Hawaii - Molokai

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Spotlight on Molokai

The fifth largest and least developed of the Hawaiian Islands, Molokai is only 20 minutes by air from Hawaii's most populous islands, Maui and Oahu. Molokai's population, numbering less than 7,000, includes the highest percentage of people of native Hawaiian ancestry of any of the islands. Because of their friendliness to visitors, Molokai is known as, "the Friendly Isle."

Molokai is a quiet island that offers a unique introduction to the gentle rythms of South Seas life. Many of the Hawaiians here still exist much in the fashion of their ancestors, reaping fish from the sea. Days are spent in a carefree manner, and nights pass in a relaxed mood of tranquility Kaunakakai, the main town on Molokai, is famed in song for its "Cockeyed Mayor."

A few hotels and condominiums are scattered along the island's south shore, and on the western coast is the 6,700-acre Kaluakoi Resort with an 18-hole championship golf course and miles of secluded white sand beach. On the west end of Molokai is the plantation village of Maunaloa.

A highpoint in any tour of the Friendly Isle is a visit to Kalaupapa, one of America's early settlements for sufferers of Hansen's Disease (commonly known as leprosy). The most interesting way to visit is on a mule, with the Molokai Mule Ride. Established by the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1866, the settlement lies on a peninsula jutting out from Molokai's north coast. Father Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest, came to Kalaupapa in 1873, planning to stay only a few weeks. Instead, he spent the rest of his life establishing order, ministering to those forgotten people, and becoming himself a victim of Hansen's Disease. Damien's church, St. Philomena's, stands near the settlement's old cemetery where a monument marks the martyr's gravesite. From a pleasant park along the craggy shoreline you have a stunning view of Molokai's windward side, with the world's highest seas cliffs and waterfalls plunging thousands of feet into the ocean. Near the park is Kaohako Crater, with ancient Hawaiian graves along its slopes.

All of Molokai is rich with old Hawaiian lore. Much of the island's eastern end is dense wilderness, thrusting mountains deep, green valleys. The western side is a rolling fertile plain which is Molokai's agriculture center. Winding country roads beckon sightseers via offroad tour and taxi services. You'll find a pit where Hawaiians measured loads of fragrant sandalwood before shipping them to China, missionary churches, the walls of ancient Hawaiian fish ponds, stark stone heiau (sacrificial temples), and historic battlegrounds. Molokai's thickly-forested back-country intrigues the huntsmen with a variety of game, while isolated and unfrequented beaches and reefs delight skindivers.

Like all of the islands, Molokai, or "the friendly isle" as it is called, has a variety of distinct climate zones, including the cool, wet rainforests of the rugged mountains and valleys of East Molokai, the sunny, arid rolling hills of West Molokai and the dry central plains region of Hoolehua. Visitors will find the island's climate relatively uniform throughout the year. The average summer temperatures in the island's principal town, Kaunakakai, range from 68-82 degrees F. (20.0-27.8 C), while the average winter temperature is 61-80 degrees (16.1-26.7 C).

MOLOKAI Points of Interest:


  • FIRST CATHOLIC CHURCH - near Kamalo, this tiny church was the first Catholic Church built on Molokai except for Father Damien's mission at Kalaupapa.
  • HALAWA VALLEY - onetime center of population, this beautiful valley is the locale of ancient heiau and two plunging waterfalls, Moaula Falls and Hipuapua Falls.
  • ILIILIOPAE HEIAU - on National Register of Historic Places, one of the largest heiau in Hawaii, it is 320 feet long and 120 feet wide and was a site of human sacrifice. It is on private land and may be visited with permission.
  • KALAUPAPA - one of the most isolated and beautiful communities in the world where Father Damien once ministered, Kalaupapa is now designated a National historical Park. Access is by air or mule train down a 1,600-foot switchback trail.
  • KAMAKOU - at 4,790 feet, the highest elevation on the island of Molokai. Site of the Nature Conservancy's 2,700-acre Kamakou Preserve with rare plants and birds.
  • KAPUAIWA GROVE - planted in the 1860's by Kamehameha V, this grove has more than 1,000 coconut trees covering 10 acres of land near Kaunakakai.
  • KAWELA CITY OF REFUGE - 200 feet up a ridge seperating two gultches, there are Menehune walls and salt vats from the reign of Kamehameha V in the area.
  • MAUNALOA - former Dole plantation town with quaint buildings and shops selling works by Molokai artists and craftsmen.
  • MOLOKAI MUSEUM & CULTURAL CENTER - home of the R.W. Meyers Sugar Mill built in 1878 by Meyer at his Kalae home site.
  • MOANUI SUGAR MILL - ruins of an old sugar mill which operated from 1870 to 1900 can still be seen on the road to Halawa Valley.
  • ONE ALII PARK - country beach park equipped with restroom facilities, outdoor shower, grills and picnic tables. One of only two parks on Molokai where camping is permitted.
  • PALAAU PARK - a state park overlooking Kalaupapa Peninsula, Palaau has well-equipped picnic grounds and winding trails. Here, too, is the phallic rock.
  • PUKUHIWA BATTLEGROUND - canoes lined the shore for four miles during a major battle in Kamehameha I's campaign to unite all the islands under one rule. Piles of sling stones from the battle can still be found in this area.
  • SMITH & BRONTE LANDING - a plaque marks the spot where two pioneer aviators on the first commercial trans-Pacific flight made an emergency landing in 1927.


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