-6367 or

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

Where to stay,
What to see

By Todd Outcalt

On Molokai, there are some great choices for accommodations, along with a bounty of sights not to be missed.

Among the lodging options is Kaluakoi Resort, which has a plethora of condominiums for rent and a nine-hole golf course. Papohaku Beach is just down the road.

Molokai Ranch Lodge and Beach Village offers a variety of activities, including horseback riding, kayaking, bicycling, hiking, snorkeling and skeet shooting. Most activities are under $40 per person. Massive Molokai Ranch located on the property is a working cattle spread. Guests at Molokai Ranch Lodge have access to swimming, fine dining and the local movie theater and Molokai Museum located in the town of Maunaloa. At Beach Village, guests can discover a more isolated experience, including an open-air dining facility where one can see gorgeous sunsets and watch the stars come out.

Not to be missed

• The view from the Kalaupapa Look-out. If you can spend a few hours to hike or take the mule train to the bottom of the trail, it’s worth the time.

• The sea cliffs along the Pali Coast. Spectacular cliffs are mirrored in crystal clear water. These are the tallest sea cliffs in the world.

• The Pakanaka or Kaloko’eli Fishponds. These are the finest examples of this ancient food gathering system anywhere in the islands.

• Sunsets as viewed from the Kupuaiwa Coconut Grove.

• Stargazing through a giant telescope at the Molokai Ranch Lodge and Beach Village. The resort flies in an expert from Honolulu several times a week.

Don’t miss the sunsets viewed from the Kupuaiwa Coconut Grove. Molokai Visitors Association photo

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