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Molokai, Hawaii Travel Guide And Packing Tips


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Emlynn Lasley



Welcome to Molokai, the hidden gem of Hawaii. Situated in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Molokai offers a unique and authentic Hawaiian experience that is unlike any other. With its untouched beauty, rich cultural heritage, and warm aloha spirit, this island is a paradise waiting to be explored.


Molokai is often referred to as the “Friendly Isle,” and for good reason. The locals here are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature, making visitors feel like ohana (family) from the moment they arrive. Whether you’re seeking adventure in the great outdoors, immersing yourself in the island’s rich history and culture, or simply relaxing on pristine beaches, Molokai offers something for everyone.


One of the reasons why Molokai stands out from the other Hawaiian islands is its pristine and untouched natural beauty. With its rugged cliffs, lush valleys, and shimmering turquoise waters, the island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. From hiking along the majestic sea cliffs of the Kalaupapa Peninsula to snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Papohaku Beach, there is no shortage of breathtaking landscapes to explore.


Moreover, Molokai is a place where time seems to stand still. Unlike the bustling tourist destinations on neighboring islands, Molokai remains relatively untouched by mass tourism. Here, you can escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the slower pace of island life. Whether it’s strolling down the streets of Kaunakakai town or witnessing a traditional Hawaiian hula performance, you’ll find a sense of peace and tranquility that is hard to come by elsewhere.


So, whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history buff, a beach lover, or simply looking to reconnect with nature, Molokai is the perfect destination for your Hawaiian getaway. Join us as we embark on a journey to discover the wonders of this magnificent island, and let the magic of Molokai capture your heart.


Getting to Molokai

Getting to Molokai is an adventure in itself. While the island may be tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular Hawaiian destinations, reaching Molokai is relatively easy. There are several transportation options available to get you to this island paradise.


The most common way to reach Molokai is by flying into Molokai Airport (MKK). There are daily flights from Honolulu International Airport (HNL) operated by Hawaiian Airlines. The flight takes approximately 30 minutes, offering breathtaking views of the neighboring islands and the stunning coastline of Molokai.


If you prefer a more scenic route, you can also take a ferry from Maui. The Molokai Ferry departs from Lahaina Harbor and takes around 90 minutes to reach Kaunakakai Wharf on Molokai. The ferry ride provides stunning views of the Maui coastline and the opportunity to spot marine life along the way.


Once you arrive on Molokai, it’s recommended to rent a car to explore the island at your own pace. Car rental companies are available at the airport and in Kaunakakai town. Alternatively, you can also arrange for airport transfers or use taxi services to get around.


For those looking to visit Molokai as part of an island-hopping adventure, there are also cruise options available. Some cruise lines offer stops in Molokai as part of their Hawaiian itinerary, allowing you to experience the island’s beauty while enjoying the amenities and comforts of a cruise ship.


It’s important to note that Molokai is a small island with limited transportation options. It’s recommended to plan your travel arrangements in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to ensure availability and convenience.


Whether you choose to fly or take a ferry, the journey to Molokai is the first step in immersing yourself in the enchanting beauty and serenity of this Hawaiian paradise.


Best Time to Visit

Molokai is an alluring destination that can be enjoyed year-round, thanks to its pleasant weather and captivating beauty. However, there are certain times of the year that are considered the best for visiting Molokai, depending on your preferences and activities.


The peak tourist season in Molokai is during the summer months, from June to August. This is when the island experiences its highest number of visitors, which means more crowds and potentially higher accommodation prices. If you prefer a livelier atmosphere and are interested in attending events and festivals, summer can be a great time to visit.


For those seeking a quieter and more laid-back experience, the shoulder seasons of spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) are ideal. During these months, you can enjoy pleasant weather, fewer tourists, and often better deals on accommodations. The island is less crowded, giving you more space and tranquility to explore the beaches and natural landscapes at your own pace.


Winter (November to February) brings slightly cooler temperatures to Molokai, but it is still comfortable for outdoor activities. This is also the whale-watching season, as humpback whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters during this time. Witnessing these majestic creatures breach and play in the ocean is a truly unforgettable experience.


It’s worth noting that Molokai experiences a microclimate, with different parts of the island having varying weather patterns. The eastern side is known for its lush and rainy weather, while the western side tends to be drier and sunnier. Regardless of the time of year you visit, it’s always a good idea to pack a light jacket or sweater, as temperatures can cool down in the evenings.


