Often referred to as ‘The most Hawaiian island’ Molokai provides a unique experience to those willing to reconsider their standard escape. With little other than true Aloha on offer, the island will force even the most formidable workaholic to slow down and disconnect.
First time visitors should note that unlike its neighbours, Molokai does not offer the quintessential Hawaiian holiday. There are no major chain hotels and supermarkets, no five star resorts and very few tour operators.
Molokai offers a glimpse into times long past – A time when Hawaiian royalty ruled over the island, when the locals fished the waters off the coast and lived off the land.
Without the usual selection of restaurants, activities and tours to occupy your time Molokai encourages you to connect with the heritage of the Hawaiian people, to drink in the lush landscape and immerse yourself in the tropical waters.
What to pack for a vacation on Molokai
The most underdeveloped of the Hawaiian Islands Molokai does not offer the same number of goods and services that are found elsewhere in the archipelago.
Consequently there are a few things to consider when packing for your stay;
Mokulele Air operate slightly different checked and carry-on baggage allowances to many international carriers. For example checked luggage must be under 50lb/22.6kg in weight and they will not carry anything over 6ft in length ie surfboards and fishing equipment. Check current restrictions here.
If you require any daily medicines ensure you pack amble for your stay. There is a pharmacy on the island but there is no guarantee they will have what you need.
Toiletries are expensive on the island so I highly recommend bringing your own supply. If you plan to be in the water, ensure you have a water resistant sun cream and re apply regularly as the sun is very strong. Bug repellent is recommend if you plan to hike along the numerous valley trails – don’t forget to carry plenty of water with you and notify someone of your plans if you head out to explore on foot.
Groceries are more expensive than elsewhere in Hawaii but do not try and bring your own. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a definite no-no although you may be able to get away with bringing in a jar of your favourite condiment – as long as you declare it on arrival. Take note that the same applies when you travel out of Molokai, neighbouring islands may seize certain food stuffs on arrival.
While you won’t need outfits for all occasions it’s worth noting that there is very limited clothes shopping on the island. Pack everything you need otherwise you may have to go without.
How to get to Molokai
If you plan to arrive by air, Mokulele Air offer daily flights from Ohau, Maui and Hawai’I (The Big Island). Note that while most routes operate a regular service, the last flight of the day will depart around 6pm. If you plan to arrive from an international location and connect across to Molokai it may be necessary to book a layover on either Oahu or Hawai’i.
Arriving onto Oahu after dark on an international flight from New Zealand, we checked into the Honolulu Airport Hotel and flew out to Molokai on the first flight the following day. Should you find yourself in a similar position I highly recommend a short layover at this Outrigger property. Thanks to their free airport shuttle and affordable nightly rates we were able to maximise our time on Molokai.
Molokai is a great destination for a day trip. If you plan to visit neighbouring Maui you should definitely consider leaving the hustle and bustle of Lahaina behind for a day of disconnect bliss. Ferries operate a twice daily service – contact the Hawaiian Ocean Project for a current timetable and pricing.
There is no public transport on Molokai so factoring the cost of car rental into your budget is a prerequisite for your vacation prep.
For international visitors Alamo offer standard car rental packages, we paid around $280 for one week rental of an economy class car however on arrival we received a free upgrade to a convertible sports car….Bonus!
If you hold a valid US car insurance policy of your own, you can rent from local resident Pat who operates Mobettah Cars.
Take note that as with most car rental companies both Alamo and Mobettah Cars will charge you a premium should you return the car without having filled the tank with fuel. There are two petrol stations on the island and both are in the town of Kaunakakai so plan to call in here to fill up on your way back to the airport.
Accommodation options on Molokai
Unlike neighbouring Maui, Lanai and Oahu, Molokai offers very few accommodation options. Yet despite the closure of the island’s only resort in 2008, there are still plenty of places to lay your head.
