This trip to Molokai was sponsored by Maui Nui (the tourism board for Maui County), which means all of my expenses were paid for and the itinerary was organized for me. As always, I only recommend my absolute favorites to you. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Hulaland possible.
After spending four days on the Hawaiian island of Molokai (often called the most Hawaiian of the Hawaiian Islands), I feel more aware and appreciative of Hawaii and its culture than ever before. Countless trips (and even a brief time actually living in Hawaii) didn’t expose me to the type of uniquely Hawaiian experiences that I was able to participate in during my short time on Molokai.
As a visitor, I’ve never so fully experienced “aloha” anywhere else in Hawaii. Aloha isn’t the waterfalls. It’s not the beaches or the rainbows or the lush green mountains. It’s not the scent of plumeria wafting over you while you relax in a hammock. Aloha isn’t a mai tai. Aloha is the spirit of the people. And there’s nowhere in Hawaii that a visitor is embraced more fully with aloha than Molokai.
After about my second day on Molokai, I realized that the things I was learning, seeing and experiencing on Molokai were all connected to the people of Molokai. Unlike other places in Hawaii where I remember “things I did,” my memories on Molokai are of the people I met. Every experience is connected with a person, sharing their knowledge, their way of life, their culture, and their appreciation for their island.
This is what makes Molokai different than any other Hawaiian Island. It’s what makes it special. Molokai is the fifth largest Hawaiian Island, situated between Maui and Oahu. In the morning, you can watch the sun come up over Maui, and in the evening you can see the lights of Honolulu. But it’s a world away from either island.
What You Should Know Before You Go
How to get there: By air is the only way to get to Molokai (there is no longer ferry service available from Maui). Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai both offer numerous flights a day to Molokai (MKK) from both Maui and Oahu. The flight is only about 20 minutes and leaves out of the commuter terminal which means no TSA (show up 30 minutes before your flight, no hectic chaos, no rules about liquids, etc.). The planes are small (only 8-9 passengers), but the views are incredible.
Everything is closed on Sundays: Everything. It’s not a good day to arrive on the island, and honestly if you’re only going to be there for a few days, I would schedule it so you’re not there on Sunday.
There are no stoplights: Not one! They just installed a flashing crosswalk light by one of the schools (and I heard it was the talk of the island), but that’s it. This gives you an idea of the size and scope of the island and also how much traffic there is.
Watch out for deer: There are so many deer on Molokai, especially out towards the west end so be very careful when driving at dusk. Drive slow!
Everybody knows everybody: Unlike the other Hawaiian Islands where there’s such an influx of transplants and newcomers, Molokai is an extremely tight knit community. So tight knit that if they don’t know you, they know you’re a visitor. But everyone is so friendly and welcoming! So many times walking through town people would stop and ask me where I was from and how I was enjoying my stay. That just doesn’t happen anywhere else. It was also fun when with our tour guides to see everyone greet everybody when we went into a store or restaurant. If you’re from a small town where everyone has known you since were a child, you’ll be familiar with the vibe. If you’re not, it’s neat to see firsthand.
This is “old Hawaii:” Compared to the other islands, Molokai is incredibly undeveloped. This of course, is part of its charm, but it can also pose some logistical challenges if you’re visiting. There are a couple small grocery stores and markets, but don’t expect a Target, Walmart, or Costco. There are plenty of restaurants, but nothing too fancy. You’ll have everything you need on Molokai, but it’s good to go in with the right expectations.
How Long Should You Spend on Molokai?
Molokai has a reputation for being boring or having nothing to do. By the time you finish reading this post, hopefully I’ll have debunked that myth but it still doesn’t compare to the four main Hawaiian Islands. I think three days is the perfect amount of time to visit Molokai, and while I don’t normally recommend spending so little time on an island because of travel time, the short flight here plus not having to go through TSA means that you have most of your travel days free. I would recommend a day for touring Kalaupapa, a day for the Halawa Valley, and either spending a day with Molokai Outdoors (if you haven’t used them for day 1 or 2) or spending a day filling in with what interests you.
I also recommend sandwiching in your time on Molokai in the middle of your trip. For example, I wouldn’t recommend flying straight to Molokai from the mainland because if your flight to Maui (or Oahu) is delayed, you’ll probably end up missing your connection. Fly to Maui and spend a few days, then hop over to Molokai and end your trip back on Maui for a bit before flying home.