Aloha from Hawaii’s Friendly Isle! We spent our 5th anniversary on Molokai, the “most Hawaiian” and least touristy of the islands. There are plenty of special things about Hawaii and each of its beautiful islands, but we wanted to know more about Molokai’s unique history and landscape. Here is an itinerary similar to ours but with vast improvements in timing, and I hope that it will inspire you to visit!
Pro Tips for Planning Your Trip
I would have done a few key things differently if I could plan our trip over again, even before buying plane tickets! Here are some factors to keep in mind when you’re planning your own trip to Molokai:
You Will Have to Connect
You probably already knew this, but it’s worth noting! And you may actually want to take advantage of that! Whether you’re connecting in O’ahu or Maui, take a “long layover” and spend a day or two on that island! We spent three days in Waikiki on the back end of our trip, but we would have moved it to the front of our trip if we could do it again, so we could spend our weekdays on Molokai and the weekend on O’ahu!
Weekends are for Time Off
In most major tourist destinations, weekends are the busiest time of the week, and every business is open! Not so on Molokai… since it’s not a major tourist destination! Unfortunately for us, we scheduled our flight to arrive Saturday afternoon and leave early Thursday morning. Only after it was too late to change our plans did we realize we would arrive after the close of business on Saturday, very few businesses are open on Sunday, and that only left three days to do everything we wanted! (Pssst! Three days is not enough!)
Most Businesses are Only Open a Few Hours a Day
That’s right! Some businesses (including restaurants) are open a bit sooner or later, but for the most part, the museum, farms, and fun things to do have to be done between 10:00am and 2:00pm!
Read More: What to Know Before You Visit Molokai
Day 1: Arrive on Molokai (Monday)
If you’re like us and coming right to Molokai from the mainland USA, you will need to change planes on either Oahu or Maui. We flew non-stop from Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Honolulu (HNL), then from HNL to Molokai (MKK). If we could do this again, we would have done it on a Monday instead of a Saturday!
Afternoon: Arrive and Check in to Your Accommodation
We picked up our rental car pretty quickly after landing and were on our way! Whether you choose an Air BnB, HomeAway, or the one and only hotel on the island, you’ll enjoy your time on the island!
Evening: Explore Kaunakakai and Get Supper
There’s only one true “town” on the island, and that’s where all three grocery stores, all but two or three of the island’s restaurants, both gas stations, and the shops are located. It’s only about two blocks square, but its all you need! Get something good to eat (everything we ate on Molokai was amazing!), then walk out onto the longest pier in the United States and watch the sunset!
Don’t Forget! Check the drive time from your accommodation to “Halawa Beach Park” (and make sure you get the one on Molokai). It will take a solid hour or more from Kaunakakai, so if you are staying north or west of town, it will take longer; shorter if you’re staying on the east coast of Molokai.
Day 2: Halawa Valley Cultural Hike (Tuesday)
This day may need to be adjusted according to the weather, so just be flexible! You can switch out this day with Day 4 or Day 5 if you need!
7:30am: Leave Kaunakakai
If you want to grab breakfast in Kaunakakai, you will want to be finished eating no later than 7:30 so you will have plenty of time to enjoy the drive, stop to take pictures, and not feel rushed taking those hairpin turns! We did the Road to Hana on last year’s trip to Maui, and this drive to Halawa Valley definitely rivals it in sheer beauty! There is one restaurant on the way to Halawa, Mana’e Goods ‘n Grindz. They are open for breakfast at 8:00 and will be serving lunch by the time you finish with your Halawa Hike. Plan to stop there for a meal!
9:00am: Halawa Valley Hike and Cultural Experience (Book in Advance)
Greg and possibly some members of his family will meet you at Halawa Beach Park. Don’t be put off by the “No hike today” sign, it just stays up. Even if the hike has to be postponed due to weather, Greg will still come snd chat with you. Bring a snack and plan to be here until about 2:00pm! You will definitely enjoy the hike and the whole cultural experience. I love what Greg said about it: “Culture is sacred, not secret.” Be prepared for him to blow your mind about everything you thought you knew about Hawaii! And bring a bathing suit in case you want to swim at the waterfall!
