Molokai is just a 25-minute flight from Honolulu International Airport, but it may as well be a world away. With less than 8000 residents and about 670 square kilometres of largely untouched land, you won’t find luxury resorts or shopping malls on the least-known island in the Hawaiian archipelago – in fact, the pace is so sleepy that there’s not a single traffic light. Instead, “the friendly isle” is home to postcard-perfect beaches, lush valleys, vibrant Indigenous culture and plenty of aloha vibes. Whether you’re looking for an off-the-grid adventure or a quick break from the crowds in Oahu and Maui, here are the best things to do in Molokai.
Things to do in Molokai
Visit a beautiful beach
Molokai’s pristine, near-deserted coastline couldn’t feel further from the resort-strewn beaches of Waikiki and Wailea. Head to Kapukahehu for family-friendly swimming conditions – the small, sheltered cove is protected from strong currents – or stroll Papohaku, an almost five-kilometre stretch of powdery white sand with epic views over to the islands of Lanai and Oahu.
Swim alongside sea turtles
With a 45-kilometre coral reef (Hawaii’s longest), Molokai has a glut of top-notch dive spots. Snorkelling with kids? At Kumimi Beach you can spot honu (green sea turtles), friendly manta rays and tropical fish. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can book a full-day scuba tour with the team at Molokai Fish & Dive, who can introduce you to over 40 little-known dive sites.
Explore Halawa Valley
Hike into the lush Halawa Valley with Anakala Pilipo Solatorio, the area’s oldest living descendant, and his son Greg. On the 5.5-kilometre round trip, you’ll hear mo‘olelo (stories and myths) of their lives in the valley, see sacred sites and take a refreshing dip in the rock pool at the base of Mo'oaula Falls.
Traverse the world’s tallest sea cliffs
Accessible only by a guided hike or mule ride, the challenging five-kilometre trail to Kalaupapa zig-zags down the world’s highest sea cliffs. Once a leper colony, the national historic park is now home to a moving museum run by the small community of former patients who still live in self-imposed exile.
Try farm-fresh macadamias
Take a delightfully low-key tour of Purdy’s Natural Macadamia Nuts, a family-run orchard. Along with learning how to “crack your macs” using a stone and hammer, visitors can taste raw, salted and air-dried varieties and sample macadamia blossom honey scooped up with slices of fresh coconut.
Where to eat in Molokai
This isn’t the place for fine dining – eat as the locals do and dig into delicious plate lunches from nondescript storefronts and casual al fresco eateries. Moloka'i Burger is a go-to for crispy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, while Paddlers serves up crowd-pleasers like fresh-as-can-be poke bowls, fish tacos and mahi-mahi chimichanga (deep-fried burritos) – you'll want to get in quick as these specials change frequently. Come sunset, snag a waterfront table at Hiro's Ohana Grill at Hotel Molokai for cocktails, the catch of the day and live music.
Don’t skip Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai for the famous “hot bread” – huge, pillowy rolls stuffed with sweet fillings such as ube cheesecake and choc chip peanut butter.
Where to stay in Molokai
Molokai doesn’t have any big-name resorts or hotels, but that’s exactly what visitors love about it. Right next door to Halawa Valley, Pu'u O Hoku Ranch is a working ranch with two charming cottages and an 11-bedroom lodge. It’s surrounded by more than 5700 acres of protected land – so, yes, the Instagram-ready views are inescapable. There’s also a swimming pool, an outdoor bath and shaded lanais, perfect for feasting on the farm's abundant organic produce and free-range beef or venison.
A five-minute drive from the harbour town of Kaunakakai, Molokai Shores Resort is a great option for families. Decked out with comfy bamboo furniture, each of the one and two-bedroom apartments has a well-equipped kitchen and private balcony or lanai. Pencil in plenty of time to splash about in the heated pool, play a round of shuffleboard and barbecue some seafood out on the waterfront picnic area.