Some visitors would quail at the thought of spending 7 whole days on Hawaii’s most low-key island, which at first glance seems to offer few activities and attractions. But you'll need to plan your vacation carefully—including the season and days of the week—to be able to experience everything on this itinerary, based on a Monday arrival (weekday arrival strongly recommended). If you’re staying on the West End or East End, where the most desirable lodgings are, leave plenty of time to drive to Central Molokai attractions.
Day 1: Arrive & Stock Up
After you pick up your rental car (a must), stop by Kumu Farms near the airport for organic produce. While en route to Kaunakakai to finish your shopping, enjoy the views of the Molokai Plumerias orchard, typically in bloom March to October.
Day 2: Tour Kalaupapa ★★★
Whether you’re hiking, flying, or riding the mules down to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, you will need to have made reservations in advance—up to a month or more for the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour. But the effort and expense are worth it to explore this otherwise inaccessible, always impressive site of natural beauty and tragic history, where two Catholic saints, Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope, helped care for the leprosy patients exiled here. After your return “topside,” recharge at Coffees of Hawaii, which grows its own.
Day 3: Savor the West End Beaches ★★
Pack a picnic lunch and beach gear—stop at Molokai Fish & Dive or Beach Break to buy or rent gear—and spend a day exploring the glorious West End beaches. If it’s winter, don’t plan on going in the water; instead, enjoy the sightings of whales (at their peak Jan–Mar) or intrepid surfers. Drive into the quiet plantation town of Maunaloa to restock your refreshments at the Maunaloa General Store or browse the eclectic wares at the Big Wind Kite Factory & Plantation Gallery. Note that the only public restroom facilities are at the northern end of nearly 3-mile-long Papohaku Beach Park ★★★, where you’ll want to stay for sunset.
Day 4: Hike to a Waterfall & into the Past ★★★
Anyone can take the incredibly scenic, sinuous, shore-hugging drive to pretty Halawa Beach Park, but you’ll need reservations (book several weeks in advance) and a picnic lunch for the Halawa Valley cultural tours offered by the Solatorio family. After the traditional Hawaiian protocol to welcome visitors and an introduction to the ancient enclave’s history, you’ll hike to the gorgeous, 250-foot Mooula Falls, where a dip is possible in calm conditions. Since you have your swim gear, stop at the East End’s Sandy and Kumimi beaches on the drive home. You’ll also want to make a photo stop at Father Damien’s picturesque churches on the eastern half of King Kamehameha V Hwy., St. Joseph and Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.
Day 5: Paddle, Snorkel, or Watch Whales on the South Shore ★★★
If you haven’t explored the teeming marine life and tranquil waters sheltered by the South Shore’s enormous fringing reef, then you haven’t really seen Molokai at its finest. Depending on your ability, book a stand-up paddle or kayak excursion with Molokai Outdoors, or a snorkel/dive trip with Molokai Fish & Dive. The reef typically keeps the water calm even in winter (Dec–Mar), when several outfitters also offer whale-watching excursions. Unlike on Maui, your boat may be the only one visible for miles around. Head to Coffees of Hawaii for the twice-weekly kanikapila (jam session) with takes place on the wide lanai Friday (3pm-6pm) and Tuesdays (10am-1pm). Island kupuna (elders) play old-school Hawaiian music and pop classics—it’s not to be missed.
Day 6: Explore Nature Reserves ★★★ or a Scenic Park & Unique Shops ★★
The best (and only recommended) way to explore the windswept dunes of Moomomi Preserve and the miniature trees in the cloud forest atop the Kamakou Preserve is via one of the Nature Conservancy’s guided hikes, offered once a month March through October—book as far in advance as possible. If neither hike is available or practical, drive to Palaau State Park to check out the Kalaupapa Overlook and Phallic Rock, and stop by the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center and Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm. Or simply browse the Saturday morning farmer’s market and quaint stores in Kaunakakai.
Day 7: Enjoy the Peacefulness
If this is Sunday, then there’s little to do on Molokai—besides going to one of the many churches—and that’s the way local folks like it. Now’s a good day to revisit a favorite beach or drive up to rustic Ironwood Hills Golf Course.