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MOLOKAI, HAWAII

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Molokai Tours and Sightseeing


You can see most of the attractions of Molokai in a solid day, provided you have a 4-wheel drivDowntown Kaunakakaie vehicle.  This is actually a good way to see the island, because there aren't that many sights to see, overall, and they are easy to keep track of.  The following paragraphs will lead you on a road tour of Molokai, taking in the sights, and at the end of the tour, you'll find links to guided tours if there is something you still find lacking.  Don't forget to visit our Discounts & Bargains page to save on tour reservations!  

Start off in downtown Kaunakakai, where you can see the Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, 11 acres of palms over 80 feet tall.  Look across the street to Church Row, where a row of churches stands side by side.  You can catch the famous Molokai Fish Ponds, where Hawaiians were raising fish in the early 13th century.  Kalokoeli Pond is about two miles east of Kaunakakai along Route 450, and can be seen from the road.  Head east just before One Ali'i Beach Park, where you get a sweeping view of Ali'i Fish Pond.   

Head east down Route 450, taking it slow, as you absorb yourself in the atmRainbow alongside the Highwayosphere of yesteryear.  The scenery is lush and rural now, and you might see rainbows along the road.  This is truly the essence of Moloka'i.  Drive past the string of fish ponds, and past One Ali'i Beach Park.  You pass by Kakahai's County Beach Park and National Wildlife Refuge, perhaps stopping to gaze at rare endemic birds, and reach St. Joseph Church, built in 1876 by Father Damien.  A picture of Father Damien and one of St. Joseph adorn the walls.  One mile or so past St. Joseph's is the Smith and Bronte Landing Site, where two aviators crash-landed their plane in 1927, completing the first trans-Pacific civilian flight in just over 25 hours.  Today, it is just a mangrove swamp.  You drive slowly by Kalua'aha Church, looking much like a fortress with its tiny silt windows and three-foot-thick plastered walls and buttresses.  It was the first Christian church on Molokai, built in 1844.

Next, you'll see lli'ili'opae Heiau, one of Hawaii's most famous human-sacrifice temples, and a Overlooking Halawa Bayuniversity of sorcery.  Stop and take a ride on horseback or on wagon train through Mapulehu Mango Grove, one of the largest Mango Groves in the world, with more than 2,000 trees and 32 varieties.   You'll pass Our Lady of Sorrows Church, also built by Father Damien, in 1874, and just down the road, near mile marker 19, you'll hit Waialua Beach, one of the best beaches on the island for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.  Two minutes past mile marker 19 is a sand and coral beach where you can walk knee-deep out to the reef.  At high tide, it's chest high.  Mile Marker 20 Beach, with its huge expanse of white sand and protected lagoon, is the main beach on the east end.  Here you can enjoy great snorkeling, although the swimming isn't the best.  Make sure to wear protection on your feet from the hard coral!

Past Pukoo, the road turns spectacular.  Hairpin turns wind you along the cliff face, following the natural roll of the coastline.  Amazing views are waiting around every corner, and you'll have toHalawa Valley stop for photographs.   Sweeping inland, the road takes you to the 14,000 acre Puu O Hoku Ranch.  Here you can find the famous kukui grove, where Lanikaula, one of the most powerful sorcerers in Molokai, is buried.  The road hits one more hairpin turn, and suddenly, before you is the magnificent chasm of Halawa Valley, with its famous waterfalls sparkling against the green of the valley's jungle walls.

Follow the paved road to its end, where you can bathe in the cool, freshwater stream or in the surf of the protected bay.  This area is great for snorkeling, surfing, and fishing.  Halawa Bay is a Beach Park, with toilet facilities and picnic tables, but no overnight camping.  The water here is not potable.  After taking a short walk up to Moaula Falls, head back to Kaunakakai.

From Kaunakakai, head west on Route 450 toward Hoolehua Airport, and just before mile marker 4, turn right over a bridge.  Just before a bridge, turn right on the red-dirt Main Forest Road, posted for 4WD vehicles.   The road is rutted washboard, and although passable in a 4WD Vehicles are required for the Waikolu Overlook Trail.standard car if it's dry, we'd advise against it.   In just under six miles, turn right at a main intersection.  After 10 miles, look for the road sign, "Kamiloloa", and park 100 yards past in a turnout, and walk five minutes to the Sandalwood Measuring Pit.   The pit looks like a hole in the ground, but it was used to measure the amount of sandalwood that would fit in the hold of a ship.   Past the measuring pit, the road worsens, turning muddy (and fun!).  After about a mile, you'll come to the Waikolu Overlook.  From here you can peer down into the pristine valley 3,700 feet below.  Hundreds of waterfalls fill the valley after a rainfall, provided you can see them through the mist.  Spin your tires back down the road, now, unless you want to hike in the Kamakou Nature Preserve, to the main road.

Take a right, and you'll head through Kualapuu and Kalae to Pala'au State Park and the Kalaupapa Overlook.  You might want to stop and tour the 500-acre Coffees of Hawaii plantation ($14pp), or grab a bite to eat at the Kualapuu Cookhouse.  Stop and pick up some nuts from Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm, and continue on to Kalae, where you'll find the Molokai MuseumPhallic Rock at Pala'au State Park and Cultural Center, also known as the R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill Museum ($2.50 admission).   Notice the tall cyclone fence topped with barbed wire where hundreds of roosters are tied up, raised for cockfighting.  Cockfighting is illegal, but there is no law against raising the birds.  A few minutes past Kalae are the stables for the Molokai Mule Rides, which take you to Kalaupapa.  Follow the road to it's end at Pala'au State Park.  Follow the signs from the parking lot to Phallic Rock, an aptly named stone, that is thought to be inhabited by Nanahoa, the god of fertility.  Barren women would come here to pray for children, or to sit in the pool below, hoping to absorb the power of the rock.  Turn around and head over to the Kalaupapa Lookout, where you can see the leper colony nearly 2,000 feet below.  There is no road to Kalaupapa, only the mule trail that can be hiked as well.

The original leper colony was formed in 1864, when King Kamehameha ordered those victims of leprosy to the most remote spot in the kingdom, Kalawao.  The colony was so depraved and Kaluapapa from the Overlooklawless that people were turned to animals.  In 1866, the colony was moved to Kalaupapa, where it was a bit more hospitable.  Father Damien, a catholic priest who had performed missionary duties in the islands, took mercy on the lepers, and made it his life's mission to care for the people and lead them to normal lives.  In 1969, the quarantine was ended, and the patients were allowed to return to their homes.  Today, you can learn the incredible story behind Kalaupapa from Damien Tours, but you cannot walk around unescorted.  The tour charges $32 for a fascinating four-hour tour.  You can either walk to Kalaupapa, or ride the Mules down the seacliffs.  The ride will cost you about $150pp, and includes the ground tour and lunch.  You can fly out if you like, for around $65.

The west end of Molokai is arid, and rather like middle America.  There is little population, and, except for the excellent beaches, there is little to see here.  The Molokai Ranch and neighboring condos are located near Maunaloa, where there is access to Papohaku Beach, the best attraction in the area.  Bring your 4WD for access to some of the more remote beaches, down gravel roads (at best).   

If the self-guided tour isn't for you, visit the links in the table below to plan a guided tour around Molokai.  Before reserving, check our Discounts and Bargains page to save on reservations!


Molokai Action Adventures

Molokai Horse & Wagon Ride

Molokai Mule Ride and Kalaupapa Tour

Molokai Off-Road Tours & Taxi (Friendly Isle Tours)

Molokai Outdoor Activities

Molokai Ranch Activities

 

Molokai Rentals & Tours

 

 

 

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