The birthplace of hula, Molokai is rich with history and natural beauty unspoiled by the outside world. Instead of coming to the island with a vast agenda and an itemized list of activities to check off, we think one of the best things to do on Molokai is to just slow down. There are no stop lights, no sky-rises, no late-night bars and no chain restaurants; so instead of fighting the peaceful atmosphere, why not embrace it? There are limitless places to lounge and enjoy life at a laid-back pace or explore some of the wild and breathtaking beauty this island has to offer. Here are our top five favorite things to prioritize on Molokai.
Kalaupapa National Historic Site: Possibly one of the most popular and historic things to do on the island is take a tour to the Kalaupapa National Historic Site by air, mule or by foot. The mule ride includes the Father Damien guided tour of the church where the sainted missionary ministered to the quarantined patients of Hansen’s disease. If you go via the trail near Kalaupapa Lookout, travelers can experience Molokai from more than a thousand feet above the water as they descend on a switch-back trail into the historic peninsula. While your visit by air, mule or foot will be memorable, one can only enter the area by making advanced arrangements with the tour provider or with Damien Tours in advance of your trip.
Hike Halawa Valley: Even getting to Halawa Valley is a pleasant pastime, as the 28 mile drive out of Kaunakakai is full of staggering green mountains, glorious coastal views and historical fishponds. This lush valley is a great destination for fishing, hiking, spotting tropical flora and viewing an ancient heiau. In the middle of the valley flows Halawa Stream, the largest stream in Molokai. Halawa Stream is fed by two spectacular waterfalls, Hipuapua Falls and Moa’ula Falls, which you can see at a distance from the valley floor. Hiking within the valley requires accompaniment with official tour guide which can be arranged in advance at the Aqua Hotel Molokai in Kaunakakai.
Sea kayaking or canoeing: One of the greatest ways to experience Molokai is to get out on the water. Take a guided kayak tour or rent a pair of canoes to take out on the open sea for the best views of the coastlines and a peak at rare marine life. The island of Molokai is home to the longest barrier reef in the Hawaiian Islands, which is home to an abundance of fish. Paddle out beyond to clear waters to admire the reef and bright blue ocean where visibility is often so clear that kayakers can see the ocean floor, even when they are over 200 yards aware from the coast. You may even see a whale breach in the distance or a couple of sting rays and sea turtles swimming below the waves. One of the best aspects of kayaking is the ability to reach beaches that are inaccessible by land. If you bring an air-tight bag, you could have a private picnic on some lonely shore before heading home. For added safety we recommend going with a guide as strong currents and winds can take you way off course.
Get to the beach: Though this might be one of the most over-stated suggestions for visitors to Hawaii, we would be remiss not to add it to our must-do list for Molokai. Halawa Beach Park in Halawa Valley is a fantastic place to soak in the sun on a black-sand beach. If a relaxed day of swimming and snorkeling is your goal, Murphy’s Beach on the east end of Molokai is a great choice. Papohaku Beach near Maunaloa is the longest beach in the state and perfect for a leisurely walk on calm weather days. Be warned, the sand here can get quite hot, so don’t try to walk barefoot from the car to avoid burning your feet.
Dine like a local: People visiting Molokai are generally not going to be looking for crowds or high-energy hubs, so embrace settling into to the gentle ambiance and dine like a local resident. Start your day in Molokai’s largest town of Kaunakakai with the strong coffee from Stanley’s Coffee Shop and Gallery then enjoy lunch and/or dessert from Mana’e Goods and Grindz, Outpost Natural Foods or Kamoi Snack-N-Go. Mouth wateringly fresh hot bread can be purchased at famous Kanemitsu’s Bakery & Coffee Shop also located in Kaunakakai. If you are a fan of macadamia nuts, go to Purdy’s Natural Macadamia Nut Farm in Ho’olehua; while coffee enthusiasts will enjoy the friendly setting at Coffees of Hawaii in Kualapu’u. Memories like these from the island of Molokai will become lifelong treasures for you and your family to share.