Considered the “most Hawaiian island” due to its high population of native Hawaiians, Molokai is the fifth largest and third oldest of the major Hawaiian Islands. It is located east of Oahu and north of Lānaʻi. Situated only 25 miles away from Oahu, one can clearly see the lights of Honolulu at night from the west end of Molokai, as well as the nearby islands of Lānaʻi and Maui, making it a great jumping off point for visiting the rest of Hawaii.
It is also called “the friendly island” due to the welcoming nature of its residents. With its temperate climate, year-round, sunny, white-sand beaches, and natural beauty, it’s no wonder Molokai is such a popular place to visit.
In Roman Catholicism, Molokai holds a significant place in history as being the longtime home of two canonized saints: Father Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest, and Mother Marianne Cope of the Sisters of St. Francis, both of whom in the 19th century treated and cared for leprosy sufferers on the island. As such, it is a popular destination for Catholics from around the world to make pilgrimage to pray for religious guidance and healing.
Historically, leprosy sufferers were forcibly quarantined by the Hawaiian government in Kalaupapa, a small north shore colony on Molokai, but there are no active cases of the disease today. Those who now live in the settlement are patients who chose to stay after the quarantine was lifted in 1969.
Molokai was formed by two shield volcanoes, East Molokai and West Molokai. The highest point of elevation on the island is Kamakou on East Molokai, which also contains the highest sea cliffs in the world; these cliffs were used for filming the movie Jurassic Park III. The south shore of Molokai is home to the longest fringing reef in the U.S., an ideal spot for snorkelers and scuba divers to sojourn, as it offers 25 miles of marine life splendor.
Area attractions include Kalaupapa National Historical Park, part of the former leper colony now turned state park, which offers trailheads with amazing views; Molokai Museum and Cultural Center, housed in an old restored Sugar Mill; Phallic Rock, located near Pala’au State Park; Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, and a series of churches built by Saint Damien.
Area activities any visitor will want to check out include mule rides, golfing at the Ironwood Hills Golf Course and the Kaluakoi Golf Championship Course, and of course, snorkeling, swimming and scuba diving at any one of Molokai’s beaches. Prime beaches to visit include Papohaku, a three-mile white-sand beach located on the west side of the island, and Maunaloa, part of an old plantation that now contains a kite factory. Papohaku Beach Park also offers campgrounds, showers, and bathrooms, as does One Ali’i Beach Park. Then there is Purdy’s Nut Farm, where visitors can learn how macadamia nuts are grown and crack their own.