Description This island is not as developed for tourism as the islands of Maui, Kaua'i, Hawaii or O'ahu. There has been a grassroots movement to maintain the island's rural state. The most populated region of the island is the southeastern coast. Traditionally this area was ideal for the Hawaiian system of fishponds and taro growing. Today the ruins of these structures outnumber those in any other region of the state. The largest community on the southeastern shore, and all of Molokai, is Kaunakakai. This is a small town that lies on the Kamehameha V Highway.
Kakahaia National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on the island of Moloka`i was established in 1977 and is part of the Maui NWR Complex. This refuge contains a 15-acre pond and a manmade seven-acre impoundment. Surrounding two sides of the old pond are thick kiawe trees. The spring-fed pond lies on a narrow plain just above sea level at the foot of volcanic hills. Twelve species of birds, including the endangered Hawaiian stilt (ae`o) and coot (`alae ke`oke`o) use this area.
The Kalaupapa National Historic Park contains the site of the Island Hansen's disease (leprosy) settlement (1886-1969), areas relating to early Hawaiian settlement, scenic and geologic resources and habitats for rare and endangered species. There are 8,725 acres of land and 2,000 acres of water within the park's boundary. The community of Kalaupapa, on the leeward side of Kalaupapa Peninsula, is still home for many surviving Hansen's disease patients, whose memories and experiences are cherished. In Kalawao on the windward side of the peninsula are the churches of Siloama, established in 1866, and Saint Philomena, associated with the work of Father Damien (Joseph De Veuster).
The park contains the Kalaupapa Peninsula, adjacent cliffs and valleys, and submerged lands and waters out to 1/4 mile from shore. Hawaiian people inhabited the peninsula and valleys for hundreds of years prior to the establishment of the isolation settlement at Kalawao in 1866. Evidence of this occupation in four ahupua'a (historic Hawaiian land divisions) on the peninsula and in valleys is relatively undisturbed and represents one of the richest archeological preserves in Hawai'i.
Pala'au Park is the only state park on Molokai, but it is packed with interesting features. The park encompasses 233 acres of land on the northern central shore of the island. The Kalaupapa overlook provides views of the northern Molokai pali and Kalaupapa peninsula. Interpretive panels at the overlook explain the sights below. Also within the park, and minutes away from the parking lot, is Kauleonanahoa, a phallic shaped rock, believed to enhance fertility in the traditional Hawaiian religion. The rock is surrounded by ironwood trees and a short, easy trail leads to it. The other attraction at this site is a hiking trail through ironwood and eucalyptus forest that leads eastward from the overlook area. Facilities at this park include campsites, picnic tables and restrooms. Drinking water is not available.
The beaches on the western side of Molokai are usually good places to find solitude, although the highway ends in Maunaloa so a four-wheel drive vehicle is your best bet for a safe arrival. South of Maunaloa you'll find Halena Beach, which has a protected reef and good snorkeling and swimming. Hale O Lono Beach is another favorite beach access site for locals lying a short distance west of Halena.
Following the western shoreline northward a number of less crowded beaches can be found. Dixie Maru is the southernmost beach area on the western shore. It is the best protected swimming beach on the island. Traveling north the next beach is Papohaku, which extends two and a half miles along the shore. It has a few access points along Kaluakoi Road and is rarely crowede, due to its size. At the northern end of this beach is a park with facilities and campsites. Kapuhi and Make Horse Beaches lie north of Papohaku and infront of a developed resort area. As with all island beaches water conditions are subject to change and rip currents can be strong even in calm surf.
Recreation - Molokai's shores are excellent places for all types of water sports. Swimming is particularly good in the summer season and at Kawakiu and Moomomi Beaches. Hiking opportunities can be found on the Makanalua Peninsula in the national historical park and within the Molokai Forest Reserve. The southeastern shore of the island is an excellent place to view and interpret historic sites, as well as watch humpback whales during the winter season. Deep sea fishing is available year round as well.