Ultimately, the best time to visit Molokai depends on your personal preferences and what you hope to experience during your stay. Whether you’re seeking a vibrant atmosphere or a quieter escape, Molokai’s natural beauty and warm aloha spirit will captivate you no matter when you decide to visit.


Things to Do in Molokai

Molokai may be small in size, but it offers an abundance of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, a culture seeker, or simply looking to relax on picturesque beaches, Molokai has something to offer everyone. Here are some of the top things to do in Molokai:

  • Explore the Kalaupapa Peninsula: Take a mule ride or hike down the dramatic sea cliffs to discover the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula. This area holds a rich history as a former leprosy settlement and offers stunning views and a powerful sense of serenity.
  • Visit the Molokai Plumeria Farm: Immerse yourself in the beauty and fragrance of the Plumeria flowers at the Molokai Plumeria Farm. Take a tour of the farm, learn about the cultivation process, and even purchase your own Plumeria plant or lei.
  • Discover the Halawa Valley: Embark on a guided hike through the lush Halawa Valley, where you can explore ancient taro terraces, swim beneath majestic waterfalls, and learn about Hawaiian traditions and culture from knowledgeable guides.
  • Explore Papohaku Beach: Spend a day at Papohaku Beach, one of Hawaii’s largest white-sand beaches. Relax on the pristine shores, go for a swim, and witness spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
  • Visit the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center: Learn about the island’s rich history and culture at the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center. Discover artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of the island and its people.
  • Go Snorkeling in Molokai’s Waters: Dive into the crystal-clear waters surrounding Molokai to discover vibrant coral reefs, tropical fish, and marine life. The island offers excellent snorkeling spots, such as Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove and Kawakiu Beach.
  • Explore the Molokai Forest Reserve: Lace up your hiking boots and venture into the Molokai Forest Reserve. The reserve offers miles of hiking trails that wind through native forests, leading to breathtaking viewpoints and hidden waterfalls.
  • Attend a Traditional Hawaiian Luau: Experience the essence of Hawaiian hospitality and culture by attending a traditional Hawaiian luau. Enjoy a feast of delicious local cuisine, witness captivating hula performances, and embrace the aloha spirit.

These are just a few of the incredible experiences that await you in Molokai. Whether you choose to immerse yourself in nature, learn about the island’s history, or simply unwind on the beautiful beaches, your time in Molokai will be filled with unforgettable moments and cherished memories.


Exploring Molokai’s Beaches

Molokai boasts some of the most stunning and pristine beaches in Hawaii. With its uncrowded shores and breathtaking surroundings, exploring the island’s beaches is a must-do for any visitor. Here are a few of the top beaches in Molokai:

  • Papohaku Beach: Known as one of the largest white-sand beaches in Hawaii, Papohaku Beach is a true gem. Its expansive shoreline stretches for three miles, providing ample space for sunbathing, picnicking, and long walks along the water’s edge. With its crystal-clear turquoise waters and picturesque sunsets, Papohaku Beach is a paradise for beach lovers.
  • Kapukahehu Beach (Dixie Maru Beach): Situated on the west coast of Molokai, Kapukahehu Beach, also known as Dixie Maru Beach, offers a peaceful and secluded setting. This hidden gem is perfect for snorkeling and swimming, with its calm waters and vibrant coral reefs teeming with tropical fish. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear to explore the underwater wonders of this beautiful beach.
  • Kawakiu Beach: Located in the town of Kaunakakai, Kawakiu Beach is a local favorite. This sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying a refreshing swim. With its calm waters and stunning views of Lanai and Maui in the distance, Kawakiu Beach offers a serene and relaxing setting for beachgoers.
  • Halawa Bay Beach: Nestled along the lush Halawa Valley, Halawa Bay Beach is a hidden paradise. This secluded black-sand beach offers breathtaking views of the surrounding cliffs and mountains, creating a truly mesmerizing setting. Explore the nearby Halawa Valley and its cultural significance, and then relax on the peaceful shores of Halawa Bay.
  • One Alii Beach Park: Located in Kaunakakai, One Alii Beach Park is a local favorite for its calm waters and shaded picnic areas. This family-friendly beach park is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying a picnic under the palm trees. Take a leisurely stroll along the beach and soak in the beautiful views of the Molokai coastline.

