Molokai is generally thought of as the last bit of “real” . Tourism has been held at bay by the island’s unique history and the deep pride of the island’s predominantly native Hawaiian population, despite the fact that the longest white-sand beach in can be found along its western shore.

With sandy beaches to the west, sheer sea cliffs to the north, and a rainy, lush eastern coast, Molokai offers a bit of everything, including a peek at what the islands were like 50 years ago. No one is in much of a hurry, and a favorite expression is “Slow down, you’re on Molokai.

Only 38 mi long and 10 mi wide at its widest point, Molokai is the fifth-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Eight thousand residents call Molokai home, nearly 60% of whom are Hawaiian.

Molokai Sights

The first thing to do on Molokai is to drive everywhere. It’s a feat you can accomplish comfortably in two days. Depending on where you stay, spend one day exploring the west end and the other day exploring the east end. Basically you have one 40-mi west-east highway (two lanes, no stoplights) with three side trips: the little west-end town of Maunaloa; the Highway 470 drive (just a few miles) to the top of the north shore and the overlook of Kalaupapa Peninsula; and the short stretch of shops in Kaunakakai town. After you learn the general lay of the land, you can return to the places that interest you most. Directions on the island are often given as mauka (toward the mountains) and makai (toward the ocean).

Molokai Reviews

During a week’s stay, you might easily hit all the dining spots worth a visit and then return to your favorites for a second round. The dining scene is fun because it’s a microcosm of Hawaii’s diverse cultures. You can find locally grown vegetarian foods, spicy Filipino cuisine, and Hawaiian fish with a Japanese influence—such as ahi or aku (types of tuna), mullet, and moonfish grilled, sautéed, or mixed with seaweed and eaten raw as poke (marinated raw fish). Most eating establishments are on Ala Malama Street in Kaunakakai, with pizza, pasta, and ribs all within a block or two. If you’re heading to East or West Molokai for the day, be sure to stock up on provisions before you go as there is no place to eat in these areas. You can buy a disposable cooler and groceries at the Friendly Market Center in Kaunakakai. A more limited selection of snacks and groceries is also available in Maunaloa at the Maunaloa General Store.

Molokai Reviews

The coastline along Molokai’s west end has ocean-view condominium units and luxury homes available as vacation rentals. If you are familiar with the high-end Lodge at Molokai Ranch, please note that it is currently closed and future plans for the property remain unknown. Central Molokai offers seaside condominiums and the icon of the island—Hotel Molokai. The only lodgings on the east end are some guest cottages in magical settings and the ranch house at Puu O Hoku. The Molokai Visitors Association (800/800-6367) has a brochure with an up-to-date listing of vacation rentals operated by their members.

Molokai Vacation Properties (800/367-2984 or 808/553-8334. handles upgraded condo rentals that include initial bathroom amenities, cleaning supplies, maps, and complimentary coffee. The company can act as an informal concierge during your stay. There is a three-night minimum on all properties.

Note: Maui County has regulations concerning vacation rentals; to avoid disappointment, always contact the property manager or the owner and ask if the accommodation has the proper permits and is in compliance with local ordinances.


Molokai has one main commercial area: Ala Malama Street in Kaunakakai. There are no department stores or shopping malls, and the clothing available is typical island wear. A handful of family-run businesses line the main drag of Maunaloa, a rural former plantation town. Most stores in Kaunakakai are open Monday through Saturday between 9 and 6. In Maunaloa most shops close by 4 in the afternoon and all day Sunday.

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