Island Of Molokai, The Friendly Isle

The Most Hawaiian Island

Beginnings of Molokai

Molokai is the fifth largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago; 260 square miles total area, 38 miles long, and ten miles wide at its widest point.

One and a half million years ago, two large volcanoes pushed through the surface of the Pacific Ocean and created the island of Molokai. Kamakou in the east, and Maunaloa in the west. Somewhat later a third and much smaller caldera, Kauhako, popped up to form the Makanalua peninsula on the north side.

Over eons, the north side of the island eroded and fell into the sea, leaving behind the highest vertical sea cliffs in the world which today make up most of Molokai’s spectacular North Shore.

According to the experts, indigenous people first came to live on Molokai about 650 AD. Those first settlers most likely originated from the Marquesas, with later migrations, in double hulled canoes, from Tahiti and other areas in the South Pacific.

What is the correct or proper name of the shoe shaped, 5th largest Hawaiian Island? Both the form Molokai (without an ʻokina) and Molokaʻi (with ʻokina) have long been used by native speakers of Hawaiian, and there is debate as to which is the original form, also with conflicting claims from island residents.

Molokai Cowboy
Ranching began on Molokai in the first half of the 19th century when King Kamehameha V set up a country estate on the island, which was managed by Meyer and became what is now the Molokai Ranch. In the late 1800s, Kamehameha V built a vacation home in Kaunakakai and ordered the planting of over 1,000 coconut trees in Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove.

Kalaupapa Colony
Leprosy was introduced to the Hawaiian islands by traders, sailors, workers and others who lived in societies where these diseases were endemic. Those infected with leprosy were quarantind at Kalawao located on the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on the northern side of Molokai, followed by Kalaupapa as the sites of a leper colony that operated from 1866 to 1969. Father Damien dedicated his time providing comfort to the lepers of Kalaupapa. He give the people faith, cared for them and also built homes & other community structures for them.

Visiting Molokai
The tourism industry on Molokai is relatively small, compared to the other islands in Hawaiʻi and hotels are limited. The island retains most of it’s “old-time” small town charm; far away from the hustle-and-bustle of today. Still, the isolated island has much to offer. Several attractions & activities include:

  • Papohaku Beach
  • Hālawa Valley Beach Park
  • One Aliʻi Beach Park
  • Palaʻau Park
  • Kaunakakai Wharf
  • Kaunakakai Town
  • Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove
  • Molokai Plumeria Orchard
  • Kalaupapa Lookout
  • Scenic Drives
  • Whale Watching
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding

Where ever you go, whatever your do, tread lightly and always respect the ʻāina (land), the Kanaka & Kama’aina (Hawaiian & native born).

Molokai Legends
Molokai was renowned for the wisdom and power of its religious leaders, greatly respected and often feared by others in the archipelago. In the 1500s, the famous prophet, Lanikaula, was so revered that pilgrims came from all the Islands to seek his wisdom and advice. Molokai became a place of retreat, protected from war by its religious prestige and the marital alliances of its chiefs. Others were reputed for sorcery. Legend tells of the Kalaipahoa, or poisonwood gods, entering trees on Maunaloa. The grove is said to have been so poisonous that birds fell dead as they flew over it.

Kalaipahoa was carved out of a very poisonous wood from Molokai, a few chips of which would cause death. It was said that when they wished to pray someone to death the priests scraped off pieces of the body of the image and put them in their victim’s food.

It’s said that Kamehameha had Kalaipahoa in his possession to claim his reign of sovereignty while he set out to conquer the islands.

Legend also tells us that Laka, goddess of the hula, gave birth to the dance on Molokai, at a very sacred place in Ka’ana. This is recognized on Molokai every May, at a celebration of the birth of hula, called Ka Hula Piko. When Laka died, her remains were secretly hidden somewhere beneath the hill, Pu’u Nana. The hula was finally established, the work of Laka was complete, and the dance flourished throughout Hawaii.