As you explore Molokai’s beaches, it’s important to practice responsible beach etiquette and respect the natural environment. Take care to pack out what you pack in, avoid disturbing the coral reefs, and heed any warnings or guidelines provided at each beach.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation, water activities, or simply the beauty of untouched nature, Molokai’s beaches have something for everyone. So grab your beach towel, sunscreen, and sense of adventure, and prepare to discover the enchantment of Molokai’s coastal wonders.


Hiking and Outdoor Activities

Molokai is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of hiking trails and exciting outdoor activities. With its breathtaking landscapes, lush valleys, and rugged cliffs, the island provides a stunning backdrop for adventure seekers. Here are some of the top hiking and outdoor activities to experience in Molokai:

  • Explore the Kamakou Preserve: Embark on a journey through the Kamakou Preserve, a pristine rainforest covering 2,774 acres of Molokai’s highest peak. Hike through lush vegetation, encounter rare native plants, and enjoy panoramic views of the island’s lush valleys.
  • Hike the Molokai Forest Reserve: Lace up your hiking boots and venture into the Molokai Forest Reserve. With miles of well-marked trails, you can explore the native forests, witness stunning waterfalls, and relish in the tranquility of the island’s natural beauty.
  • Take in the Views from the Kalaupapa Lookout: Drive to the Kalaupapa Lookout to witness panoramic views of the Kalaupapa Peninsula and the dramatic sea cliffs. The lookout offers a breathtaking vantage point to capture stunning photos and appreciate the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Molokai.
  • Go Horseback Riding: Experience the island from a different perspective by going horseback riding. Explore the scenic trails, valleys, and coastline with a guided tour that allows you to connect with nature and appreciate Molokai’s unique beauty.
  • Surf or Stand-Up Paddleboard: Molokai offers excellent conditions for surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Test your skills on the waves or embark on a serene paddle adventure along the coastline. Lessons and rentals are available for all skill levels.
  • Spend a Day at the Palaau State Park: Located on the western end of Molokai, Palaau State Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Hike the Palaau Ridge Trail to enjoy panoramic views of the island, visit the Phallic Rock, and explore the dense forest and unique flora and fauna.
  • Snorkel or Dive in the Coral Gardens: Put on your snorkeling gear and discover the vibrant underwater world of Molokai’s Coral Gardens. Swim among colorful coral reefs, encounter an abundance of tropical fish, and potentially spot turtles and other marine creatures.
  • Camp in Molokai’s Wilderness: For a truly immersive experience, spend a night camping in one of Molokai’s designated camping areas. Fall asleep under the stars, surrounded by untouched nature, and wake up to the sound of the ocean waves.

Whether you seek the thrill of adventure or the serenity of nature, Molokai offers an array of outdoor activities that cater to all preferences and skill levels. As you explore the island’s trails and engage in outdoor pursuits, be sure to respect the environment, follow any established guidelines, and leave no trace behind. Get ready to create unforgettable memories amidst the enchanting landscapes of Molokai.


Cultural and Historical Sites

Molokai is a destination rich in cultural heritage and history. Exploring the island’s cultural and historical sites is a fascinating way to immerse yourself in the stories and traditions of the Hawaiian people. From ancient landmarks to important historical sites, here are some must-visit places in Molokai:

  • Kalaupapa National Historical Park: Visit the secluded Kalaupapa Peninsula, a place of great historical significance. This park was once a leprosy settlement and houses several preserved buildings, including the St. Damien Church and the historic Kalaupapa Lighthouse. Take a guided tour to learn about the lives of those who were affected by leprosy and the compassion of Father Damien, who cared for the patients.
  • Halawa Valley: Explore the sacred and culturally significant Halawa Valley, one of the oldest settlements in Hawaii. Take a guided tour to learn about the valley’s history, the ancient temples (heiau) that still stand, and the traditional Hawaiian practices that take place here. The lush surroundings and majestic waterfalls add to the enchantment of this culturally significant site.
  • Molokai Museum and Cultural Center: Located in Kaunakakai, the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center is a must-visit to learn about the island’s history and heritage. The museum features exhibits on the island’s ancient Hawaiian roots, the impact of Western contact, and the traditions and culture that have shaped Molokai throughout the years.
  • Pu’u o Hoku Ranch: Discover the rich history of ranching in Molokai at Pu’u o Hoku Ranch. Take a guided tour to learn about the ranch’s operations, visit historic buildings, and experience traditional Hawaiian horsemanship demonstrations.
  • Honouliwai Stream and Fishpond: Take a memorable trip to the Honouliwai Stream and Fishpond, which dates back to ancient Hawaiian times. Learn about the innovative fish farming techniques used by early Hawaiians and witness the importance of sustainability in Hawaiian culture.
  • Ualapue Fishpond: Venture to Ualapue Fishpond, one of the largest ancient fishponds in the Hawaiian Islands. Built by early Hawaiians, this ingenious aquaculture system allowed for the sustainable cultivation of fish. Take a guided tour to learn about its history, restoration efforts, and the significance of fishponds in Hawaiian culture.

