Do you dream of experiencing unbridled nature, getting into the aloha spirit, and learning all about authentic Hawaiian culture? Then the island of Molokai is perfect for you!
Nicknamed ‘The Friendly Isle”, Molokai, Hawaii’s fifth largest island, is home to the longest fringing reef in all of the United States and is the birthplace of the hula dance. Off the beaten trail as far as expansive tourism infrastructure goes, Molokai stays true to its cultural roots with a high percentage of its population being of Native Hawaiian ancestry. The local’s love of their land and culture, and their willingness to share this love with visitors, makes it an excellent stop on your Hawaiian vacation!
After spending some time on this beautiful island, we’ve put together this guide that covers the best time to visit, where to stay, things to do and more!
Molokai, Hawaii Travel Guide + Packing Tips
The Best Time to Visit Molokai
Generally, the best times to visit Molokai are in the tourism off-seasons, April through May, and September through November. However, while visiting in April or May may give you cheaper accommodation prices, the temperatures will be a little cooler than in the fall.
If you surf, you’re most likely to experience the best waves from December through March, although visiting during winter will also align you with tourists escaping harsher winter conditions elsewhere.
While a flight to Hawaii can be costly no matter what time of year you fly, there are some things you can do to make the whole affair a little easier on your wallet. Traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday will generally give you the lowest airfare prices, and even just being flexible on the days you fly can save you a few hundred dollars.
Do some research to see whether it’s cheaper to book a round trip flight versus booking your flights separately. For example, booking a budget airline flight (think Southwest) from your nearest city to a west coast city such as Los Angeles or San Diego, and then booking your flight to Hawaii will generally save you some cash.
Also, while Molokai does have its own airport in Ho’olehua, any flight departing from the mainland will generally fly into a larger airport such as Honolulu or Kahului, before continuing on to your destination. The two airlines that handle most of the traffic to Molokai are Island Air and Go! Mokulele Air.
Be sure to book as early as possible; you’ll save more if you book in advance rather than wait for any last minute deals.
Additionally, if you prefer to visit Molokai just as a day trip, there are plenty of reasonably priced flight options from Maui and Honolulu.
While Molokai is generally a temperate-weather paradise year round, the spring, summer, and fall months are more likely to guarantee you warm (up to 85 degrees F) days lightly cooled by trade winds. Expect short, daily showers though!
That said, if you plan on visiting Molokai in the winter (December through March), expect the nights to get a little cooler (think mid-60’s), and don’t be surprised if you experience a storm or two.
Where to Stay on Molokai
Hotel Molokai, located just a 20 minute drive from the Molokai Airport, is an oasis of a hideaway on Kamiloloa Beach. Adjacent to Hawaii’s only barrier reef, the hotel offers spacious and breezy guest rooms decorated in Polynesian décor, complimentary wi-fi, and an outdoor pool.
Hotel Molokai also offers guided excursions for you to enjoy. These options include sunset cruises, scuba diving, snorkeling, the Molokai Day Tour, the Halawa Valley/Moaula Waterfall tour, and a Whale Watching tour.
How to Get Around
In order to fully experience the Island in all of its glory, without a doubt, rent some wheels. The island in total is only forty miles long and ten miles wide, and has no traffic lights, so while you may be a speed demon on the mainland, Molokai is best seen at a slow and steady pace.
While a standard car will do the trick to get you around, if you plan on doing any off-roading, both of Molokai’s rental car agencies, Molokai Rental Car and Island Kine, offer 4×4 options. Just remember to head over to Molokai Visitor’s Association first; they’ll show you where to go!
Other options for getting around the Island include Molokai’s free bus service, renting scooters from Molokai Scooter Rentals, or a bicycle rented from Molokai Bicycles in Kaunakakai.
Read more: How to Travel Kauai on a Budget
The Best Things to Do on Molokai
Visit Papohaku Beach
Papohaku Beach is one of the largest white sand beaches in all of Hawaii. The beach offers three miles of uninterrupted soft, white sands, so there is lots of space for you to spread out and relax. At the beach, you’ll find campsites, indoor and outdoor showers, as well as bathrooms.
To get there from Maunaloa Town, take Kaluakoi Road to the western coast.
In the 1860’s, Kalaupapa became famous as it was chosen to be the site for a colony for people with Leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease). Over the subsequent eight decades, over 8000 people would lose their lives in this location due to the disease before an antibiotic was found.
Today, Kalaupapa National Historic Park is an incredibly beautiful area of land dedicated to the memories and experiences of the people with Hansen’s once forcibly sent there. The park is an incredibly unique piece of Hawaii’s history that is not worth missing!
To visit the park (unless you are invited by a resident) you must be at least 16 years old and purchase a permit from a local tour company. The only ways to traverse the physically demanding 3.5-mile trail to the park are by hiking or mule.
Kayaking with Molokai Outdoors
One of the best ways to view the longest fringing reef in the U.S. is by kayak. Molokai Outdoors offers guided adventures suitable for people of all skill levels, and they supply equipment for solo excursions as well!
Visit Halawa Valley
Halawa is a valley at the eastern end of Molokai, and is the site of one of the earliest Hawaiian settlements; it’s human history dates back 1350 years!
The best way to visit the valley is to take a guided tour. With a tour, you’ll not only visit Mo’oula Falls (which is the only legal way to visit), but you’ll get an amazing history lesson at the same time.
Book a Snorkel Adventure
An activity that can easily be booked through either Molokai Outdoors or Hotel Molokai, if you want to get a little more up close and personal with the Molokai Barrier Reef, snorkeling is a great option!
Molokai Packing Essentials
Long-Sleeved Rash Guard: Whenever I know I’m going to spend a day in the ocean, I always bring my long-sleeved rash guard. Not only does it add an extra layer for when the water gets a little chilly, but it also protects against the sun.
Sun Protection: Being in Hawaii, you’re going to want to pull out all the stops when it comes to sun protection. We recommend a floppy sun hat and some reef safe sunscreen.
Comfortable Footwear: Comfortable shoes that will stay on your feet are totally necessary when visiting Molokai. We recommend a pair of durable sandals, and some hiking shoes.