What to Do in East Molokai
East Molokai is a place separated from the rest of Molokai by rugged mountain images but is also blessed with its share of several great beaches and other attractions. Snorkeling, guided tours, and the famous mule ride at the Kalaupapa National Historic Park are only some of the interesting things you can do in this part of the island.
There are a lot of places to visit in East Molokai. This area of the island holds several historic sites since it was one of the first places visited by missionaries from different denominations all over the world. For starters, you can head over to the Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church which was built by Father Damien, known as the Martyr of Molokai. Father Damien is a powerful figure in the history of Molokai with his work among people with leprosy or Hansen’s disease in Kaulapapa.
Another fun activity is going for a mule ride around Kalaupapa National Historic Park. The mule ride goes for the entire length of the 2.9-mile trail on the side of the highest sea cliffs in the world. Apart from being able to witness one of the greatest views in Kalaupapa, this is also the best time to take great panoramic photos. The Kalaupapa National Park was formerly the home of Belgian priest Father Damien, the famous foreign priest who selflessly took care of leprosy victims in the island. His grave now lies at the St. Philomena Roman Catholic Church. A statue was also erected in his honor at the Oahu state capitol. You can end each sightseeing activity with a visit to any of the coffee or coconut plantations in the area, where you will get to taste some of the best coffee in the island.
If staying in another part of the island, you can still visit east Molokai by going on a charter tour on an air conditioned bus that is scheduled to make the rounds of the most popular sights in Molokai. The tours usually make stops at Halawa Valley Lookout point, Ili'ili'opae heiau, the church of Father Damien, and the Kalaupapa Lookout. After making the rounds of the coffee and macadamia nut farms, the tour caps with a visit to the Kaunakakai town.
Food places are unfortunately hard to find in East Molokai. You can do well finding good eats outside, like Hotel Molokai in Kaunakakai, or the Molokai Drive-in for traditional grilled take-outs. Another option would be the Sundown Deli, the Molokai Pizza Café and for pastry cravings, Kanemitsu's Bakery & Restaurant, one of the most health-oriented restaurants in Molokai. You can simply take out and bring food to anywhere in East Molokai you might want to spend the day in. Another option would be to go to Kualapuu Cook House/Kamuela's Kitchen for local family fare and for real, sumptuous soul food, for anything from pancakes, omelets and burgers. This establishment is located along Farrington Highway.
For more formal fare such as dishes of snapper, prawns, and other kinds of seafood, the Maunaloa Dinning Room at the Sheraton Molokai Lodge is the best place to go to.
Halawa Valley is one of the most popular spots in east Molokai that is frequented by hikers. Hikers usually make their way down to the 250-foot Moaula Falls about 2 miles up the valley. The valley is also a place of history. In the past, young men who wanted to become kahunas would visit any one of the heiaus on the valley to learn sacred chants and spells. And prior to dipping into the pool feed by the waterfalls, swimmers are advised to drop a ti leaf into the water. The pool is only considered safe for swimming if the ti leaf falls.
Hikers can proceed to the second falls called Hipuapua Falls which is 1/4 mile to the north of Moaula Falls. The falls is located on private property though, which means that guests will need to be let in and led by a private guide. Both falls provide the perfect setting for waterfall pictures. Tourists can also arrange to have their tours of both falls done by Kalani Pruet, known as the flower man of Molokai.
One can take the usual 3-mile hiking trail that quickly leads up opening into the Pepeopae Bog, which is surrounded by among the most unique flora and fauna in Molokai. You may be asked to refrain from touching or picking any of the plants you see along the way.
There are various beaches and seaside picnic parks on the east portion of Molokai. A popular option is Murphy’s beach, which lies along Highway 450 in East Molokai. Murphy’s Beach is considered one of the prettiest beaches on Halawa Valley Drive. Lined with tall stately palm trees and verdant shrubbery, the beach comes with a picnic area and waters good for swimming and snorkeling. There are no restrooms or lifeguards posted on the beach however.
Snorkeling is another alternative to scuba diving for those who do not have their license or those who prefer to explore the sea bottom near the shore. Summer is also the best time to explore the sea bottom through snorkeling. Murphy Beach park is one of the four best snorkelling areas in Molokai.
The waters in east Molokai are largely untouched and free from the effects of commercialism often seen in waters around most tropical Hawaiian resorts. Scuba diving is the way to enjoy the pristine underwater environment of East Molokai. You will have a day filled with encounters with sea turtles, tropical fish, sharks, manta rays, and more.
This is perhaps one of the best ways to experience an East Molokai sunset. The waters are at their calmest during the summer, which makes kayaking an easy and relaxing activity. Inexperienced kayakers will need to be guided by veterans since navigating ocean swells can be especially tricky and dangerous to first timers.
One can also spend a morning exploring the island on horseback. The Pu'u O Haku Ranch is one of the best places where one can try this experience. By going on horseback, you can follow mountain trails that lead to cliffs overlooking the Pacific and that open up to breathtaking views of the neighboring islands of Maui and Lanai. Molokai is Hawaiian cowboy country, so if you are to go horseback riding, Molokai is the best place to do so. You can start by contacting the Sheraton Molokai Lodge for reservations.
Camping is another popular activity in East Molokai, popular among locals and tourists who want cheaper accommodations. There are numerous camping parks in East Molokai, among them One Alii Beach Park, Papohaku Beach Park, and Pala'au State Park. One Alii Beach Park is located on the south shore but comes with two shallow waters, making swimming hard. Tourists will enjoy wading in the waters here though. Papohaku Beach Park is another park that sits right next to one of the longest stretches of white sand beach in this portion of the island. The park has a wide camping area shaded by large Keawe trees. However, the water may become a bit dangerous and without lifeguards, swimming is discouraged. The Pala'au State Park is another camping ground that is frequented by backpackers and campers alike. It has its camping area surrounded by a grove of ironwoods. This 233-acre park enjoys a prime location that overlooks the historic Kalaupapa area.
Whether you want an adventure or a peaceful time for yourself, East Molokai offers attractions and places that can offer both. With the countless options you can do here, you definitely won't get bored when visiting this part of Molokai.