Top 10 Things to Do on Molokai

By Kyle Ellison

Kawela Beach Park Molokai Hawaii (Maui County)  Beach and reef at Kawela, central Molokai, Hawaii.

Beach and reef at Kawela, central Molokai, Hawaii. Photo: Pat McNally.

Molokaʻi is an island with zero stoplights and only three gates at the airport. It’s a place where even the tallest building is still much shorter than a palm tree, and you start to recognize people on the street after only two or three days. It’s an island escape in the purest sense—but that doesn’t mean it’s the type of place where there isn’t anything to do.

For an idea of some of the best adventures and popular island activities, here’s a list of the top 10 things to do on Molokai.

1. Leave the Only Set of Footprints in the Sand

Papohaku Beach, Molokai.

Papohaku Beach, Molokai. Photo: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner.

West Molokaʻi is known for its string of empty white sand beaches, where a little hiking and coastal exploring can easily help you find a beach where the only footprints are your own. Scenic options include Make Horse beach a short hike north of Kepuhi, or Kawakiu Iki beach a little further up the coast. On the south shore, by Hale o Lono, Hawela Beach is an isolated option for travelers with 4WD.

2. Visit Kalaupapa by Foot or by Mule

Kalaupapa trail

Riding a mule down the world’s tallest sea cliffs. Photo: Cameron Wears.

This secluded peninsula was a leprosy settlement for over 100 years, and tours are offered that detail life in the somber but scenic spot. To reach Kalaupapa for the start of the tour, either hike or ride on the back of a mule and get panoramic views from the trail, which drops 1,700 vertical feet over 26 switch backing turns.

3. Take a Cultural Hike in Halawa Valley

Halawa Valley on the island’s east end is believed to be Hawaii’s oldest settlement that’s been continuously inhabited by man. On a guided, cultural hike of the valley, learn how Hawaiians lived off the land and communed in harmony with nature and get the chance to swim at the base of thundering Mo‘oula Falls.

4. Enjoy Live Music at Hale Kealoha

Hotel Molokai

Hotel Molokai Painting. Photo: jshyun.

You’ll find live local music seven nights a week at popular Hotel Molokai, where the oceanfront restaurant, Hale Kealoha, features hula, slack key, and Hawaiian music in the Molokaʻi moonlight each night.

5. Join a Downwind Kayak or Standup Paddle Tour with Molokai Outdoors

Hawaii sunset and local girl in a kayak, Molokai Harbor

Hawaii sunset and local girl in a kayak, Molokai Harbor. Photo: Rose Braverman.

Explore inside the south shore reef on a guided kayak or standup paddle tour, where easterly trade winds blow at your back and help propel you down a coast that’s lined with fishponds and mangroves.

6. Send a Friend a Coconut

Molokai Airport Sign: "Post a Nut - Free Coconuts"

Molokai Airport Sign: “Post a Nut – Free Coconuts.” Photo: jshyun.

At the small but quirky US Post Office outside of Ho‘olehua, visitors can not only decorate a coconut inside the one room shop but mail that coconut off to virtually anywhere in the world.

7. Take A Trip Down Hot Bread Lane

Kaunakakai, Molokai - Kanemitsu Bakery Bread Run: Door and Menu

Kaunakakai, Molokai – Kanemitsu Bakery Bread Run: Door and Menu. Photo: jshyun.

The best place for dessert on Molokai isn’t at a fancy restaurant but rather a small back alley window behind Kanemitsu Bakery. Locally known as “Hot Bread Lane,” the take out window is accessed via a dimly lit Kaunakakai alley and features gooey loaves of bread that drip in strawberry or cinnamon.

8. Hike the Molokai Forest Reserve

Maunahui-Makakupaia Trail, Moloka'i: Forest Reserve Entrance

Maunahui-Makakupaia Trail, Moloka’i: Forest Reserve Entrance. Photo: jshyun.

You’ll need to have a 4WD vehicle to reach the forested trailheads, but the network of trails leading into “the Bog” are some of the best—if not most remote—you’ll find in all of Hawaiʻi.

9. Explore the North Shore Sea Cliffs by Boat

Molokaʻi is home to vertical sea cliffs that rise 3,800 feet from the sea, and the best way to see them is from the deck of a boat on a trip with Walter Naki. Experience the thrill of cruising beneath the tallest sea cliffs in the world, and there’s even the chance you’ll spot Humpback whales when cruising the coast in winter.

10. Watch the Sunset From Papohaku Beach

Papohaku Beach, Molokai

Papohaku Beach, Molokai. Photo: Jongela19.

Finally, no trip to Molokaʻi would be complete without a Papohaku sunset, where a three-mile long, white sand beach faces perfectly west for an evening show that’s explosively different each night. Stay to watch the stars come out and blanket the sky overhead, and it’s common to see the glow of lights from Honolulu in the distance—a faint reminder of what you chose to escape over here on this shore.

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