Molokai’s beaches, including the county-maintained beach parks, do not have lifeguards; on weekdays, you may even be the sole person there. Enter the water only in calm conditions, and even then be cautious: If you get into trouble, help may take longer to arrive than you need.
Protected by miles of fringing reef, the best swimming spots are tucked among the fish ponds heading east of Kaunakakai along the Kamehameha V Highway. Pronounced "o-nay ah-lee-ee," One Alii Beach Park, 3 miles east of Kaunakakai, has a thin strip of one (sand) once reserved for the alii (high chiefs.) It’s often crowded with families on weekends, but may be all yours on weekdays. Facilities include outdoor showers and restrooms; tent camping is allowed with a permit.
At mile marker 20, palm-fringed Murphy Beach offers a small, shaded park with picnic tables, white sand, and good swimming, snorkeling, and diving in calm conditions. Look for Sandy Beach between mile markers 21 and 22—the last beach before you head uphill en route to lush Halawa Valley. It has no facilities, just winsome views of Maui and Lanai, and generally safe swimming.
At the narrow end of the winding highway, 28 miles east of Kaunakakai, lie the twin coves of Halawa Beach Park , one with gray sand and the other more rocky. Neither is safe for swimming—avoid in winter or after heavy rains—but both destination and journey are memorable. Look back into Halawa Valley (accessible only via cultural tours)for distant waterfall views. A picnic pavilion has restrooms but no drinking water; it’s 100 yards from the shore, across the road from picturesque Ka Jerusalema Hou, a tiny church built in 1948.
Much of the shoreline here is for sightseeing only, due to dangerous currents and fierce surf, especially in winter, but solitude, sunsets, and clear-day vistas of Oahu’s Diamond Head across the 26-mile Kaiwi Channel make it worth the trek. From Kaunakakai, take Maunaloa Highway (Hwy. 460) almost 15 miles west, turn right on Kaluakoi Road and drive 4 1/2 miles till you see the sign on your right pointing to Ke Nani Kai; turn right for public beach access parking at the end of the road. Walk past the eerily decaying hotel to the gold-sand Kepuhi Beach , and watch surfers navigate the rocky break. A 15-minute walk north along the bluff leads to the Pohaku Mauliuli cinder cone, which shares its name with two sandy coves better known as Make Horse Beach, pronounced "mah-kay" and meaning “dead horse” (don’t ask.) You can snorkel and explore the tide pools in calm conditions, but do keep an eye on the waves. Hiking several miles north on a rugged dirt road leads to the white crescent of Kawakiu Beach. The relatively safe summer seas can be quite dangerous in winter and when the surf is up.
Continue on Kaluakoi Road 2 miles south from the resort to the parking lot for Papohaku Beach Park , where the light-blond sand is nearly 3 miles long and 300 feet wide. Enjoy strolling the broad expanse, but beware the water’s voracious rip currents. County facilities—restrooms, water, picnic, and campsites_are at the northern end, a third of a mile past the intersection with Pa Loa Loop Road (a shortcut back to upper Kaluakoi Rd.). Don’t miss cozy Dixie Maru Beach (originally Kapukahehu Beach), which offers the most-protected waters and is popular with families in summer. From the Papohaku parking lot, follow Kaluakoi Road 1 3/4 miles south to the T at Pohakuloa Road; turn right and head another 1 3/4 miles till the road ends at a small unpaved parking lot, with a short downhill path to the beach.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.