Molokai, Hawaii

Molokai: A Rustic Family Affair

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West Shore Sunset, Molokai – Image courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ron Dahlquist

A skip over from Honolulu, Molokai is an island far less charted than its more populated sisters and yet teeming with an unscathed natural beauty you won’t find anywhere else.  Not for the faint of heart (or easily bored), Molokai is a breathtaking escape from city-life without all the flashy tourist attractions you’ll find in Maui or the big island.  The five star hotels and restaurants, shopping ventures and attractions are amenities often worth paying for, however the island of Molokai has something different in store for you and your family.  Here you’ll find the simpler, more rustic side to vacations in Hawaii that will teach you and your kids a true appreciation for unadulterated fun in the comfort of Molokai’s stunning landscapes.

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Papohaku Beach, Molokai – Image courtesy Hawaii Tourism Japan

Nature, nature, and more nature…
There is no shortage of family fun to be had on the island of Molokai; it just takes a bit more scavenging than you’re used to in order to find the right things to do.  Let’s start off with the obvious recommendation, which consists of all things that account for making the most of one of Hawaii’s most preserved and pristine islands.  Believe it or not, only about 8,000 folks live here and on any given day there may be only as few as 1,000 guests.  What this means for you, travelers, is that you might take a day trip to your own “private beach” and enjoy the teeming tide pools, shell-filled sands, and calm crystal waters without a soul to disrupt your quiet vacation.  It means all the space for you and your kids to run around and hunt for buried treasure in the sands– which there is plenty of!  In a nutshell, here are your top 4 beaches to hit and what to do there:

  1. Waialua Beach for sun swim and surf
  2. Papohaku Beach to walk or take a mule ride along the longest beach in all of Hawaii
  3. Make’Horse Beach to explore the blooming tide pools
  4. Murphy Beach Park for diving into Hawaii’s best snorkeling experience

There’s plenty more beaches to be discovered, and a simple rental car will take you here, there and everywhere.  Those are just our top picks.

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Coconut Grove, Molokai – Image courtesy Hawaii Tourism Japan

When you’ve had enough of the beach (which is doubtful!), you might want to take your family to the Kapuâiwa Coconut Grove; a grove built hundreds of years ago near Kaunakakai.  This is definitely a sight to see, however don’t forget your helmets if you decide to venture through it.  There’s always a chance of scattered coconut storms!

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Molokai Ranch, Molokai – Image courtesy Hawaii Tourism Japan

Adventure, and then some…
Depending on the size and boldness of your kids, another great outdoor activity for the family is at Molokai Ranch, where ya’ll can take lessons from pro cyclists and take on the mountain bike park by grit and grin.  And, if you’re not totally gripped by extreme sports, the ranch hands can give your family a lesson in cattle roping and give you a fabulous guided tour of Molokai’s island ranch.

Another one-of-a-kind activity to do on Molokai is visiting the Big Wind Kite Factory where you can find beautiful, multi-colored, local and handmade kites to take out onto the beach or a park and teach your kids how to fly.  This is a great activity for the younger ones, especially.

Mule Crossing, Molokai, molokai hawaii, mules in molokai, hawaii

Mule Crossing, Molokai – Image courtesy Hawaii Tourism Japan

Finally, riding mules along the Kalaupapa Peninsula is a breathtaking activity for the whole family.  On Molokai’s North Shore Pali you will find the tallest sea cliffs in the world and the National Park where both ecological and biological wonders are being preserved as we speak.  These tours are inexpensive and easily reserved.  I suggest taking a family vote whether you want to get there by mule, airplane, or by foot… because those are the only 3 ways you can get to this truly pristine fortress!

People, Eats and Sleeps…
One of the best parts about staying on Molokai is the authenticity of the people there.  Unlike the other hot-spot islands of Hawaii, Molokai will always be home to more locals than tourists.  This makes the conversations and interactions you have with people feel very real and genuine.  The locals have been historically kind and hospitable, to children especially, which is a relief for any family traveler.  It’s also a reminder of the respect we need to give locals as travelers in a foreign place!

There aren’t too many big resorts on Molokai, but the ones there are make it count. Hotel Molokai is a great beachfront paradise that the whole family will enjoy.  I also highly suggest asking people (your taxi driver, your pilot, local guy at the coffee shop) about the places that they recommend so you find the spot with just the right amount of Aloha spirit.  You really can’t go wrong.

My last piece of advice comes in the shape of a special snack you have got to get your hands on before leaving the island— cause let’s be real, you’d be doing the whole family a disservice if you leave out the freshly baked Molokai sweetbread!  Melts in your mouth on a hot day, that’s all I’m gonna say.

Molokai is an island for you to truly immerse yourself in what Hawaii perhaps once was.  Be mindful of your surroundings, don’t upset the locals, and get out there and start exploring this untamed beauty!

For more information, check out our Molokai Trip Reports, from families who’ve visited Molokai with kids…


*Many thanks to Aqua Resorts for this great information about family travel to Molokai.

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