molokai

Your Ultimate Molokai Travel Guide

Lots of people go to Hawaii, but not a lot of people experience Molokai. It’s known as “The Friendly Isle” and “The Most Hawaiian Island,” but its history and inaccessibility have kept people away over the years. But that’s not such a bad thing… it means you could have this paradise practically all to yourself.

Planning our trip was a bit of a challenge with so little information out there, so I’ve taken everything we learned in our planning efforts and compiled it all for you. You’re welcome! We hope you have an amazing journey on Hawaii’s all-but-forgotten paradise.

Halawa Valley before a storm.

Getting There

Well, unless you’re an excellent swimmer, you will most likely be flying to Molokai! Here are some quick facts to know for planning purposes:

  • There are no flights to or from the Mainland U.S.A. or any other country, so you will have to layover on either Maui (OGG) or O’ahu (HNL) to get there.
  • You will fly into Hoolehua Airport, and the airport code is MKK.
  • Three airlines fly to Molokai: Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, and Makani Kai Airlines.
  • You could also charter a flight to Molokai, but I will leave that up to you!

For reference, the total cost of our round-trip flights from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Molokai (MKK) was $1333.76 per person. We chose to give ourselves a two-day layover on O’ahu on the way home, since we had to stop there anyway, which didn’t add anything to the cost of our flights!

Read on: What to Expect on a Tiny Plane,
Flying an Inter-island Flight on Hawaiian Airlines, and
Surviving the Flight: IAD-HNL
Flying above Molokai!

Getting Around

You will want a car, as there is no public transportation on Molokai. You can’t walk everywhere you want to go, so having your own car to get around is essential! While your options are limited, there are options:

  • Rent from Alamo at the airport
  • Get on the waitlist with Molokai Car Rental; they are locally owned and provide pick up and drop off services

Car Rental Hack: If you go with Alamo, be forewarned that renting a car for more than four days automatically means you’ll be charged the weekly rate. We needed the car for five days, which meant we would be paying for two days we wouldn’t use. However, we realized if we rented for three days, returned the car before our flight to Kalaupapa, then picked up a car on a new reservation for the remaining two days, we would save $50. We chose to save $50!

You will definitely want a car to see more of Molokai!

Where to Stay

Food Considerations

If you prefer to make your own food and truly get away from everyone and everything, you should stay anywhere but Kaunakakai. Just remember to drive into Kaunakakai for the grocery store before you head to your accommodation. If you want restaurants, definitely stay near Kaunakakai, the only proper “town” on the island.

Beach Considerations

If you want beaches that are good for snorkeling or swimming, plan to stay on the southeast side of the island. The waters are rougher and less predictable on the west coast.

Don’t be fooled at beautiful Papohaku Beach on Molokai’s west coast! The waves can be very large and crash right on shore, which we learned on Maui can cause spinal injuries, and the rip currents can be very strong here. Looking is wonderful, but swimming is not advised!
Camping

There are four sites where overnight camping is allowed: One Alii Beach Park on the southeast shore; Papohaku Beach Park on the west coast; Mitchell Pauole Community Center (Maui County Parks and Recreation Office) in Kaunakakai, where you will also pick up your camping permit for both beach parks; and Pala’au State Park on north-central Molokai, near the Kalaupapa Lookout. For all the details including prices, facilities, and permit information, check out the Visit Molokai website!

We stayed at the Hotel Molokai, the only “hotel” on the island, but there are actually quite a few vacation rental properties, too. Condo properties like Molokai Shores (close to Kaunakakai on the south side) and Wavecrest Resort (on the east side) are nice options, but there are also properties on Air BnB, VRBO, and HomeAway, so explore all your options!

Sunrise views from our lanai! Yes, we were really that close to the ocean!

What to Do

There is plenty to keep you occupied on Hawaii’s “most Hawaiian” island, but there are some things you just can’t miss while you’re here:

Lei making was too fun!
Read on: Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Kalaupapa Peninsula,
Lei Making at Molokai Plumeria Farm,
Hiking Halawa Valley, and
How to Mail a Coconut from Hawaii

A Note about Sunday: Many businesses are closed on Sundays. Had we known this before booking our trip, we would have probably arrived on a Monday instead of a Saturday afternoon, or we would have stayed longer. We arrived after most businesses had closed on Saturday and left before most of them had opened on Thursday, which only gave us three days to fit in many of the things we wanted to do! For your planning purposes, here are some things to do on Sundays:

  • Go to the Beach: This is a perfect opportunity to get your fill of sun and sand! Go snorkeling at one of the largest fringing coral reefs in the world along Molokai’s south shore, or go for a long and romantic walk at Papohaku Beach—at three miles long it’s one of the largest beaches in the state, and you can see O’ahu from here!
  • Go for a Hike: No really, take a hike! Head over to Palaau State Park to get epic views of the Kalaupapa Peninsula, traverse part of the Molokai Forest Reserve, or hunt for the Iliiliopae Heiau on the east side to get to know the real Molokai!
  • Visit the Big Wind Kite Factory: I wish we’d known about this when I was making plans! We didn’t find out about it until we were already on the island, but they are open on Sundays from 10:00am-2:00pm! (And Monday-Saturday 8:30am-5:00pm.)
  • Go to Church: Not familiar with Father Damien? You will be when you visit Molokai. He’s the Catholic priest who cared for and ministered to the people sent to the Kalaupapa Peninsula with leprosy. He eventually caught leprosy himself and died here, but in the meantime, he helped build several churches on the island. Several of these churches still hold services.
  • Get in touch with Halawa Tropical Flower Farm to see if you can make an appointment for a farm tour. (They are also open Tuesday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm.)
  • Get in Touch with Purdy’s Natural Macadamia Nuts to see if you can schedule an appointment to tour the farm. (They are also open Monday-Friday 9:30am-3:30pm, and Saturday 10:00am-2:00pm.)
I got to open my own macadamia nuts!

Where to Eat

The food on Molokai was amazing! We weren’t expecting much—I mean, there’s not that much competition, and you have to eat, whether it’s good or not. But we were blown away by the delicious food we had. We didn’t have a bad meal the whole trip! Not only did the food taste great, it always looked pretty, too! I love to see small, locally-owned businesses that take such pride in their work.

Poke with purple sweet potato!
Read on: What to Eat on Molokai

Want more? Don’t forget to read What to Know Before You Visit Molokai, and you can find all my Molokai posts on my Pacific Islands Page!

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