Gearing up for our trip to Molokai, our plans of travel were often met with remarks of, “you’ll be there how long??” or “Molokai? There is nothing to do there…” In retrospect, we should thank these people, as we began our four-day getaway with absolutely no expectations (where as often times, I set off on a trip destined and determined to knock at least 10 things off my ever-growing bucket list…). Yet, my to-do list for Molokai consisted of one thing: disconnect.
That was it. I wanted my time on Molokai to be spent as far away from deadlines, responsibilities, and even my phone, as possible. Leading up to this long weekend I had been spiraling: overwhelmed and overworked. My anxiety was out of control and my energy was running on “E.” In some odd way, it almost felt as though Molokai was waiting for me. From the moment I stepped off the plane, the island met me where I was at, without judgement, and offered me the opportunity to reset and reconnect to what matters.
Can you relate? If so, maybe a long weekend on Molokai is just what you’re in need of. Check out our weekend itinerary for the restorative getaway you’ve been waiting for:
With much of the small town of Kaunakakai shutting down each night around 5:00 pm we knew exactly what we wanted to do when we arrived – catch the sunset. We didn’t have to search long before we found the perfect spot to watch the night unfold. Near the heart of town is Kaunakakai Harbor: a long pier extending into the ocean, providing the perfect location to grab a seat and watch the light show. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a rainbow (or two).
Perhaps the best – at the least the most famous – part of traveling to Molokai is the irresistibly delicious Molokai Hot Bread. While the rest of the town is shutting down, Kanemitsu’s Bakery is just getting started. This local spot is – elusively – located behind the Kanemitsu’s green store front, down a small, dark alley, and marked only by a hand-painted wood sign reading “Hot Bread.” Their modest, no-frills-menu allows you to choose your filling, pay with cash, and walk back out the alley with a huge plastic bag full of bread just as quickly as you came. Needless to say we ate hot bread for dinner…and breakfast – and regret nothing.
End your day of travels by grabbing a beer at Paddlers Restaurant & Bar. This restaurant has a great island-y atmosphere with local artist on the line-up, draft beer on the menu and plenty of dishes to choose from. If you’re anything like us, you’ll end up staying way longer than planned.
Finally, set up camp at One Alii Beach Park. This park is the perfect location for your first night, as it’s close to town, situated right on the water and offers bathrooms, showers, and drinking water. Camping here is by permit only (however, I’m not sure how closely this is regulated as we were never questioned). You can find the camping rates for the entire island here.
Grab an early cup of coffee at the comforting Kanemitsu’s Bakery – this place begins to feel like home almost over night. Also, make sure to grab a poi donut before heading out – you’re welcome!
From Kaunakakai drive out to the east side to see the breathtaking Mo’oula Falls located deep within the stunning Halawa Valley. There’s a great tour offered to the falls that not only takes you on a hike but incorporates the sharing of culture and history of the valley, as told by the people that live and grew up there. More information on the Halawa Valley Cultural Hike can be found here. Be prepared for cancellations, as the safety of the hike is highly determined by weather. Unfortunately, we were unable to make the hike to the falls as the water levels were too high for safe river crossing. We’ll be back though!
It’s worth noting that even if you’re not interested in doing the hike the drive itself is absolutely breathtaking. Cruising up Hwy 450 was our favorite part of the whole trip! At times it will feel as though you’re on the island entirely alone.
With that being said, when returning from the east side make sure to take your time. We stopped at several overlooks, tide pools, and vacant beaches on the way back. We swam, searched for sea glass, and found refuge from the sun under the shade of a coconut tree. Talk about the coziest nap you’ll ever take. Pure bliss.
Off the side of Hwy 450 you’ll come across a delicious local eatery called Mana’e Goods and Grindz. It doesn’t look like much with its walk-up counter and attached convenient store but the plate lunches and poke specials definitely hit the spot. Snag a picnic table and enjoy the island’s slow pace.
Still hungry? Pull over at one of the several honor system fruit stands. You’ll never buy a cheaper papaya!
Continue heading west, as your next destination is on the other side of the island: Papohaku Beach. Papohaku, with its 3-mile stretch of white sand perfection, is the kind of surreal sight that makes all your worries feel small and turns your most pressing to-do into relaxing with a good book. The only downside to this spot is its rocky shore; however, if you drive a little further down to Dixie Maru you’ll find the perfect swimming cove awaiting you.
If you’re feeling up for an adventure (and lots of walking) head north up the beach in search of Pahaku Mauliuli. Here you’ll find an incredibly secluded beach at the base of a looming rock face, vacant tide pools, and endless sunshine – not to mention the walk here includes stunning views of its own!
Not up for a big hike? That’s fine too! Head up the beach a little to watch the sunset from high up on the rocks. If you’re visiting during the winter months (Nov. – Mar.) keep your eyes peeled for whales too – we spotted nearly 15 breaches from this exact spot! It’s a stop-and-take-it-all-in kind of view. Stay awhile. What else have you got to do?
When you’re ready to head back, set up camp right there in Papohaku Beach Park, fire up a charcoal grill, and gaze up at the silent night sky. The stars shine a little brighter for the people on Molokai.
For your last day on the island, rise with the sun and head up to Pala’au State Park to experience the Kalaupapa Lookout. It’s a sight sure to take your breath away. From here, you can gaze down onto the Kalaupapa Peninsula where from 1866 – 1969 people diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) were banished, in an effort to stop the spreading of this misunderstood disease.
For a better understanding of this time in Hawaiian history and more importantly, the experience of the people who lived here, book a tour with Damien Tours LLC. This company is owned and operated by one of the original surviving patients, Gloria Marks. Please consider your motives before deciding to visit this settlement and proceed only with an open mind and heart to understanding the history, and learning more about the culture and way of life from those who lived it. If you are interested in visiting the settlement, note that is it only accessible by plane, mule, or hike, and they do not operate tours on Sunday.
Molokai doesn’t boast fancy restaurants or all-inclusive resorts, but what it will, most definitely, provide you with is a chance to let go of all that’s been weighing you down. All those deadlines you can’t seem to meet or piles of work you can’t seem to catch up on will, almost immediately, surrender themselves to the irresistible, undemanding way of life on Molokai.
After all, it seems to me that the more we travel to places with no intention of where to end up, the more we stumble upon exactly what we were looking for.
Keep believing. Keep exploring. And, keep relentlessly telling the Universe all that it is you plan to do.