As you visit these cultural and historical sites, it is essential to respect the sacredness of the places and follow any guidelines or protocols provided. Take the opportunity to learn from local guides and immerse yourself in the stories passed down through generations. By exploring these sites, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage that defines Molokai.


Shopping and Dining in Molokai

While Molokai may be a small island, it offers a unique and enjoyable shopping and dining experience. From charming local shops to delicious eateries, the island is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here are some top recommendations for shopping and dining in Molokai:



  • Kaunakakai Town: Explore the town of Kaunakakai, the main hub of Molokai, where you’ll find a variety of shops offering local crafts, clothing, jewelry, and artwork. Check out Molokai Arts Center, Kapuaola’s, and Paddlers Inn for a diverse shopping experience.
  • Saturday Market: Visit the Saturday Market held at the UH Maui College Molokai campus in the town of Kaunakakai. Here, you can browse through a wide selection of fresh produce, handmade crafts, and local food products. It’s a great opportunity to support local vendors and find unique souvenirs.
  • Molokai Plumeria Farm: Located in Kualapu’u, the Molokai Plumeria Farm offers a delightful shopping experience. Browse through a variety of plumeria flowers, leis, and handmade products. It’s a perfect place to find a unique gift or a beautiful memento of your time in Molokai.


  • Kualapu’u Cookhouse: Indulge in local flavors at the Kualapu’u Cookhouse, a beloved restaurant known for its delicious Hawaiian and American cuisine. From loco moco to fresh seafood, the menu offers a fusion of flavors that will satisfy any palate.
  • Misaki’s: Experience authentic Japanese cuisine at Misaki’s, a cozy restaurant located in Kaunakakai. Known for its fresh sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese specialties, Misaki’s has been a local favorite for years.
  • Molokai Burger: Head to Molokai Burger for mouthwatering burgers made with locally sourced ingredients. This casual eatery offers a variety of burgers, including vegetarian options, and has a welcoming and laid-back atmosphere.
  • Mana’e Goods and Grindz: Enjoy a delicious meal at Mana’e Goods and Grindz, a restaurant with a focus on farm-to-table dining. Their menu features dishes made with locally grown produce and freshly caught seafood, providing a true taste of the island.
  • Hula Shores Restaurant: Located at Hotel Molokai, Hula Shores Restaurant offers a beachfront dining experience. Enjoy a tropical cocktail or a plate of local favorites while immersing yourself in the island’s relaxing atmosphere.

When dining out, keep in mind that Molokai operates on a slower pace, and it’s recommended to make reservations especially during busy times. Also, don’t be surprised by the limited operating hours, as some places may close earlier in the evenings.


Whether you’re shopping for unique souvenirs or indulging in local cuisine, Molokai offers a delightful experience for those seeking authentic island flavors and artisanal products. So, treat yourself to a memorable shopping and dining adventure and savor the flavors of this enchanting island.


Accommodation Options

Molokai offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. From cozy cottages to beachfront resorts, you’ll find a place to rest and rejuvenate after a day of exploring the island. Here are some popular accommodation options in Molokai:

  • Hotels and Resorts: Molokai has a few hotels and beachfront resorts that provide a comfortable stay with amenities such as swimming pools, on-site dining options, and beach access. These properties offer convenience and a range of services for guests seeking a more traditional hotel experience.
  • Vacation Rentals: Many visitors to Molokai opt for vacation rentals, such as cottages, condos, and beach houses. These rentals offer a home-away-from-home experience, with fully equipped kitchens, private lanais (balconies), and the freedom to create your own schedule. Vacation rentals are available in various locations across the island and are ideal for families or those seeking a more independent stay.
  • Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs): If you prefer a more personalized experience, consider staying at one of the cozy bed and breakfast establishments in Molokai. These charming properties offer comfortable accommodations, homemade breakfasts, and the opportunity to connect with local hosts who can provide insider tips on the best places to explore.
  • Camping: For adventurers and nature enthusiasts, camping is a unique way to experience Molokai’s beauty up close. Molokai offers several designated camping areas where you can pitch your tent and enjoy the serenity of the island. Keep in mind that permits are required, and facilities may be limited, so it’s essential to plan ahead and come prepared.

