Overview of the Neighborhoods and Districts of Molokai

Molokai is the fifth largest among the major Hawaiian islands. It is seated 449 feet above sea level. Approximately, the island spans 38 miles in length and measures 10 miles wide. The sea cliffs of Molokai are among the highest worldwide, stretching up to an amazing 3,900 ft. The mountain peaks all over the island are impressive as well, reaching up to 5,200 ft.

Different parts of Molokai offer something unique, from ancient fishponds to ethereal natural historic sites. Before heading to this island, make sure that you are familiar with at least a few of its towns and districts. You surely don't want to get lost and miss interesting sights on your way. Here is a compiled list of the major districts and neighborhoods of the Molokai Island:

The central town of Kaunakakai

Kaunakakai is the biggest town all over Molokai. A small city of only three blocks, it is situated just a few minutes from the airport, located at Highway 450. The main street in this rural city is the Ala Malama, where travelers and tourists can find restaurants, grocery stores, and various shops. Kaunakakai is the foremost shopping center all over Molokai, since it is strategically located between the east coast and the west coast.

The community of this small town is close-knit, with many family-run shops and small stores lined on the main streets. If you want to do some shopping late in the day, be sure to do it before dinner time as the shops close early. In Kaunakakai, you will also find a hardware store, art gallery, and a fine wine shop.

One of the more well known parts on the island is the Kaunakakai Wharf. Here you can board a ferry, if you’re planning to go to the nearby island of Maui. The wharf is conveniently located across the main highway, making it easier for visitors when traveling from one island to another. You can also find boats here, which are ideal for fishing, snorkeling, and whale watching excursions. Ferry boats and commercial boats are docked here, as barges and boats deliver supplies to the entire island. The wharf also offers an excellent view of the southern coastline. If you reach the end of the wharf, you can easily spot the nearby islands of Kauai, Maui, and Kahoolawe.

If you travel uphill, you will find the farms of Kaunakakai, as well as the coffee orchards of the town. You can tour the entire orchard and order some refreshments from the snack bar afterwards. A must-stop is the R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill, built as far back as 1878.

The historic and beautiful Kalaupapa

It has been said that Kalaupapa was born out of a volcanic activity. Some 200,000 years past, the Kalaupapa Peninsula was formed out of lava flows, coming from Pu’u’uao. For hundreds of years, this area accommodated an agricultural village, where the settlers used to grow sweet potatoes and taro.

Today, however, this place is one of the most visited regions all over the island of Molokai. It is now the site of the Kalaupapa National Historic Park, best remembered by the leprosy colony established there during the 1800s. The park also offers magnificent sea cliff views and mountain formations when you reach its peak. A guided hike tour is offered to travelers, where hikers are treated to an incredible sight of narrow valleys, volcanic craters, rain forests, and the Maui coastline, while traversing the 2.9 mile trail.

Travelers can also try the Molokai Mule Ride, which features a ride down an 1800-foot cliff towards Kalaupapa Peninsula. Whale watching is also a popular activity at the Kalaupapa National Park. The best time to do this is during the months of November through April, when the migrating whales would pass through the oceans of Molokai.

Kalaupapa is a small community on Molokai, which is located on the greater Kalaupapa Peninsula. In an isolated area of the town, you will also find the St. Philomena Church, which was built by Father Damien in 1872. Restored in 1989, the interiors feature beautiful stained glass windows, while the classic theme is maintained for its exteriors and facade. Kalaupapa also has an airport for outbound and inbound travelers, the Kalaupapa Airport, considered as a regional airport of the state of Hawaii.

The old-world town of Maunaloa

Low-profile yet pleasant in every sense, Maunaloa is one of the most charming places in Hawaii. The land area is relatively small, so any visitor to this town is apt to feel comfortable rather than intimidated.

According to researchers, when the Maunaloa volcano emerged from the ocean some millions of years ago, it formed the island of Molokai, together with the Kamakou volcano. Maunaloa is now a quiet and simple town in Molokai, which used to be a plantation village years ago. Situated on the western part of Molokai, it is the only town existing in that area of the island. You can find a few restaurants here along with some small shops. This town is also the site of the Molokai Ranch, which is no longer in operation today.

When Dole Pineapple ceased their operations on the island in 1975, Maunaloa became stagnant for a while. However, a number of companies are now operating successfully on Maunaloa, giving the town a much needed economic and tourism boost. Some of the establishments that you must visit in Maunaloa are the Plantation Gallery, Blue Nalu, and Big Wind Kite Factory. The Plantation Gallery is a perfect place for souvenir shopping, where you can find many Hawaiian arts and crafts. The Big Wind Kite Factory offers a wide selection of nylon kites, which you can use on the island or take home with you as souvenir items.

There are various condominiums and rental homes located in Maunaloa, if you’re planning for an extended stay. You can also find secluded beaches in Maunaloa, such as the beautiful Papohaku Beach, also known as the Three Mile Beach. This beach is often deserted, although there are picnic facilities and showers available. Considered to be among the finest beaches in Hawaii, Papohaku Beach presents another reason for you to explore Molokai.

The Halawa Valley

Located in the east part of Molokai and 30 miles off Kaunakakai, Halawa is best known for its scenic hikes, lush waterfalls, and beautiful overall landscape. It is also a peaceful place for fishing and more private picnics. The Halawa Valley is considered to be one of the most spectacular places in Molokai. The lands and oceans are fertile and kept clean by the locals. You can spend an entire day exploring the valley and discovering secluded waterfalls or taking a dip in one of its beaches.

Only a few residents inhabit the valley of Halawa today, although it had once been bustling community. Unfortunately, two tsunamis devastated the town in 1946 and 1957, tearing down buildings and homes. Presently, Halawa is considered to be a recreational venue where visitors can hike and camp or enjoy water activities such as swimming and fishing. The place is known for its two splendid waterfalls, which you can visit when you tour the entire valley. The Moaula Falls has a 250-foot descent, while the Hipuapua Falls cascades to a total of 500 feet.

Kamakou Preserve

The Kamakou Preserve is located in east Molokai, deep and high into its mountains. It is a well preserved rainforest that features distinctive types of flora and fauna, ranging from the Hawaiian tree ferns and citrus fruits to songbirds and colorful snails. The presence of this natural preserve in Molokai is another reason the island is best described as ethereal.


Kualapuu is best known for its pineapple plantations and coffee farms. It was once the location of the Del Monte pineapple farms. Through Kualapuu, you can visit the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center. The Community Center has a basketball and volleyball court and a baseball field. You can also find the Ironwood Hills Golf Club here, with sprawling golf course fields, which have been established as early as the 1920s.

A hike on Kualapuu trails will allow you to appreciate the incredible scenery of Molokai, as well as the tropical flowers unique to the island. There are also many restaurants and small cafes in Kualapuu, such as the Kamuela’s Cookhouse and the Friendly Isle Coffee Co.

Molokai has an appeal not found in many of its thriving islands. Its towns and cities have remained quiet and peaceful, where the locals enjoy an easy-going and slow-paced lifestyle. If you are planning a visit to Molokai, it helps to know the towns and neighborhoods in advance, so you can plan your itinerary completely.

Each neighborhood in Molokai offers something unexpected, from its exotic black sand beaches to its virgin waterfalls. Make sure you devote enough time discovering its valleys or lounging on its fine beaches. The neighborhoods of Molokai are never in a hurry. They are the perfect embodiment of the Hawaiian concept of island time and Aloha spirit. With its quiet districts and idyllic scenery, this Friendly Isle will surely lure you back, once your vacation is over.