You can see most of the attractions
of Molokai in a solid day, provided you have a 4-wheel drive 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
Head east down Route 450, taking it
slow, as you absorb yourself in the atmosphere
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
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,
of sorcery. Stop and take a ride on horseback or on wagon train
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!
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 to
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
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
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
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
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,
The colony was so depraved and
that people were turned to animals. In 1866, the colony was moved
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
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
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!