Tourist Attractions and Festivals in Molokai
There is so much to get excited about when at Molokai. Apart from going around the island and enjoying its long deserted beaches and lush rainforests, there are man-made attractions and festivals that have captivated the imagination of visitors and even piqued the continuing interest and love of its locals.
The Kalaupapa National Historical Park
A popular attraction in Molokai is the town of Kalaupapa. This had been the location of a leper colony, established back in 1866. The threat of leprosy has since been eradicated with its vaccine and the town has been transformed into one of Molokai’s top tourist attractions. The leper colony is now part of the Kalaupapa National Historical Park.
The idea of the national historical park was to preserve the cultural and physical setting of the colony. The struggles of the patients within the Kalaupapa colony was brought to the attention of the rest of the world through the work of Father Damien, a Belgian missionary who chose to stay and care for the people of the colony. The forced isolation of the patients had forged a unique community within the town. Many of those who had since been cured of the disease chose to stay in their Molokai home.
A lot of the establishments that Father Damien helped found are now attractions in the historical park. Among these are the Siloama Church (established in 1866) and the St. Philomena Church (established in 1872). Likewise, the other architectures of Kalawao and Kalaupapa are wonderful and interesting sites. These include old style Hawaiian plantation houses, the Molokai Lighthouse, stone walls, and cemeteries.
The historical park is also the site of several natural wonders. This is where you’ll find the Kauhaku Crater, the 550-foot Kauhako Crater, as well as the abundant rain forests, offshore islands, lush coral reefs, lava tubes and caves, and other volcanic craters. Traversing the park’s offshore cliffs and valleys is also one of the main to-do's when in the area.
The park can be visited any day of the year, but only with permission from Damien Tours or the Hawaii Department of Health. You can fly into the part, or take the Na Pali Trail.
Palaau State Park
The Palaau State Park is located at the end of Highway 470. It is a 234-acre park with pine wood forests, engaging trails, and gorgeous cliffs with an amazing seascape view. From these cliffs, you can also see the Kalaupapa leper colony and the infamous stone phallus Phallic Rock.
Phallic Rock is at the end of the trail, which runs through ironwood groves and other rock formations. It resembles a penis, much to visitors' surprise. The other rocks in the area are said to somehow look like sexual organs, too. Legend has it that these rock formations were once of demigod Nanahoa and his wife Kawahuna. During a fight, Nanahoa used force and threw his wife over the cliff. This had angered the gods and both were turned into stone.
You can hike the trail on foot or rent a mule to ride on. There are stations along the trail that explains the sites and their historical relevance and background. For those interested in camping in the area, there is a designated camping space in the Ironwood Forest. Camping permits need to be acquired from the State Division of Parks. Campers need to be careful, though. According to legends, the Phallic Rock is a fertility symbol that can get any woman pregnant. A woman who spends the night in the area of Phallic Rock is impregnated “magically.”
Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove/Kiowea Park
The park is located along the highway of Maunaloa, which is two miles to the west of Kaunakakai. The 10-acre park is covered with about one thousand coconut trees. It is by the sea, so you can just imagine how gorgeous it can be. Photographers love the place, specially when dusk seeps in. There is also that funny "Danger: Falling Coconuts" sign that never fails to bring a smile on everyone’s faces, as each starts to duck for cover. The park also includes the Church Row, which is a section lined by seven churches, one for each major denomination.
Purdy's All-Natural Macadamia Nut Farm
The macadamia nuts farm is located along Lihi Pali Avenue, near Molokai High School in the town of Hoolehua. Apart from being a great place to buy premium nuts, you get entertained by live nut-cracking demonstrations and tours through the farm. A typical tour includes a run-through of the processes in nut growing, harvesting, and shelling. Admission here is free, although you might not be able to buy samples of these luscious local nuts.
Coffees of Hawaii
The farm is located in 1630 Farrington Avenue in the town of Kualapuu. You can find it near the junction of Highway 470. This used to be Del Monte’s pineapple plantation/town. Since then, Coffee of Hawaii has planted coffee beans instead. The location is ideal for coffee, as well as idyllic time. The area is cool and expansive.
You can opt to tour on your own. This is free and can be a great adventure. There is also the Morning Espresso Tour, which costs around $20. The Mule-Drawn Wagon Tour is great for those not too inclined in hiking through the fields. This costs $35. Both tours take around two to three hours and offer a great view of the island.
The Espresso Bar is a must-stop. The Mocha Mama is one of its specialties--a yummy concoction of coffee, chocolate, and ice cream. There are also arts and crafts items for sale in the Plantation Store.
Molokai Museum and Cultural Center
The center is located in Meyer Sugar Mill, along Highway 470 in the town of Kalae. Admission is $1 for students and around $4 for adults.
The Molokai Museum and Cultural Center was the home of German professor Rudolph W. Meyer and high Molokai chieftess Kalama in 1878. They began the place and operated a small sugar plantation. The mill was restored by the National Register of Historic Places. It features a century-old steam engine, redwood evaporating pans, mule-powered cane crusher, and copper clarifiers.
There is a museum on the history of Molokai’s sugar industry. Aside from the artifacts in the museum, the place is the location for regular wine tastings, music festivals, ukele making classes, sewing and loom weaving, and taro festivals.
The Dragon Tail is a collection of natural rocks in the area of the Pailolo Channel. It resembles a dragon’s tail and lines hundreds of yards. This is also the location of an excellent offshore reef, where you can get amazing scuba diving and snorkeling. The site is along Highway 450, near the Halawa Valley.
In the town of Kaunakakai, there’s a special service by Postmaster Margaret Keahi-Leary of the Hoolehua Post Office (along Puu Peelua Avenue). You can choose to say Aloha to your friends with a Molokai coconut in the mail. Your message is written with a felt-tip pen.
Kawela Battle Field
The battlefield is from Mile Marker # 6 to 13, along Highway 450. The Warrior Sign marks the place. This was the site of the battle between the warriors of Molokai and Hawaii, and those of Oahu. Molokai won the battle that killed Kapiiohookai, the Oahu chief. The battleground is littered with slingshot stones, said to have been used in the battle. There is also the remnant of the Puuhonua, temple of refuge of battle-weary fighters. The site is said to be haunted. Locals claim to hear warriors at night, march into the sea.
Colorful festivals of Molokai
The Ka Molokai Makahiki Festival
Makahiki refers to the end of the harvesting period, when wars are over and taxes are paid. The occasion is time for special events, programs, a series of lectures, workshops and contests. Local rites are made alive by people who put up shows, highlighting the traditions of Molokai. There is also a series of games for everyone to participate in. A Makahiki Committee offers a pool of resources and trainers to assist people who want to participate in the games. The festival happens at the end of January.
The Ka Hula Piko Hula Festival
This festival happens in May to celebrate of the birth of Hula. There are shows, food, and crafts for participants. Admission is free to this event. A series of lectures on the subject also highlights the celebration.
The Christmas Light Parade & Ho’Olaule’A
The annual Christmas festival features a parade of floats and marching bands. The floats are unique to Molokai. There are competitions for the best Christmas tree, ornaments, and holiday desserts.
Add nature's beauty to engaging cultural activities all-year round, your visit to Molokai will surely be interesting. This is an island that's worthy to be explored because of its distinction to other main islands. While its neighboring islands are bustling with tourist activities all around the place, Molokai has preserved its serenity and true island lifestyle, making it a haven for artists and people who are looking for escape.