During our week on Molokai we rented a one bedroom Vacations-Abroad.com Wavecrest Condo which offers self-catered accommodation, a private lanai with views over the ocean to Maui, and use of a private pool. It is also equipped with snorkelling gear, beach towels, games and a small library of reference books detailing various aspects of the island and its heritage.
If self-catering your stay doesn’t appeal – although I highly recommend it as the dining options on the island are very limited – then take a look at Hotel Molokai. Styled after a Polynesian Village, Aqua Hotel Molokai is located on Kamiloloa Beach and offers open air, ocean front rooms and dinning at the Hula Shores restaurant.
The more adventurous might want to consider checking into Pu’u O Hoku Ranch. Offering a rather more rustic retreat this biodynamic and organic ranch and farm is set on 14,000 acres of protected land, immersed in the transcendent beauty of forest, sky and ocean.
Top attractions on Molokai
Where possible I highly recommend that you book your excursions through operators based on Molokai. This supports the local economy and promotes a fair market.
The history of Molokai island
Molokai is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and breathing in the island’s past is an integral itinerary addition.
Molokai mule ride
Three miles, 26 switchbacks and 90 minutes of magnificent views accompany the guided mule ride through Kalaupapa National Historical Park to the island’s leper colony. No longer dedicated to the quarantine of those afflicted with Hansen’s disease Kalaupapa is place of reflection, a remote memorial to those who lived out their lives in isolation.
Hawaiian fish ponds
One of the Hawaiians’ greatest engineering innovations was their use of aquaculture. Along the southern and south-eastern shores of the island you’ll find remnants of their ingenuity etched into the coastline. Call into the Destination Molokai Visitors Bureau in Kaunakakai for detailed directions.
Adventure activities on Molokai
A veritable playground Molokai is the perfect place to indulge your love of the outdoors.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
Molokai Fish & Dive offer daily guided diving and snorkelling trips to the island’s fringing reef. If you’re a keen diver and have sampled the colourful reefs of Oceania and Micronesia you should note that Hawaii does not possess similar vibrancy and variety of corals. This is largely due to the intensity of the oceans in the winter which pound onto the shore, damaging anything in its path.
Kayaking and hiking
Molokai Outdoors can outfit you for a number of great adventures on land, in the air and on the water. Offering guided and hire only ocean kayak and SUP excursions, whale watching – in season, guided hiking through the mountainous Halawa Valley and air tours over the island, they’ve something to suit every budget.
Ocean tours from Molokai
Walter Naki, a friendly local chap with a boat and a great sense of adventure, will get you out onto the water to take in the spectacular sight of the island’s vast sea cliffs. Call into the Destination Molokai Visitors Bureau in Kaunakakai or call Walter on 808-558-8184.
Molokai events and information
For details of annual events on the Friendly Isle hop over to Molokai Events and plan your stay to coincide with one of the islands festivals.
The island usually receives delivery of supplies from Oahu on a Thursday and this is when most of the locals head into town to shop. If you can, join suit and stock up for your stay otherwise you’ll have limited selection as the week draws on.
Island style does not apply on Molokai. Don’t pack your high heels and dinner jackets as they will sit in your suitcase untouched. Instead pack comfortable casuals, swimsuits, hiking boots, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. Consult the weather forecast prior to your stay and pack suitable warmer clothing for the evenings if necessary.
While major credit cards are accepted by most vendors in Kaunakakai it is worth bringing a supply of cash – $20 bills are preferable – for use outside of the main population area. The card machines on the island are known to shut down unannounced and if you hike or ride the mules down to Kalaupapa you’ll not be able to use your credit card to purchase mementoes etc
For fresh local produce call into Kumu farms, Molokai Livestock Co-Op – open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 567-6994 – and Coffees of Hawaii.
Head into the post office in Kaunakakai and post-a-nut, that’s a coconut, back home to your family and friends! The coconuts are provided free of charge, you just need to cover the cost of postage!
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