20 Things To Do In Molokai

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Molokai is Hawaii’s fifth biggest island, so it is no wonder that fewer people go there in comparison to Oahu, Maui and The Big Islands. But it’s fair to say, The Friendly Isle, (as it is commonly referred to), is one of the most beautiful of all to visit. Just 10 miles to the north of Lanai and around eight miles to the west of Maui, Molokai is a land with a pristine topography and a stoic ambience that oozes cultural and historical significance.

The island resides in the middle of the Hawaiian archipelago and comprises a landmass of just 38 miles in length, from east to west, and just ten miles long, from north to south. It is a place where lush cliffs soar above the sea, miles of remote and rugged hiking trails snake through its landscape and the whole island radiates a small-time charm. Despite not being afflicted by mass tourism, the island offers plenty of attractions for tourists. Should you decide to visit there, here is my take on the top 20 things to do in Molokai.

Molokai, Hawaii

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20 Things To Do In Molokai

1- Hike the Halawa Valley to Moaula Falls

If you are an adventurous soul who doesn’t mind getting your heart rate up, one of the best things to do in Molokai is to hike along the Halawa Valley to Moaula Falls.

You’ll need an experienced guide to do it, as you will be passing through private property and have around three hours at your disposal.

However, the trek takes you through a lush and mystical terrain that eventually leads you to the breathtaking Moaula Falls – a thunderous 250-foot cascade of translucent water surrounded by sheer cliffs and emerald-green foliage that will break you out in goosebumps.

2- Catch a Big Fish

Ide Fish In The Hands Of The Angler
Going fishing is one of the best things to do in Molokai.

Molokai is a prime spot in Hawaii for catching big fish, and you should be able to reel in plenty of marlin, tuna, and mahi-mahi within the deep, cobalt-blue waters that reside around its southern coast.

Just make sure you charter a boat or join a local fishing excursion out into the expansive waters of the Pacific to maximise your chances.

If you would prefer to fish from land, make your way to the northern and eastern coast of Molokai.

There, you can cast a line off its rugged shoreline to try to snag a prized ulua.

3- Shop at the Saturday Farmers Market

Fruit And Vegetable Market
Shopping at the Saturday Farmers’ Market is one of the best things to do in Molokai.

One of Molokai’s main events is its Saturday Farmer’s Market.

It takes place in front of the two banks that reside on Ala Malama Street in the district of Kaunakakai and runs from 7 am to 1 pm.

The market usually accommodates around 35 vendors who offer everything from fresh produce and baked goods to Hawaiian-made jewellery and artwork.

Overall, its a lovely place to stroll around, seek out a bargain and banter with the locals.

4- Check out Pala’au State Park

Concrete Pathway In Forest Of Ironwood Trees
Visiting Palaau State Park is one of the things to do in Molokai Hawaii.

Situated on the northern shoreline of Molokai, Palaʻau State Park is the only state park on the island.

It is a notable spot for hiking due to its beautiful forests and pasture lands.

It also accommodates a lookout point that provides superb views of the Kalaupala Peninsula, which contains structures from a leper colony.

In addition, another attraction in the park is Phallic Rock.

Locals believe this natural formation is a powerful source of enhanced fertility.

So, don’t be surprised if you find a few young couples here!

5- Post a Coconut to some (at Post A Nut Molokai)

Know anyone who loves a coconut? Well, you can mail one to them at the Hoolehua Post Office.

Here, the local postmaster keeps a massive stock of them, which they give out for free.

So you don’t need to purchase one.

(You will have to pay for postage though).

That said, you can personalise them with artwork and messages before you send them off, making it one of the most unique things you can do on the island.

6- Visit the Molokai Leper Colony

I mentioned that you could see structures from a leper colony from Palaʻau State Park.

Well, you can check them out for yourself at Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

You must visit the colony with a tour company as entry to Kalaupapa is not allowed without a permit.

Additionally, you can only get to it by flight as there is no access to it by land or sea.

But once you are there, you will learn about the history of the colony and the work of Father Damien who dedicated his life to look after the sufferers.

It makes for a fascinating tour of discovery.

7- Check out the Fishponds of Molokai

When Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778, one of the things he saw were traditional fishponds, or loko i‘a.

All up there were around 400 fishponds across all the islands, which produced around 2 million pounds of fish annually.

These fishponds provided essential protein sources to sustain the local population during times when other food was sparse.

Today, most of the fishponds have disappeared, although you can still see a couple in the south eastern shores of Molokai.

They are worth checking out as they provide a tangible link to the past.

8- Fly-by the Molokai Sea Cliffs

The north shore of Molokai is famous for its magnificent 3800-foot-tall cliffs that drop dramatically into the ocean.

Taller than any other sea cliffs in the world, seeing them is something that should be on everyone’s bucketlist.

Unfortunately, they are not that easy to get to.

For instance, you could take a physically demanding and treacherous hike over a few days to the top.

Alternatively, you could pay a few hundred dollars to charter a boat to take you around the Halawa Valley.

However, my recommendation, if you can afford it, is to book a one-hour scenic flight with Mokulele Air, which will take you right past them.

The scenery is spectacular!

9- Molokai Museum and Cultural Center

Outdoor Pit Where Circling Mules Powered Cane-Crushing Machinery
Exploring Molokai’ Museum and Cultural Center is one of the top things to do in Molokai.

For those keen to discover more about the history of the islands, make sure you pencil in a visit to the Molokai Museum and Cultural Centre.

Situated in Kaunakakai, it presents a comprehensive showcase of artifacts, photographs and interactive displays that reveal ancient Hawaiian cultures and traditions.

Plan to spend at least half a day here as there is plenty to see.

10- Make your own Lei at Molokai Plumerias

White Plumerias Flower Tree
One of the things to do in Molokai, Hawaii, is to make your own lei.

