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Is Molokai The Real Hawaii?


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kay Brundage



Welcome to Molokai, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the Hawaiian archipelago. While many travelers flock to the bustling shores of Waikiki or the luxurious resorts of Maui, Molokai remains a peaceful haven untouched by mass tourism. With its untouched natural beauty, rich cultural traditions, and warm hospitality, Molokai offers a truly authentic Hawaiian experience.


Often referred to as the “Real Hawaii,” Molokai is a place where time seems to slow down and the modern world fades away. The island’s unique charm lies in its preservation of ancient Hawaiian culture and its commitment to sustainable living. Here, you won’t find high-rise hotels or crowded beaches, but rather a deep sense of community and a connection to the land.


Molokai’s history is intertwined with the stories of its people, the Native Hawaiians. The island is home to numerous sacred sites, ancient fishponds, and historic landmarks that bear witness to the island’s rich cultural heritage. Visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the customs and traditions of the locals, learning about the art of hula, the significance of taro farming, and the importance of aloha spirit.


But Molokai is not just about its cultural heritage. The island boasts breathtaking natural beauty that will leave you in awe. From the towering sea cliffs of the Kalaupapa Peninsula to the pristine beaches with turquoise waters, Molokai offers a diverse range of landscapes to explore. Hiking trails meander through lush rainforests, revealing hidden waterfalls and panoramic views of the coastline.


As you venture further into this paradise, you will discover the local cuisine, a unique blend of Hawaiian, Polynesian, and Asian flavors. Indulge in a traditional plate lunch, savor fresh seafood, or try the famous poi, a staple of Hawaiian cuisine made from pounded taro root. The island’s farm-to-table movement ensures that your taste buds will be delighted with the freshest ingredients.


For those seeking adventure, Molokai offers a plethora of outdoor activities. Whether it’s hiking to the summit of Kamakou Mountain, embarking on a mule ride along the cliffs of Kalaupapa, or snorkeling in the Molokai Marine Preserve, there is something to satisfy every adventurer’s appetite.


But it’s not just the landscape that makes Molokai special. The island is home to a tight-knit community of locals who embody the true spirit of aloha. Get to know the residents, listen to their stories, and experience the warmth and generosity that radiate through every interaction. Their unwavering love for their island home is contagious, and you’ll find yourself falling in love with Molokai too.


Getting to Molokai is an adventure in itself. Whether you choose to take a scenic flight or hop on a ferry from neighboring Maui, the journey to this secluded paradise sets the tone for what awaits you. And as for accommodation, Molokai offers a range of options, from cozy bed and breakfasts to beachfront cottages, ensuring a comfortable stay that perfectly complements the island’s laid-back atmosphere.


If you’re seeking an authentic Hawaiian experience, filled with rich culture, natural beauty, and genuine hospitality, then Molokai is the place for you. Embark on a journey to the heart of the Hawaiian Islands and discover the real Hawaii on the enchanting island of Molokai.


Molokai’s Unique Culture and History

Molokai is steeped in a rich cultural heritage that dates back thousands of years. The island is regarded as a living museum of Hawaiian traditions, where ancient customs and practices are kept alive by the local communities.


One of the most significant historical sites on Molokai is the Kalaupapa Peninsula, which was once a place of isolation for individuals with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease. The site, now a National Historical Park, offers a glimpse into a dark chapter of Hawaiian history. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn about the lives of those who were forced to live in isolation and gain a deeper understanding of the disease’s impact on the local community.


The island is also home to ancient fishponds, a testament to the Hawaiians’ ingenuity in sustainable food production. These fishponds, such as the fishponds at Alii and Kapuaiwa, were used for centuries to cultivate fish and provide sustenance for the community. Today, these fishponds are being revived and maintained as invaluable cultural and ecological resources.


Hula, the ancient Hawaiian dance form, is deeply rooted in Molokai’s cultural fabric. The island is home to several hula schools where visitors can immerse themselves in the art form, learning the graceful movements, melodious chants, and the stories that hula tells. Attending a hula performance is a truly mesmerizing experience, as dancers transport you to a bygone era through their captivating performances.


