Budget summer vacations from Honolulu: Molokai

If you made the journey all the way across the Pacific to Honolulu and promptly determined that the hustle and bustle of the busy city is not for you, you might want to consider heading to an outer island. While the more popular islands of the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai offer unique ecological and cultural sights, the island of Molokai is the most laid back and local of the bunch. Its hub, Kaunakakai, is just a lazy little country town that resembles Oahu’s Haleiwa town but is even smaller.

With tons of outdoor exploration to be had and the island’s fascinating history surrounding Father Damien, Molokai is a must-see for adventurers willing to blaze their own path into rarely charted territory.

Getting there

  • By air: There are daily flights out of Honolulu to Molokai’s lazy Hoolehua airport (MKK).
  • By boat: You can also take the ferry over to Maui and back. Ferries leave twice a day between Kaunakakai and Lahaina.

The Sights

  • In Kalaupapa National Historical Park, you can take a memorable three-mile mule ride around the island’s northern peninsula. The seascapes and vistas on the peninsula are absolutely breathtaking. You can also learn about Molokai’s well-documented leprosy colony and visit Father Damien’s gravesite and church.
  • Take a boat along Molokai’s northern shores to view the world’s tallest and most breathtaking cliffs.
  • Drive to the east until you reach the end of the road. There, sacred Halawa Valley awaits you, with hiking paths through lush tropical forests. The impressive, double-tiered Mooula Falls is a perfect place to rest your feet and have lunch.
  • Visit the town of Kaunakakai for a tasty of laid-back town life. Peruse the gift shops and boutiques along the main drag, Ala Malama Avenue, or stroll along the state’s longest pier, where local fishermen and tour boats call home.

The Food

  • The Saturday market in Kaunakakai (8 a.m. – noon) is a surprisingly lively affair for food lovers and souvenir shoppers.
  • If you’re looking for some tasty bakery delights, head to the famous Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai. Its onion-and-cheese bread will fill any void in your belly.
  • The Kualapu’u Cook House (at 102 Farrington Avenue) is a charming little local eatery in Ho’olehua. Customers continue to rave about its brunches and all around hospitable hosts.

Where to Stay

  • Camping is popular at various sites on Molokai, but all require either a permit or minimal entry fee. The most popular site is the Palaau State Park in the central part of the island (call #808-567-6618 to obtain a camping permit). Papohaku Beach Park (which fronts Hawaii’s longest white sand beach) and One Alii Park on Molokai’s west side has restrooms, drinking water, outdoor showers, grills and picnic facilities (call #808-553-3204 for $3 permits per person, per night).
  • The Pu’u O Hoku Ranch near Kaunakakai is an old-style Hawaiian lodge with a separate cottage and grove house. The entire ranch sits atop a hill with breathtaking ocean views and is surrounded by lush forest and tropical gardens. Rooms start at $120 per night.
  • The Castle Kaluakai Villas on Molokai’s Maunaloa coast offer more resort-like accomodations that start at just $110 per night.

Check out more budget summer vacations here!