Making your own lei is one of those iconic touristy things that every visitor to Molokai should partake in.

The best place to do this is at Molokai Plumerias, which offers tours of its facility and interactive lei-making activities.

If you think making a lei is easy, you might not be aware that it takes around 50 native flowers to create one.

However, skilled artists will be on hand to help you create something bespoke and truly special.

11- Play Golf on Molokai

Golf Club And Ball
Playing golf is one of the things to do in Molokai.

Those who like to play golf will want to play a round at the Ironwood Hills Golf Course – the only golf course on the island.

Unfortunately, it is only a nine-hole course.

However, it does present incredible views of the soaring sea cliffs around Molokai and Oʻahu, thanks to its high elevation.

Best of all, there are no tee times, so you can rock up whenever you want.

12- Sunset at Papohaku Beach

If you want a truly magical experience, why not watch the sunset at Papohaku Beach?

As the beach faces west, you can take in the gorgeous dusk colours as the sand turns from light gold to an inviting shade of deep red, and the sun dips below the horizon.

If you can’t make it to the beach at sunset, don’t worry.

You will be able to enjoy walks along its idyllic 3 km stretch of golden sand and swim during the day.

Although the water can get a little rough at times outside of the summer.

13- Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm

For something a little different, why not check out Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm?

They offer tours of their small, organic, family-owned orchards for free, after which you can enjoy samples and buy some of your favourite flavours.

They also give demonstrations, including how to crack open the shells with a hammer, which kids, in particular, seem to like.

Additionally, their gift store has some terrific products and souvenirs.

14- Hike the Pepeopae Trail in Kamakou Preserve

Hiking Trail In A Beech Tree Forest In A Remote Countryside
Hiking the Pepeopae Trail in Kamakou Preserve is one of the things to do in Molokai, Hawaii..

If you are into nature, the Kamakou Preserve is a good place to indulge your nemophilist side.

It resides on the eastern side of the island, high up in the mountains and takes the form of a rain forest that houses more than 200 native species.

While there, you will be able to explore the preserve via a wood and metal boardwalk.

It takes you through the rain forest, which is heavily covered in moss and a primal mountainous bog that will eventually lead you to an incredible view of the Pelekunu Valley.

Again, this hike is best done as part of an organised tour.

15- Drive the Coastal Road to Halawa Valley

Driving the Coastal Road to Halawa Valley is Molokai’s equivalent of the ‘Road to Hana’ in Maui.

Best completed by hiring a car (it’s not the same in a taxi), traversing the historic and scenic 28-mile drive on the Kamehameha V Highway will showcase some of the best parts of the island.

You will see a few fishponds, historic churches, plenty of gorgeous beaches and even a couple of waterfalls in the distance.

Plan to spend at least three to four hours to complete this drive as you will want to stop regularly to capture Insta-worthy photographs.

16- Sorta Ghost Town of Maunaloa

Back in the day, the Molokai Ranch owned about a third of the island.

It also employed 120 people and ran various ventures such as a hotel, gas station, numerous restaurants, a movie theatre and a golf course.

All of whom resided in the upcountry district of Maunaloa.

However, after revealing plans to develop properties along the coastline, the ranch shut down its entire operation in 2008 on the back of vociferous protests from the local community.

While it’s not quite a ghost town – people still live there – it is worth driving through town to see the abandoned buildings which give some indication of how it used to thrive.

17- Visit the Iliiliopae Heiau

Molokai is home to several important religious and historical sites, which you should make a point of checking out if you have some time spare.

One of the most revered is Hokukano-Ualapue Complex, in the district of Kona.

Comprising six places of worship, called ‘heiau’, one of them – Iliiliopae Heiau – is believed to be the oldest in Molokai, dating back to the 1300s.

It is a large structure that previously served as a fortress school for kahuna (sorcerers, priests, ministers, master craftsmen and magicians) and hosted various religious functions including marriage ceremonies and funerals.

18- Listen to the Kanikapila at Coffees of Hawaii

Hawaii is synonymous with the ukulele and there is no better place to experience its beautiful sound on Molokai than at Coffees of Hawaii.

Regularly on Tuesdays between 10 am and 10 pm and Friday’s between 3 pm and 6 pm a bunch of locals get together to play American and Hawaii classics on these instruments.

It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, while enjoying some of the java that was grown within the grounds of the 500-acre plantation.

19- Paddleboard or Kayak to the Barrier Reef

Paddle Board Man Doing Stand-Up Paddleboard On Ocean
Paddleboarding is one of the things to do in Molokai.

You might not be aware of this, but Molokai’s southern shoreline contains the longest barrier reef in the USA.

For those with an adventurous spirit, it provides an excellent opportunity for kayaking as you will be able to explore seaweed, mangroves and its rocky shoreline until your heart is content.

If you do venture out, try not to go outside the reef, as the water can be dangerous, and if the winds pick up you could find yourself halfway towards Australia!

20- See Humpback Whales

Humpback Whale
Seeing humpback whales is one of the things to do in Molokai and Lanai.

If you happen to visit Molokai in winter one of the best things to do is join a whale watching tour.

While February and March are the peak times to see them, it is possible to spot them as early as October or as late as May.

Several companies run tours that will take you to places where you have the most chance of seeing them.

But a popular one to try is Whale Watch Molokai, which has received plenty of positive reviews.

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Spencer is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years experience producing written content for tourism-related businesses. A thalassophile who was afflicted with wanderlust from a young age, he has visited over 40 countries in the world. An ex-pat Brit who now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he cites Miami Beach in the USA and Palm Cove in Australia as his favourite travel destinations. Specialising in writing about beach destinations around the world, he would probably bleed sand if you cut his arm open