Once the training ground for Hawaiian spiritual leaders as well as the home of hula, exiled law breakers and those with incurable afflictions, Molokai is now a road tripper’s delight. From pines that buttress the world’s tallest sea cliffs to coconut-palmed beaches, you can find a bit of everything. You’ll feel like the sole visitor on this island with no traffic lights, few stop signs and locals who encourage you: “Slow down, you’re on Molokai.”
** Go:** Start in Kaunakakai and travel on Maunaloa Highway/Route 460 for about six miles. At the intersection of Route 470, head north. Two miles in, stop at the corner of 470 and Farrington Highway/Route 480 to refuel your senses at the Coffees of Hawaii Molokai Plantation. Continue on Route 470 to Kalaupapa National Historical Park. After exploring the forest, trails and vistas, return on 470, this time making the turn west on Farrington Highway. Work in a visit to Purdy’s Natural Macadamia Nuts in Hoolehua, then go west across the island for another 20 minutes. Turn at Kaluakoi Road and drive to Kepuhi Beach on Molokai’s northwest shore. End the day by backtracking southeast to the old plantation village of Maunaloa Town.
** Stop:** At the Stables at Koele, take your mount along the Paniolo Trail, where you’ll wind through picturesque hills among thickets of ironwood. Watch for axis deer and wild turkeys. At the end of the two-hour excursion, you’ll be privy to some of the best views on the island.
** Along the Route:** Just west of Kaunakakai Town, the fishponds at Kiowea Beach Park reflect a spectrum of sunrise colors. The coconut trees at neighboring Kapuaiwa Coconut Beach Park were planted during the rule of King Kamehameha V.
Wake up with the Coffees of Hawaii Molokai Plantation in Kualapuu. Take the morning espresso tour or a guided mule tour of the coffee fields. Then in Hoolehua, learn how to “crack a mac” at Purdy’s Natural Macadamia Nuts.
You can also check out the hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables from the Beach Boy Ranch.
Fueled by coffee beans, macadamia nuts and bananas, head to the Big Wind Kite Factory in Maunaloa Town. Owner Jonathan Socher offers free flying lessons with the factory’s handmade kites at one of the most scenic vistas on the western plateau of Molokai. His wife, Daphne, sells crafts and jewelry made by local artisans.
Be sure to stop at Palaau State Park for stunning views from the top of the world’s highest sea cliffs. The pine and spruce forests that lead up to the island’s edge make for a wonderful walk along canopy-shaded trails. While in the trekking mode, consider a hike or mule ride down the cliff-side switchback trail that leads to the 19th-century village of Kalaupapa, where revered Father Damien was first laid to rest.
Grab some lunch at the Lodge & Beach Village at Molokai Ranch on the open-air lanai. From local-beef burgers to saimin (Hawaiian-style ramen noodles in broth), the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) vibe carries from the plate to the views.
A dip in Molokai Ranch’s infinity pool at sunset is a quintessential capper to the Molokai experience. Watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean over 64,000 acres of horse pastures and craggy, volcanic coastline.