Moloka'i Is Hawaii's Most Natural Island

Hawaii Molokai, North Shore cliff coast line.
••• Peter French / Getty Images

Moloka'i is the fifth largest of the Hawaiian Islands with a land area of 260 square miles. Molokai is 38 miles long and 10 miles wide.  You will also hear Moloka'i referred to as the "Friendly Island."

Population and Principal Towns

As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Molokai was 7,345. Nearly 40% of the population are of Hawaiian descent, thus its former nickname, "The Most Hawaiian Island."

Over 2,500 of the island's inhabitants have more than 50% Hawaiian blood. Filipino is the next largest ethnic group.

The principal towns are Kaunakakai (population ~3,425), Kualapuu (population ~2,027), and Maunaloa Village (population ~376).

The major industries are tourism, cattle, and diversified agriculture.

Airports

Moloka'i Airport or Hoʻolehua Airport is located in the center of the island and is serviced by Hawaiian Airlines, Makani Kai Air and Mokulele Airlines.

Kalaupapa Airport is located on the Kalaupapa Peninsula two miles north of the Kalaupapa community. It is serviced by small commercial and charter aircraft which bring supplies to the Hansen's Disease patients and National Historical Park staff as well as a limited number of day visitors.

Climate

Moloka'i has a variety of climate zones. East Moloka'i is cool and wet with dense rainforests and mountain valleys. West and Central Moloka'i are warmer with the driest land being along the coastal areas of West Moloka'i.

The average afternoon winter temperature in Kaunakakai is around 77°F during the coldest months of December and January. The hottest months are August and September with an average high of 85°F.

Average annual rainfall in Kaunakakai is just 29 inches.

Geography

Miles of Shoreline - 106 linear miles.

Number of Beaches - 34 but only 6 are considered swimmable.

Only three beaches have public facilities.

Parks - There is one state park, Palaʻau State Park; 13 county parks and community centers; and one National Historical Park, Kalaupapa National Historic Park.

Highest Peak - Kamakou (4,961 feet above sea level)

Visitors, Lodging, and Popular Attractions

Number of Visitors Annually - Approx. 75,000

Principal Resort Areas - In West Moloka'i, the principal resort areas are the Kaluakoi Resort and Maunaloa Town (both currently closed); in Central Moloka'i, Kaunakakai; and on the East End there are several bed & breakfast hideaways, vacation rentals, and condominiums.

Number of Hotels/Resort - 1

Number of Vacation Rentals - 36

Number of Vacation Homes/Cottages - 19

Number of Bed & Breakfast Inns - 3

Most Popular Visitor Attractions - Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Hālawa Valley, Papohaku Beach & Park, and Moloka'i Museum & Cultural Center.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 96-565 establishing Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Moloka'i.

Today, travelers are permitted to visit the Kalaupapa peninsula where patients suffering from Hansen's Disease (leprosy) were sent for over 100 years. Today less than a dozen patients elect to live on the peninsula.

A tour will teach you about the former leper colony. You will hear stories of the struggles and suffering of those banished to Moloka'i.

Activities

Time spent here is a good way to get acquainted with the old Hawaiian-style of life which involves family, fishing, and feasting with friends.

Tennis is available at various locations around the island. Water sports enthusiasts will find a complete slate of activities to choose from including sailing, kayaking, surfing snorkeling, skin diving, and sportfishing. Explore Molokai's "outback" on horseback or mountain bike, or with custom tours operated by local guides.

Moloka'i is a hikers' paradise. There are mountain, valley, and shoreline hikes to choose from, with trails leading to spectacular scenic overlooks, historic sites and secluded forest pools.

Moloka'i has one nine-hole course, located "upcountry," called "The Greens at Kauluwai" or better known as Ironwoods Golf Course. The other, an 18-hole course, sprawls along the west shore, called Kaluako'i Golf Course (currently closed).

For more things to do, check out our feature ​​about things to do for free on Moloka'i.