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

Kapukahehu beach, Hawaii

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

Halawa Valley, Hawaii

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

Mule ride, Kalaupapa trail, Hawaii

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

 Pu'u O Hoku, Hawaii

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.  

 Molokai , Hawaii

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SEE ALSO: Which Island in Hawaii Should You Visit?

Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority

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