Another integral part of Molokai’s cultural identity is taro farming. Taro, a staple of Hawaiian cuisine, is grown in extensive wetland terraces known as lo’i. These lo’i can be found scattered across the island, and visitors have the opportunity to see firsthand the meticulous process of growing taro – from planting to harvesting. Taro pounding, a process that transforms the root vegetable into poi, is a traditional practice that is still carried out on the island.


The people of Molokai have a deep connection to the land and a strong commitment to sustainable practices. The island has been at the forefront of movements such as permaculture and organic farming, with many residents embracing the principles of self-sufficiency and environmental stewardship. Visitors can learn about these practices through farm tours and workshops, gaining insights into how the community is working towards a more sustainable future.


Visiting Molokai offers a unique opportunity to witness and engage with a living culture. Whether it’s through participating in traditional ceremonies, listening to stories passed down through generations, or simply observing daily life, Molokai provides an authentic and immersive experience unlike any other.


By embracing and celebrating its cultural heritage, Molokai showcases the essence of the Hawaiian spirit and offers visitors a chance to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the customs and traditions of the Native Hawaiians.


Natural Beauty of Molokai

Molokai is a paradise for nature lovers, with its diverse landscapes and stunning natural beauty. From dramatic sea cliffs to pristine beaches, the island offers a plethora of awe-inspiring sights to explore.


One of Molokai’s most iconic features is the towering sea cliffs of the Kalaupapa Peninsula. These majestic cliffs, reaching heights of up to 3,600 feet, create a dramatic backdrop that is unlike anything you’ve seen before. A helicopter or mule ride down the cliffs offers breathtaking views of the coastline and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.


The beaches of Molokai are nothing short of spectacular. Papohaku Beach, often referred to as “Three Mile Beach,” is one of the largest white sand beaches in Hawaii. Stretching for three miles, this pristine shoreline invites visitors to unwind, soak up the sun, and take leisurely strolls along the soft sand.


For those seeking a more secluded beach experience, Halawa Bay is the perfect spot. Located on Molokai’s lush east end, this hidden gem is nestled between lush mountains and turquoise waters. A hike to Halawa Valley, one of Hawaii’s oldest inhabited areas, offers not only stunning vistas but also a glimpse into the island’s ancient history.


Molokai’s interior is a tapestry of lush rainforests, verdant valleys, and cascading waterfalls. Kamakou Preserve, a part of The Nature Conservancy, is a protected area that showcases Molokai’s unique biodiversity. Encompassing over 3,000 acres, this pristine wilderness is home to rare plant species, including the rare Hawaiian honeycreepers.


The Molokai Forest Reserve is another natural gem, offering hiking trails that wind through dense forest and lead to hidden waterfalls. The Mo’omomi Preserve, located on Molokai’s north shore, features stunning coastal cliffs, remote beaches, and important seabird nesting areas.


When it comes to exploring marine life, Molokai does not disappoint. The Molokai Marine Preserve, a designated marine sanctuary, is a haven for snorkelers and divers. The crystal-clear waters teem with vibrant coral reefs, colorful tropical fish, and the occasional sea turtle or Hawaiian monk seal sighting.


The natural wonders of Molokai are not only visually captivating but also provide a sanctuary for diverse wildlife and unique plant species. Visitors to the island have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the untouched beauty of nature and forge a deeper connection with the environment.


Whether it’s exploring the majestic sea cliffs, basking on pristine beaches, hiking through enchanting forests, or snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, Molokai offers a wealth of natural treasures that will leave you in awe. Embrace the tranquility and serenity of this unspoiled paradise as you discover the true meaning of Hawaiian beauty.


Exploring the Local Cuisine

Exploring the local cuisine is an essential part of any trip to Molokai. The island’s culinary scene showcases a fusion of flavors influenced by traditional Hawaiian, Polynesian, and Asian cuisines. From farm-to-table dishes to local specialties, Molokai offers a unique gastronomic experience.


One of the most iconic dishes on the island is poi. Made from pounded taro root, poi is a traditional staple of Hawaiian cuisine. It has a smooth, pudding-like consistency and a subtle earthy flavor. It is often served as a side dish, accompanying main courses such as kalua pork or lomi-lomi salmon. Trying poi is a must for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the local culture.