Read the Whole Story: Halawa Valley Cultural Hike
Afternoon: Drive Back to Town, Stopping at Beaches Along the Way
By now you’ve already had a full day! Stop off at a couple of the small beaches on your way back and stick your toes in the water. (I highly suggest bringing water shoes to protect those toes from the rocks and coral, though!) If you didn’t already get breakfast at Mana’e, or even if you did, stop in for some Hurricane Fries or a Paniolo Burger!
Being in Hawaii, and especially Molokai, is all about slowing down and enjoying the place where you are. Read a book on the beach. Shop local in Kaunakakai. Listen to live music at Paddler’s Inn. Go to bed early! If you haven’t already, read up on Kalaupapa and the history of Hansen’s Disease. Tomorrow’s adventure will leave you speechless.
*NOTE: I intentionally put the Halawa Valley hike early in the itinerary, and I suggest you do the same! The hike is often called off due to weather and especially flash floods. If it’s not safe, the hike won’t go. However, Greg will kindly let you come another day or simply refund your money if you can’t come back for the hike later in your trip.
Day 3: Kalaupapa Peninsula (Wednesday)
This day is the whole reason we planned our trip to Molokai: to visit the former leper colony on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. A lot of people go to Molokai for the same reason. There’s this little-known piece of Hawaiian history, and really world history, that is so heart-wrenching it seems like it must be fiction. But it’s not.
Breakfast: Hula Bean Cafe
Never skip breakfast, especially on Molokai! Grab a breakfast sandwich or acai bowl and an Aloha Latte (double espresso, double macadamia nut syrup, and double dark chocolate sauce!), and either eat it there or take it with you to the airport if you’ll be flying to Kalaupapa. The service is super friendly, and the food was awesome! I recommend making it a big breakfast and possibly getting something else to-go, since you will only get a light lunch at Kalaupapa, and all the main food options are back in Kaunakakai!
Read on: What to Eat on Molokai
Morning: Arrive at MKK for Kalaupapa Flight and Tour (Book in Advance)
Unluckily for us, the Kalaupapa Pali Hike was closed for repair after a devastating mud slide on Christmas Day! We love to hike, but thankfully flying is another option! Your flight time may vary, but your tour organizer will let you know. We booked with Molokai Mule Ride, and we were very happy with the experience and price!
You will meet with your tour guide when you get to Kalaupapa, and your tour will last until approximately 1:30. You will see the original settlement, hear the patients’ heartbreaking stories, and learn about their lives and the lives of those who loved and cared for them. It’s an absolutely beautiful place, and it’s so ironic that such a stunning location would also be a prison for so many people. They say every person alive today who has Hawaiian blood has an ancestor who lived at Kalaupapa. I can’t recommend the tour enough.
Read the Full Story Here: Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Kalaupapa Peninsula
Post-Kalaupapa Option: Lunch at Kualapu’u Cookhouse
If that sandwich wasn’t quite enough for you, head over to Kualapu’u Cookhouse, since it’s the only place to get food on this part of the island! Also, stop by Coffees of Hawaii for their gift shop!
Afternoon: Get a Good View and Post-a-Nut!
Whether you’re flying, hiking, or taking a mule ride, you should definitely take a moment to walk over to the Kalaupapa Overlook and see the Phallic Rock at Pala’au State Park. The view is stunning, and there is more Hawaiian history to learn about there as well!
And after that, you might want to send home a coconut! I sent one to my family in Tennessee, and while it was about $20 to send a coconut “post card,” it was well worth it for their reaction when it arrived! Head to the Hoolehua Post Office (or put “Post a Nut” into your phone’s GPS), and you can either decorate one yourself (coconuts and markers provided) or select a beautifully decorated one for the cost of a donation to the local artist. Just write the address on one side, get it weighed for postage, and a few days later it will arrive!
