Also known as "The Friendly Island," Molokai, with its population of around 7,000, is probably the least visited of the accessible Hawaiian Islands. But its seclusion is what it allows it to maintain and preserve its sacred and beautiful lands. On top of its history and beauty, it is also one of the best islands to truly get away from all the noise and chaos.
Having island hopped to the islands of Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island, it was time to take a trip a little of the beaten path. I chose Molokai as the island I would visit to celebrate #memorialdayweekend2017. I didn't know much about the island other than that I knew there was a lot of farmland there. I was about to learn a lot more about this little rock and why it is a lovely place to visit.
Day 1 Itinerary
Flight to Molokai
Coffee and Bfast at Coffees of Hawaii
Kalaupapa Hike and Tour
Kalaupapa Lookout and Phallic Rock
Dinner at Moloka'i Burger
Decompress at AirBnB
My trip began bright and early Saturday morning at Honolulu Airport. I decided to take the earliest flight at 6am to Molokai because not only was it the cheapest, it also allowed me to make the Kalaupapa National Historic Park Tour which begins at 8am. A short 28 minutes later I had landed in Molokai.
I went to pick up my rental car at Alamo, the only car rental place on the island. I decided to go with a Jeep for this trip. After having traveled to the other islands, I learned it's a good idea to fork over a little extra money for 4 wheel drive capability. You never really know where your journey may take you.
I was loaded up in the jeep and it was only 6:45. The start of the Kalaupapa tour was a mere 15 minutes from the airport, so I decided to get a quick breakfast and a coffee. Something you will quickly learn if you travel to Molokai, the food selection is very limited. It is also concentrated in the few towns that do exist. I ventured to Coffees of Hawaii, a little shop on the way to the tour. I later learned they had an airport location after I got there. Oops too late!
I snagged a cup of one of the local Molokai brews and a Spam and Egg Musubi (delicious local fare, definitely worth a try) and sat outside on their patio to kill some time. Most people think Kona (on the Big Island) is the spot for coffee, but Molokai has some great brews as well. Coffees of Hawaii even does a tour of their spot. As I sat there sipping my coffee and chowing down on my musubi, I was overcome with a beautiful aroma of some native flower. It was the first time I had smelled that scent before, but I would smell it several more times before the trip concluded. I could tell this was going to be a great day.
The tour began at the mule barn. I booked my tour online through Damien Tours. You can either hike to the Kalaupapa Lepur Colony for $80 or ride a mule for $200. I think it would be a sin for me to ride a mule down given the name of this blog, so I chose to hike. Although I'm sure riding the mule down would be quite the adventure as well.
And the hike begins! Check out my blog post for my full write-up of the Kalaupapa Trail.
The view at the top. The main town of the colony is located just beyond the beach in the center of the photo.
And a view from that beach. This beach was incredibly beautiful, with soft sand, pleasant waves, and large cliffs surrounding it.
One of the alternatives to getting to the colony. Apparently you can also fly in to the small airport on the Peninsula as well (for around $350!!). For me part of the enjoyment is in the journey.
After the rendezvous at the base of the mountain, hikers and mule riders grouped together and hopped on a bus. Now begins the tour of the Colony.
The place really is incredible, both inspiring and humbling. We toured through the various establishments around the site, such as the Bookstore, where we met one of the former patients named Boogie, and some of the many churches. Our guide was a man named K'Ahi. He was absolutely phenomenal. He was very passionate about his job and added the perfect amount of Aloha to supplement the mystical feeling you get when you visit this place.
One of the best parts of the tour is the stop on the far end of the peninsula where you can look out at the massive sea cliffs. Molokai is home to the largest sea cliffs in the world (almost 4,000 feet!). You have to take a helicopter to see the largest ones, but these cliffs were plenty impressive.
A shot of one of the many churches. They still hold services here every week.
We then made our way over to the small little airport on the tip of the peninsula. I found myself taking a picture of this old school bus with the mountains in the background. The rundown bus reminded me of the book Into the Wild. (#SteveSuperTramp???)
A shot of the main sign. From here, the bus would take us back to the end of the Kalaupapa Trail, where we would begin the trek back up the 26 switchbacks and 1600 feet we had just descended. Feeling inspired, I was ready for the challenge so I could continue the next part of my adventure.
I made my way back and got in my car where I continued a short ways up the road past the mule barn. I figured, I was up here, I might as well check out the other views this area has to offer. As you can tell by these signs, it has quite the variety.
First the lookout. It's still a pretty great view up here, even if you aren't able to make the tour.
And now a picture of the thing you really wanted to see--- Phallic Rock. I mean did mother nature really shape this rock this way? I almost don't believe it, but still it was quite the sight. To think you can come here and not take a picture of this thing is simply a PHALLUSY ;)
It was time to grab some dinner and head to my AirBnB. My AirBnB was located in Wavecrest, a complex about 12 miles east of the main town of Kaunakakai. While Kaunakakai is the main town, it is still small, this is an island of only 7,000 people if you recall. While it was small, it had a unique and laid back culture to it.
Feeling ravenous and not wanting to wait, I stopped at Molokai Burger, the islands closest thing to a fast food joint. Man were that burger and fries delicious! With a full belly, I made way to the AirBnB.
And this is what I was greeted with, a lanai with a view straight to Maui. Absolutely fantastic! I cracked open a beer as I watched the sky slowly darken, and the coast of Maui begin to light up. What a day it had been! I couldn't wait for what my second day on this little island.