Molokai is also known for its fresh seafood offerings. Fish such as mahi-mahi, ono (wahoo), and ahi (tuna) are commonly found on menus at local restaurants. Whether you prefer it grilled, seared, or served as poke, the abundance of seafood ensures that your taste buds will be delighted with the flavors of the ocean.


Another local favorite is the plate lunch. This hearty meal typically consists of a protein, such as teriyaki chicken or kalbi ribs, served with rice and macaroni salad. Plate lunches are a filling and satisfying option for those looking for a quick and delicious meal.


If you’re in the mood for something sweet, don’t miss out on trying haupia. This traditional Hawaiian dessert is a coconut pudding-like treat that is often served at luaus and celebrations. Its creamy texture and delicate coconut flavor make it a delectable ending to any meal.


Molokai is also home to several farmers’ markets where you can experience the bounty of the island’s agriculture. Local farmers showcase their fresh fruits, vegetables, and homemade goods. It’s the perfect opportunity to sample exotic fruits such as lilikoi (passion fruit), rambutan, and lychee, as well as pick up locally made jams, jellies, and honey.


Molokai’s commitment to sustainable farming and agriculture is evident in its farm-to-table movement. Many restaurants on the island source their ingredients from local farmers and showcase the flavors of the land. From taro farms to coffee plantations, visitors can embark on farm tours and learn about the island’s agricultural practices while indulging in delicious meals sourced with care.


Whether you’re a foodie looking to explore new flavors or simply seeking authentic and satisfying meals, Molokai’s culinary scene has something for everyone. Embrace the local flavors, savor the fresh ingredients, and let your taste buds embark on a journey of culinary discovery.


Adventures and Activities on Molokai

Molokai may be known for its laid-back atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of adventures and activities to enjoy. Whether you’re seeking outdoor thrills or immersive cultural experiences, this enchanting island offers something for everyone.


One of the most popular adventures on Molokai is hiking. With its diverse landscapes, the island boasts an array of scenic trails that cater to all skill levels. Take a leisurely stroll along the Halawa Valley Trail, where you’ll be rewarded with lush vegetation, cascading waterfalls, and a glimpse into Hawaiian history. For a more challenging trek, hike to the summit of Kamakou Mountain, the highest point on the island, and soak in panoramic views of Molokai’s rugged beauty.


If you’re a water enthusiast, Molokai offers a range of activities to satisfy your cravings. Kayak along the coastline and explore hidden coves and sea caves. Snorkel or scuba dive in the Molokai Marine Preserve, where vibrant coral reefs teem with marine life. For an exhilarating experience, try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or catch some waves with a surf lesson at the local breaks.


For those seeking a unique cultural experience, attending a traditional Hawaiian luau is a must-do. Luau celebrations showcase the essence of Molokai’s rich heritage through music, dance, and mouth-watering food. Watch as hula dancers tell stories with their graceful movements, listen to traditional Hawaiian chants, and indulge in a feast of local delicacies.


Molokai is also renowned for its mule ride adventures to the Kalaupapa Peninsula, a journey that takes you down the towering sea cliffs. Led by experienced guides, this unforgettable experience allows you to explore the historic Kalaupapa Village, learn about the area’s past, and gain a deeper appreciation for the resilience of the individuals who lived there.


If you’re interested in local crafts and arts, be sure to visit the Molokai Arts Center. This community-based organization showcases the talent of local artists and offers workshops and classes for those wanting to try their hand at ceramics, painting, or other artistic endeavors. Taking home a piece of Molokai’s artistic heritage is a meaningful way to commemorate your visit.


Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Molokai by taking part in a traditional hula class or attending a ukulele workshop. Learn about ancient Hawaiian practices such as lei making or taro pounding. Engaging with the local community and participating in cultural activities is a unique way to connect with the island.


As the sun sets over Molokai, embark on a sunset cruise along the coast. Watch as the golden hues paint the sky and reflect on the tranquil waters. It’s an opportunity to unwind, relax, and appreciate the simple beauty of nature.


Whether you’re seeking adventures in the great outdoors, cultural immersion, or simply a chance to unwind, Molokai offers an abundance of activities that will make your trip unforgettable. Embrace the island’s slower pace of life and let the spirit of Molokai lead you on an adventure of a lifetime.


