“Molokai Seclusion by Erik Blair

The island of Molokai, known as the “Friendly Island,” is often said to be the “most Hawaiian” of the isles today. Come to this long, fish-shaped island for a quiet getaway, and find yourself in a simpler, more relaxed Hawaii. Many people choose to visit Molokai as a day trip from Maui, but if you have the time, spend a few days here and explore its untamed wilderness and historic small towns.

Perhaps the most fascinating point on Molokai is the isolated Makanalua Peninsula, with water on three sides and sheer 2000-foot cliffs on the other. Located on the north coast in Kalaupapa National Historic Park, this is a site of breathtaking beauty and moving historical events. In 1865, native inhabitants were forcibly removed from this peninsula in order to make way for a leper colony, where all Hawaiians who suffered from the disease were banished in 1866. Seven years later, a Belgian missionary named Father Damien heard about the deplorable conditions there and made his home with the lepers, serving them as priest and doctor and organizing the construction of homes, churches, orphanages, and a public water system. Eventually he contracted the disease and died in 1889. The colony remained until 1969, when medicines became available to treat the disease. Today, Kalaupapa is open to visitors and can be accessed by mule ride, hiking tour, or charter plane. At the bottom of the cliffs, visitors are taken on a tour of the towns of Kalaupapa and Kalawao, where Father Damien lived and worked. Even if you don’t take the tour down the cliffs, it’s still worth a stop at the overlook to see the magnificent view.

Yellow Rose photo by Rose Braverman Molokai Hawaii

“Yellow Rose” by Rose Braverman

Molokai has many other great areas to hike and enjoy the island’s natural beauty.  Halawa Valley, on its eastern end, has been settled since 650 A.D. On the guided hike through this valley, you will be rewarded with sights of ancient heiau (places of worship) and the 250-foot Mo’oula Falls. The three-mile boardwalk through Kamakou Preserve is another great place to hike through rainforests and see Hawaii’s diverse plant life. For more ancient sites, check out the fishponds along the southern coast.

Molokai’s small towns offer many interesting spots to visit.  In Kaunakakai, you can see Kamehameha’s summer house, built in the 1860s, and the royal Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove. While there, stroll through the shops on Ala Malama Avenue and get some onion and cheese bread from Kanemitsu Bakery. To the north, you can visit Molokai Museum, see the restored R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill, and take a tasty tour of Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm. Visit the Big Wind Kite Factory in Maunaloa (to the west) and see colorful kites being made. Relax on sandy Papohaku Beach, take a whale-watching tour in spring or winter, or snorkel at Kumimi Beach.

No matter how you spend your time on Molokai, you are sure to enjoy its rich history, natural beauty, and small-town charm.