Day 2 Itinerary
28 Mile Drive
Halawa Beach Park and Halawa Bay
Halawa Falls Hike
Drive to the West Side
Popakuha Beach Park
Dinner at Pizza Place
Sunset at Kaunakakai Harbor
I woke up around 6am, revitalized and ready to explore. I walked out onto my lanai to check out the morning glow on Maui. Yep, nothing had changed. It's still beautiful!
I also took a shot looking at one of the other visible Hawaiian islands, Lanai. A picture of Lanai from my lanai, how fitting.
Let's get started! My first journey was driving along a highway on the southeastern coast from mile marker 1 to mile marker 28, hence the name 28 Mile drive. There I would be able to check Halawa Beach Park and see if there was a way I could hire a guide to do the Halawa Falls Cultural Tour. But first, the journey to get there.
The drive is a scenic one right along the coast. There are plenty of spots to pull off and get out of the car to take in the views and of course snap some photos. This is a shot of some random beach I stopped to catch the morning rays shining on the beach.
While the drive is scenic, it can get a bit sketchy as is common for drives like these. The roads are narrow, sometimes only wide enough for one car and there are many blind turns. However, if you've driven Road to Hana on Maui, then this should be easy. And if you haven't... well you will just have to learn.
Another shot from a different stop. Yep, Maui is still there.
And so is Lanai. Okay, we can continue.
Once you get near the end of the drive is when the views start to get really good. From here, you can see Halawa Bay and Halawa Valley coming into view.
And as I came around a bend, a beautiful waterfall deep within the valley came into view. I later learned that was Moa'lua Falls, a waterfall you can hike to with a guide (check out link here).
A few hairpin turns later, I had reached the end of the road at Halawa Beach Park. I decided to stretch my legs to snap a few pictures. Here is a shot from the beach park looking into the valley. You can barely make out Moa'lua Falls in the shadows.
And a shot looking out into Halawa Bay. I wasn't sure what these stakes in the ground were for, but it did make for a good picture.
After meandering around for an hour, I thought about heading back to my car. However, I couldn't get the thought out of my head that I was missing out not hiking to that waterfall. I was aware that it was located on sacred (and private) land and that you were supposed to book a tour to get there. Unfortunately, when I looked it was advertised that tours were not given on Sundays. I decided to explore the valley and see if I would be trespassing if I actually went to the falls.
I quickly learned that yes, I would indeed be trespassing and decided to head back to the car to continue on with my day. As I made my way back to the highway, I passed Halawa Park, the meeting place for the guided hike, where I saw a gaggle of people. I poked my head out to ask if they were waiting to do the Falls hike. An older woman said she and her daughter had booked the hike with a guide about a month ago. I inquired if she thought I could join and just pay the guide cash. She said certainly.
The guide never showed. The woman's daughter, I learned to be named Katie, and I decided to go search for the falls anyway. Our rationale was money had been exchanged for two individuals to hike this path. The worst thing that could happen was we would have to turn around.
Long story short, we found the falls. You can read more about the full adventure in my Halawa Valley Falls Hike post. If you are considering this hike, do it! The falls are gorgeous with a huge swimming hole and located deep within the beautiful Halawa Valley. Not only was this a thrilling and magical hike, but I even made a friend along the way. Katie and later her mom, Candy, would become my new exploration companions for the rest of the day. Sometimes you never really know where your trips will lead.
But of course our adventure did have to lead somewhere, and for us that was the west side of the island. Despite Molokai being one of the smaller islands, it is surprisingly long lengthwise. It took us a long time to drive from the eastern coast to the western coast. The western coast is known for its long and beautiful beaches that, on clear days, allow you to see the island of Oahu. This long road led to some of those beaches. For some reason we all liked the look of this road, lined with lush green fields and trees. We decided to get out for the views... and of course pictures.
A shaka shot is pretty much necessary on any Hawaiian vacation. How else can you show everyone you are cool?
After our pit-stop, we made our way to the beach. There are a handful of beach accesses lining the western coast. I am pretty sure this spot is Papohaku beach (although it is possible I am mistaken). I am more of a mountain man than a beach bro, but this beach was amazing. The sand was very soft and the beach very wide so you could easily find your own little secluded spot. Not that it would have been difficult anyway, the beach was practically deserted. In my mind, that was another plus for this beach! After soaking in the views and of course some rays, we all decided it was dinner time. We made our way back to Kaunakakai for some much needed grub.
We quickly learned, that Molokai all but shuts down on Sundays. Our plan was to get some groceries and grill, but we discovered not a single place was open at 5:30 on a Sunday. We settled on the Molokai Pizza Cafe. Katie said she had eaten there the night before and the pizza was pretty solid. We decided to make it a pasta meal this time around... let me just say if I were you I would order the pizza. But hey, that is all part of the Molokai experience. With our stomachs full, we decided there was one more stop we wanted to make before we called it a day.
And that was a sunset at the wharf at Kaunakakai Harbor. An absolutely serene place. The water surrounding it is calm, protected by the surrounding islands. These islands also make for great scenery as the sun settles beyond the horizon. As darkness began to set in, we decided it was time to go. We were tired!
What a great weekend it had been in Molokai! Another adventure off the Hawaii bucket list. Another amazing memory!
Check out my video of the highlights of my Molokai trip!
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Also Check Out:
- Huffington Post's article about why to take a trip to Molokai
- This article on Discover Oahu about hiking on Molokai