Communities and People of Molokai

Molokai is not just a beautiful island, but it is also a community united by a deep sense of aloha and a commitment to preserving its unique way of life. The people of Molokai hold a strong connection to their land, culture, and to each other, making it a truly special place to visit.


The residents of Molokai embrace a simpler way of life, cherishing the values of community, ohana (family), and sustainability. There is a palpable warmth and hospitality that greets visitors as they arrive on the island, making them feel like a part of the community from the moment they set foot on Molokai’s shores.


The island’s tight-knit communities foster a strong sense of belonging and togetherness. Molokai is made up of several small towns, such as Kaunakakai and Maunaloa, where residents gather at local markets, schools, and community events, sharing stories and creating lasting friendships. Exploring these towns offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals and an opportunity to connect with the heart of Molokai.


The people of Molokai have a deep love for their land and are dedicated to preserving its natural beauty. They are passionate advocates for environmental conservation and sustainable practices. Locals take pride in their commitment to self-sufficiency, embracing organic farming, permaculture, and renewable energy. The island’s rich volcanic soil and abundant rainfall contribute to sustainable agriculture, with many residents farming and growing their own food.


Respecting the traditions and cultural heritage of the Hawaiian ancestors is a vital part of Molokai’s identity. Native Hawaiians make up a significant portion of the population, and their customs and traditions are integrated into everyday life. The practice of hula, the art of lei making, taro farming, and other cultural practices are passed down through generations, ensuring the preservation of ancient Hawaiian knowledge.


Molokai is a close-knit community, and its residents have a profound appreciation for a simpler, more connected way of life. Visitors to the island have the opportunity to engage with the locals, listen to their stories, and learn from their wisdom. Whether it’s striking up a conversation at a local café or attending a community event, the welcoming spirit of the people of Molokai creates an atmosphere of true aloha.


Throughout the year, Molokai hosts numerous festivals and events that celebrate the island’s heritage. The Molokai Ka Hula Piko is a renowned hula festival that showcases the beauty and grace of this traditional dance form. The Molokai Holokai Hoolaulea brings together paddlers from all over Hawaii to compete in outrigger canoe races and celebrate the island’s connection to the ocean.


Visiting Molokai goes beyond enjoying the natural beauty of the island; it is an opportunity to connect with a community of individuals who embody the essence of aloha. By engaging with the people of Molokai, visitors gain a deeper understanding of the island’s culture, traditions, and the true meaning of ohana.


How to Get to Molokai

Getting to Molokai involves a sense of adventure, as you journey to this secluded island paradise. While Molokai may be off the beaten path, the journey to reach this enchanting destination is well worth the effort.


The most convenient way to reach Molokai is by flying into the Molokai Airport (MKK). Several major airlines offer flights to Molokai from Honolulu, Maui, and other neighboring islands. The flight itself presents a scenic experience, as you soar over the turquoise waters, showcasing the beauty of the Hawaiian archipelago.


If you prefer a more unique mode of transportation, you can opt for a ferry ride. The Molokai Ferry operates between Maui and Molokai, allowing visitors to enjoy a leisurely boat trip while taking in the stunning coastal views. It’s important to note that the ferry schedule may be subject to change, so it’s advisable to check the departure times in advance.


For those already on the island of Maui, you can also book a private charter flight to Molokai. This option provides a flexible and personalized experience, allowing you to tailor the travel itinerary according to your preferences.


Once you arrive on Molokai, transportation options are available to explore the island. Rental cars are available at the airport and in the town of Kaunakakai. It’s recommended to book a car in advance, as availability may be limited. Alternatively, you can also rent bicycles or mopeds to navigate the island’s picturesque roads at a more relaxed pace.


Another way to get around and experience the local way of life is by utilizing Molokai’s public transportation system, known as the Molokai MEO Bus. The bus provides service to various destinations on the island, making it a convenient and affordable option for exploring Molokai’s attractions.


Whether you choose to fly, take a ferry, or charter a private flight, the journey to Molokai is an adventure in itself. As you make your way to this hidden gem, be prepared to immerse yourself in the tranquility and natural beauty that await you on the island.


