Hiking Hawaii: Molokai

Where is the best place you’ve ever hiked? For us, it’s definitely the Islands of Hawaii! Each island is distinct in its beauty, and every time we hike in the islands, we find ourselves in awe of the waterfalls, mountains, and epic coastal views. So of course Molokai, the “most Hawaiian” island, couldn’t help but show off its epic landscapes as well. Here’s everything you need to know about hiking on Molokai, Hawaii!

Halawa Valley Falls

The first thing to know about hiking the Halawa Valley is that it is on private property, and the owners are gracious enough to give tours every day but Sunday! You will get to experience Hawaiian hospitality and culture, learn about some of the Hawaiian customs that are still preserved and practiced today, and get in a great workout! The hike was not difficult or long, but you will be crossing a knee-deep river at one point and scrambling over boulders in two places along the way.

A bit of a scramble to get to the Falls!
  • Location: Halawa Beach Park at the end of King Kamehameha V Hwy.
  • Total Hiking Time: The hike itself is not terribly long, but your hike and cultural experience will last from 9:00am-1:30pm or later.
  • Distance: 5 miles round-trip starting at the parking area.
  • Cost: $60 per person; two person minimum; weather dependent; get your reservations here.
  • Parking: On the side of the road at Halawa Beach Park.
  • Terrain: Rocks, water crossings, mud, dirt, tree roots.
  • Restroom Facilities: Yes! At Halawa Beach Park, before you begin the tour. This is the only restroom.
Group offerings from the Hawaiian ceremony of which you will be a part!
Other Tips
  • It will take about an hour or so to get from Kaunakakai to Halawa. Plan accordingly! The drive is stunningly beautiful.
  • There is exactly one place to get food between Kaunakakai and Halawa, and that is Mana’e Goods ‘n Grindz; their food counter opens at 8:00am, and they serve breakfast and lunch. For a sample of what they offer, read What to Eat on Molokai!
  • Bring heavy snacks or lunch to eat at the waterfall.
  • Wear sunscreen and bug repellent!
  • Plan your tour early in your trip. The tour could be cancelled due to weather and flash floods, but the family will come to talk to you whether or not the tour goes. You can either come back another day or get a full refund from Greg.
Worth the trek! Halawa Falls.
Halawa Valley as seen from the road to get there.
Read on: Halawa Valley Falls Cultural Experience

Pala’au State Park

Can’t swing the flight to Kalaupapa? You can get a stunning view from the Kalaupapa Lookout at the Pala’au State Park. You can also see the Phallic Rock. Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like it would be. This isn’t really a “hike,” per se, but more of a walk.

Right to the lookout, left to the Phallic Rock.
  • Location: At the end of Kalae Hwy.
  • Total Hiking Time: Approximately 25 minutes.
  • Distance: Less than 0.7 miles round-trip, for both.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Parking: Lot at the trail head.
  • Terrain: Concrete to the Kalaupapa Lookout; dirt, rock, exposed tree roots to the Phallic Rock.
  • Restroom Facilities: Yes!
Kalaupapa Lookout
Other Tips
  • You can park right at the trail heads, and since these are such quick walks, there is quite a bit of turnover. You won’t have any trouble parking.
  • There are historical and informational markers at the Kalaupapa Lookout point, so take some time to read them over and give meaning to what you see.
  • There are a number of phallic rocks on the various Hawaiian islands. Hawaiian history says that if a woman makes an offering and spends the night at the Phallic Rock, she will become pregnant. Please do not do anything disrespectful, as this is an important historic site for the native Hawaiians.
The Phallic Rock
More info on the Phallic Rock

Kamakou Preserve

There is a guided hike here once a month, but even if you miss it, you are still allowed to hike on your own without a permit. There are some key things to be aware of, however, as stated in this e-mail from the Educational Hike Coordinator, Russell Kalstrom:

“Ninety percent of the plants we have are found nowhere else in the world and these plants and ecosystems are highly vulnerable to invasive species, which may come in the form of hitchhiking weed seeds or disease (fungi or bacteria) in attached soil, which may come from as near as another valley or island. Be sure to clean any gear that you may be bringing to Molokai prior to your arrival on island, i.e., your shoes scrubbed clean of all dirt and debris followed by a quick dip in a 10% bleach solution.  
“Because of the seriousness of the threat to forests now caused by Rapid Ohia Death Fungus (present on the Big Island or Kauai) we ask that you come to Molokai first if traveling from outside the islands.  If you have been to the Big Island or Kauai, there is a strong possibility that you may be denied the hike or entry unless you have new gear which has not been used there (e.g., shoes).
“Stop by our office when you get in for maps and instructions on how to get to the Preserve(s).  We are open M-Fri, 8 am โ€“ 3 pm.”
Those are bullet holes! It’s open season on deer year-round on Molokai!
  • Location: The Preserve covers 2,774 acres, so you probably won’t be able to cover all of the preserve!
  • Total Hiking Time: Unknown.
  • Distance: 34 miles round-trip, but part of this can be traversed with four-wheel drive.
  • Cost: FREE
  • Parking: On the side of the road.
  • Terrain: Boardwalk, mud, dirt.
  • Restroom Facilities: No.
Other Tips
It was all just a dirst road until the ruts became too much to handle!
For more “need to know” information, read What to Know Before You Visit Molokai

Kalaupapa Pali Trail

The Kalaupapa Pali Trail is one of two ways to reach the Kalaupapa Peninsula, where the leper colony is located. This was the whole reason I wanted to visit Molokai: to visit the Kalaupapa Community and hike this epic trail. Unfortunately for Steve and me, a mudslide on December 25, 2018 closed the trail indefinitely. I hope the trail will re-open in time for your trip, so I’ve listed the information here that I could find online. In the meantime, you can also fly to Kalaupapa to visit the leper colony and learn about its history and the people who live here!

  • Note: You must take a guided hiking tour or mule ride on this hike.
  • Another Note: Visitors must be 16 years or older to visit Kalaupapa. Find out why here.
Closed as of May 2019!
  • Location: Pa’alau State Park
  • Total Hiking Time: The round-trip hike plus the tour will last approximately 7-8 hours, according to various sources from people who have done the hike and tour.
  • Distance: 6-7 miles (sources vary).
  • Cost: $99 per person with Father Damien Tours; $209 per person for mule ride with Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour.
  • Parking: Parking lot at Pa’alau State Park.
  • Terrain: Steep, rocky, some wooden sections, sometimes slippery, prone to mudslides.
  • Restroom Facilities: Yes, at Pa’alau State Park near the trailhead and a few opportunities in Kalaupapa.
Siloama Church, the first church built by the patients in 1866.
Other Tips
  • I can’t wait to go back for this trail! It was one of our primary reasons for visiting Molokai, and we were bummed when the mudslide happened. Check on the Kalaupapa National Park Website for updates on when the trail will reopen.
  • In the meantime, you can still fly to Kalaupapa for the tour. Read all about our experience here!
Approaching Kalaupapa by air.
Read on: Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Kalaupapa Peninsula

I hope you’ll love hiking on Molokai! For more, check out Fascinating Facts about Molokai and my Pacific Islands Page!

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