It’s worth noting that Molokai is a relatively small island, and accommodation options can be limited compared to larger tourist destinations in Hawaii. It’s recommended to make your reservations well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons or if you have specific preferences for your stay.


When choosing your accommodation, consider the location that suits your interests. Whether you prefer a tranquil beachfront retreat or proximity to Molokai’s attractions and amenities, you’ll find options to meet your needs.


Whichever accommodation option you choose, the warm hospitality of the locals will ensure that your stay on Molokai is a memorable one. Take the time to connect with the island’s charm and immerse yourself in the aloha spirit that defines this special place.


Packing Tips for Molokai

When preparing for your trip to Molokai, it’s important to pack accordingly to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience on the island. Here are some essential packing tips to keep in mind:

  • Lightweight and Breathable Clothing: Molokai’s weather is generally warm and tropical, so pack lightweight and breathable clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, and swimwear. Don’t forget a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings or if you plan to explore higher elevations.
  • Sun Protection: Molokai is known for its abundant sunshine, so pack sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the UV rays. It’s also a good idea to have a rash guard or cover-up for extended beach days.
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: Molokai offers plenty of opportunities to explore nature trails and hike, so pack comfortable walking shoes or hiking sandals to ensure you can fully enjoy these outdoor activities. Water shoes or reef shoes are also recommended for protecting your feet while snorkeling or exploring rocky areas.
  • Beach Essentials: Don’t forget to pack your beach essentials, including a beach towel, beach bag, and snorkeling gear if you have your own. While some beaches may have rental options, having your own gear ensures a more comfortable and familiar experience.
  • Insect Repellent: To protect yourself from potential mosquitoes and other insects, pack insect repellent. It’s also a good idea to bring anti-itch cream or calamine lotion in case of bug bites.
  • Cash and Card: While there are ATMs and credit card facilities available, it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller establishments or in case of emergencies.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is essential, so pack a reusable water bottle to refill throughout your adventures. It helps reduce plastic waste and ensures you always have water readily available.
  • Camera or Smartphone: Molokai’s natural beauty is picture-perfect, so don’t forget your camera or smartphone to capture memorable moments. You’ll want to preserve the stunning landscapes and unique experiences to reminisce about your time on the island.
  • Respectful Attire: When visiting cultural and historical sites in Molokai, it’s important to be respectful of the local traditions and dress appropriately. Carry a sarong or light cover-up to wear over swimsuits, and avoid revealing clothing in sacred places.

Remember that Molokai is a laid-back island, so pack a relaxed and casual wardrobe that reflects the island’s easygoing vibe. Also, be mindful of any specific items you may need for activities or attractions you plan to partake in, such as hiking gear or snorkeling equipment.


With these packing tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your time in Molokai, experiencing the island’s beauty and immersing yourself in its unique culture.



Molokai is a hidden paradise in Hawaii, offering an authentic and unforgettable experience for travelers. From its untouched natural beauty to its rich cultural heritage, this island captivates visitors with its warm aloha spirit and breathtaking landscapes.


Whether you’re exploring the dramatic sea cliffs of the Kalaupapa Peninsula, relaxing on the pristine shores of Papohaku Beach, or immersing yourself in the island’s history and culture, Molokai has something for everyone. The outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted by the hiking trails, water activities, and stunning vistas. History buffs will find a wealth of cultural and historical sites that tell the story of the island’s past. And those in search of relaxation will appreciate the slower pace of life and the opportunity to unwind on secluded beaches.


While Molokai may be smaller in size than its neighboring islands, it more than makes up for it with its charm and authenticity. The locals’ warm hospitality and the preservation of traditional practices create a welcoming and unique atmosphere that sets Molokai apart from other tourist destinations.


As you plan your trip to Molokai, remember to pack light, dress comfortably, and be prepared to embark on a journey of discovery and rejuvenation. Embrace the natural wonders, immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage, and allow the magic of Molokai to captivate your heart and soul.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deeper connection with nature and Hawaiian culture, Molokai has it all. So, pack your bags, leave behind the stresses of everyday life, and get ready to experience the beauty and tranquility of this hidden gem in the Pacific.