Get the Whole Tutorial Here: How to Post-a-Nut
Evening: Supper in Kaunakakai
By the time you finish up all that, especially if you got to hike the trail down to Kalaupapa and back up, you are probably exhausted and hungry! Plan to pick up supper at Taste of Molokai, Molokai Pizza Cafe, Paddler’s Inn, or Kanemitsu’s Bakery if you get there before they close at 5:00pm! Then don’t forget to stop by Kamoi Snack-n-Go fo the “#1 Ice Cream in Hawaii”!
Day 4: Farm Day (Thursday)
Make this the day you get to really know Molokai from the inside out! The people on Molokai live off the land in a way that people on the other islands don’t need to. And they will share it with you! This is truly their livelihood—the farms, the orchards, the truly local businesses are what these people do for a living! The times below are approximate, not hard-and-fast rules.
Breakfast: Your Choice
By now you’ve probably tried all the breakfast options, so choose the one you like best and enjoy it all over again! We went to Kanemitsu’s Bakery twice and tried different things each time. Everything we had was fabulous!
10:30am: Molokai Plumeria Farm (Book in Advance)
This was such a fun thing to do! The Molokai Plumeria Farm and making our own leis were truly two highlights of our trip. They are open from 8:00am-Noon, but their lei making event is at 10:30 each day. Give them a call or contact them on their website to schedule your tour and lei making tutorial!
Read All About It: Lei Making at Molokai Plumeria Farm
Noon: Lunch at Kualapuu Cookhouse and Coffees of Hawaii
Grab a bite to eat and stop into Coffees of Hawaii if you haven’t already. There used to be music, a coffee bar, and tours of their coffee plantation, but those are no more. However, they do still have a gift shop where you can buy Molokai coffee as well as coffees from their neighboring islands.
1:00pm: Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm
We didn’t make it here in time for the whole tour, but they were kind enough to let me peek in at the gift shop (and get some raw macadamia nuts to bring home!), and they even took a few minutes to show me how to crack some of my own macadamia nuts! I highly recommend this experience, and I can’t wait to go back and get the whole tour!
2:30pm: Kumu Farms
This was a terrible miscalculation on my part! I was trying to fit so many things into our three days when things were actually open, that this one fell through the cracks. They are open Monday-Saturday 9:00am-4:00pm, closed Sunday, and I really wanted to go and get some of their soaps and other body products to take home with me. I got some at their stand at the Maui Tropical Plantation last year, and it was fantastic! I highly recommend making sure this farm makes its way into your trip!
4:00pm: Big Wind Kite Factory
This is one I didn’t know about until it was too late! They were not on Trip Advisor, and they never came up in my research for our trip, so I didn’t even know this was an option. I saw a pamphlet about Big Wind Kite Factory at the airport while we were waiting for our flight to Kalaupapa, otherwise I wouldn’t have heard of it at all. If I’d only known! They offer free tours every day (even Sunday!), and I am so sad we missed it!
Evening: Supper of Choice, then Molokai Hot Bread
By now your jet lag should be mostly under control, so it should be easier to stay up until 7:30pm! At the back of Kanemitsu’s Bakery, you’ll find their Hot Bread counter. You can choose your own toppings and you’ll get your bread hot and fresh! This is another experience we missed out on, not because we ran out of time, but because we’re like old people who eat at 4:00 and go to bed by 7:00!
Day 5: Beach Day! (Friday)
Also known as “make up day”! If you didn’t get to all the things you wanted to do, or if you need to go back to Halawa for your hike, this is your day! And if you were more efficient than we were, you should definitely reward yourself with a day at one of Molokai’s beautiful, often empty beaches!
If you’re feeling adventurous, head over to west Molokai’s Papohaku Beach, which is one of the largest in Hawaii but is also not advisable for swimming! If you want something calm where you can snorkel and hear the sea lapping and lulling you to sleep, go for the south and east coast beaches.
Read on: Fascinating Facts about Molokai
I hope this itinerary helps you make the absolute most of your time on Molokai! I hope you can benefit from my missteps and do everything! Comment below with what you want to do most!
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