Accommodation Options on the Island

Although Molokai is known for its secluded and unspoiled beauty, it offers a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious beachfront resort or a cozy bed and breakfast nestled in the heart of the island, Molokai has something to offer every visitor.


If you seek a truly luxurious experience, there are a handful of upscale resorts and vacation rentals that provide unparalleled comfort and amenities. These accommodations offer stunning ocean views, private pools, and access to pristine beaches. Relax in style and enjoy top-notch service while immersing yourself in the tranquility of the island.


For those who prefer a more intimate and personalized stay, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals are abundant on Molokai. These charming accommodations offer a unique opportunity to connect with local hosts and experience the warm hospitality of the island. From quaint cottages to eco-lodges nestled in nature, these accommodations provide a cozy and homey atmosphere.


If you’re traveling with a larger group or seeking a more private setting, renting a beachfront house or villa can be an excellent choice. With spacious living areas, fully equipped kitchens, and private lanais, these accommodations offer the comfort and convenience of a home away from home. Wake up to the soothing sound of the waves and savor your morning coffee while enjoying breathtaking ocean views.


For budget-conscious travelers or those seeking a more rustic experience, Molokai also offers camping opportunities. Several campgrounds, such as Papohaku Beach Park and One Alii Beach Park, provide facilities including restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. Falling asleep under the starry night sky and waking up to the gentle sound of the ocean can be a truly magical experience.


No matter where you choose to stay on the island, Molokai’s small-town charm and natural beauty are never far away. You’ll have easy access to stunning beaches, scenic hiking trails, and local attractions while enjoying the peacefulness of the island’s less populated areas.


It’s important to note that Molokai’s accommodation options may be limited compared to more touristy destinations in Hawaii. It is advisable to book your lodging in advance, especially during peak travel seasons to secure your preferred choice.


Whichever accommodation you choose, be prepared to embrace the relaxed and laid-back lifestyle that defines Molokai. Immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty and genuine hospitality, and create lasting memories in this enchanting Hawaiian paradise.



Molokai, the real Hawaii, offers a captivating and authentic experience for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the rich culture, natural beauty, and warm hospitality of the island. From its unique cultural heritage to its stunning landscapes, Molokai presents an opportunity to truly connect with the essence of Hawaii.


The island’s unique culture and history are deeply intertwined with its people. The residents of Molokai embody the spirit of aloha, welcoming visitors with open arms and sharing their traditions, stories, and way of life. The preservation of ancient customs, such as hula and taro farming, showcases the islanders’ commitment to their cultural heritage.


Exploring the natural beauty of Molokai is a feast for the senses. From the majestic sea cliffs of the Kalaupapa Peninsula to the pristine beaches with turquoise waters, the landscapes of Molokai captivate the soul. Hiking through lush rainforests, swimming in clear waters, and enjoying breathtaking sunsets create lasting memories.


The local cuisine of Molokai tantalizes taste buds with its fusion of flavors. From trying traditional poi to savoring fresh seafood, visitors have the opportunity to indulge in the island’s diverse and delicious offerings. The commitment to sustainable agriculture adds an extra layer of quality and authenticity to the culinary experience.


Adventures and activities on Molokai cater to all interests and preferences. Whether it’s engaging in exhilarating water sports, embarking on scenic hikes, or immersing oneself in the local culture, there is no shortage of experiences to be had on this captivating island.


The community of Molokai is the heart and soul of the island. The strong sense of ohana, belonging and togetherness, creates an environment where visitors are embraced as part of the community. Engaging with the locals, attending cultural events, and experiencing the true spirit of aloha make for a memorable and meaningful journey.


Traveling to Molokai is an adventure in itself, whether by air or by sea. Despite its off-the-beaten-path location, accessing the island is part of the experience, setting the stage for the unique and enchanting journey that awaits.


From luxury resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts, Molokai offers a range of accommodation options that cater to different preferences and budgets. No matter where you choose to stay, the tranquil beauty and inviting charm of the island are never far away.


In conclusion, Molokai offers an authentic and immersive Hawaiian experience. It is a place where cultural traditions are cherished, natural beauty is revered, and warm aloha spirit permeates every interaction. Visiting Molokai allows travelers to discover the essence of the real Hawaii, forging memories that will last a lifetime.