Molokai, Hawaii’s fifth largest island, is only 10 miles (16 kilometers) across at its widest point. The small island packs a big punch in terms of natural beauty—it’s home to the world’s highest sea cliffs and longest continuous fringing reef. It’s often considered the most Hawaiian of islands, thanks to its largely Native Hawaiian population.
What Molokai lacks in development it makes up for in pristine beauty. Visitors find two volcanoes, sprawling white-sand beaches, and the sacred Halawa Valley, all in a compact package. While the island is worthy of a stay in its own right, visitors pressed for time can catch the highlights on a helicopter tour from the neighboring island of Maui.
While Molokai is beautiful from the air, it also offers numerous worthy attractions on the ground. Hike or ride a mule down the towering sea cliffs of the Kalaupapa Peninsula, visit a former leper colony within Kalaupapa National Historical Park, learn about sugar cane production at the Molokai Museum, do some shopping in the small town of Kaunakakai, or watch the sunset from Papohaku Beach, considered one of Hawaii’s best.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Molokai is a must-see for travelers wanting to get off the beaten path.
- Helicopter tours to Molokai range in length from 45 minutes to an hour.
- If staying on Molokai, you’ll need a rental car or taxi; there is no public transportation on the island.
- Don’t forget hiking boots and everything you’d need for a day at the beach.
How to Get There
Visitors have only one option for getting to the island—by plane. Daily commuter flights aboard local regional airlines depart from both Honolulu (Oahu) and Maui airports.
When to Get There
The weather on Molokai remains in the mid-80s throughout the year, with slightly more rainfall in winter and a combination of sunny skies and calm seas in summer. For a local cultural experience, plan to visit during the Ka Molokai Makahiki Festival in January or the Molokai Ka Hula Piko in May.
Molokai’s Leper Colony
Kalaupapa National Park is home to the remains of a colony where patients with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) were once isolated from the rest of Hawaii’s population. Of the 8,000 people who lived and died at the colony—most of them Hawaiian—only a few remain, cured of their disease but living out their lives in this isolated environment.